Today, Khanikar is an inspiration for many. Instead of being heartbroken due to the loss of jobs owing to COVID-19, many youths today have been following Khanikar's footsteps and are utilising their arts and skills to the fullest
Stories of transformation from rebel to an artisan are not new and our history books are full of such life-changing and inspiring stories.
One such person is Assam's Dwipen Khanikar- a resident of Bajali's Pathsala area- who was once a feared leader of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), but today is a highly revered bamboo artisan.
When the whole country was placed under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Khanikar was busy making decorative bamboo products.
Khanikar surrendered from the ULFA way back in 1993. After coming to the mainstream, he started a small business to earn his bread and butter. Everything was going good until COVID struck.
As the lockdown was imposed, he incurred a loss in his business and he was forced to look for an alternate source of income. It was during this period when the idea of making bamboo products struck his mind and thus, the bamboo artisan was born!
From flower pots to idols of Lord Ganesha, the Indian Tricolour to paintings of Mahatma Gandhi- Khanikar began to craft various products out of bamboo and soon he became a popular face in the area.
Today, he boasts of having a rich collection of art and crafts in his gallery that also includes portraits of several prominent leaders like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Dr Bhupen Hazarika, Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma.
"Northeast has huge reserves of bamboo and instead of plastic material, we should use bamboo products to beat plastic pollution," Khanikar said while speaking to The Story Mug.
"If we endeavour together we can make Assam an advanced state by making our products outside the state. We need to produce what the people from outside the state demands," he added.
Today, Khanikar is an inspiration for many. Instead of being heartbroken due to the loss of jobs owing to COVID-19, many youths today have been following Khanikar's footsteps and are utilising their arts and skills to the fullest.
If as a rebel leader Khanikar was feared by the people, now as the bamboo artisan he is also loved and adored by the same people.
It may be mentioned here that the northeast has an abundant bamboo resource and this plays a crucial part in the food and nutritional security of the tribal region.
About 50 per cent of the bamboo species are grown in the northeast.