Natives Vs Immigrants

By Monjib Mochahari[1]

“Indigenous Bodo tribe of Assam has become refugees in their own land due to dirty political conspiracy.”

Left with nothing but painful memories, cries of despair from helpless villagers. The latest spell of violence has left the Bodoland districts ravaged leaving behind a trail of destruction.  Violence between the Bodos and the illegal Muslim immigrants in Kokrajhar district has reached beyond one’s imagination. The communal conflagration has spread to three other districts – Dubri, Chirang and Bagsa.

Since July 20, at least 45 people were killed in retaliatory attacks between the two warring groups. Over 400 villages have badly affected and standing crops destroyed in Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD). Meghalaya Governor Ranjit Shekhar Moosahahary’s native village Odlaguri in Gossaigaon subdivision in Kokrajhar came under miscreant’s attack in broad daylights. Over 1.7 lakh pani-stricken people have been languished in the relief camps without adequate relief materials.

The district is now a shadow of itself, forcing thousands to flee their homes, villages and take shelter in 173 relief camps in Gedabazar, Subhaijhar, Bhauraguri, Birhangaon, Raumari, Bijni, Kajalgaon and some other places in Chirang and Dubhri district. For several days, shops and markets remained closed and people are in the grip of a fear psychosis following the violence. There is also a scarcity of essential commodities, like cooking gas, medicine, kerosene oil and even vegetables. The promulgation of Section 144 CrPC has added to the problems of transportation, impacting the day-to-day lives common people, daily wage earners, traders, etc. It is a story of fears and tears in the relief camps.

The trigger for the situation was the July 20 fatal attack on four motorbike-borne former Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) at Joypur Namapara area under Kokrajhar police station by the members of the All Bodoland Minority Student’s Union (ABMSU), which opposes the creation of a Bodoland state. The newly formed organisations like the Ana-Bodo Surakhya Samity and Non-Bodo Security Committee have been extending support to ABMSU in showing the seeds of anti-Bodo sentiments in the past couple of months. These non-Bodo organisations are working against the interests of the Bodos.

Though there has been some sort of communal disturbance since 6 July 2012, the local administration has not taken any preventive measures to contain the violence between the Bodos and the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The state machineries has neither tried to arrest the perpetrators nor stopped the escalating communal flare-ups. Surprisingly, the local police administration allowed it to continue as it involves some bigger political conspiracy.

It is alleged that the sole motive is pre-planned by the state machinery to incite communal violence in order to stop the progress of peace talks between the Central Government and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)-Progressive that is demanding for a separate Bodoland state. The conspiracy is being played out by newly formed All Bodoland Minority Student’s Union (ABMSU), which is trying to establish political space in BTAD. This emerges from the influx of illegal migrants in Bodoland region and encroachment of forest areas.

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According Jayanta Narayan Choudhury, DGP, Assam, “50 companies of Central forces have been deployed in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts to contain the unabated violence.” What is surprising is that the people are yet to see those security forces. There are not even enough security forces on the ground though the government administration has been claiming deployment of adequate security forces. What is more disappointing is that, the security forces have been deployed in minority inhabited areas. Except the minority areas, till 25 July, no adequate para-military forces were deployed in places where the Bodos are vulnerable although Bodo organisations have been demanding for adequate security cover. The Bodos, who are the actual victims in this violence, were left to fend themselves from communal forces without any security. However, the minority community was given security protection since July 20. This showed government apathy and lack of willingness to control the situation.

The threat to their life and security large looms due to lack of government seriousness to contain the violence. “It is a humanitarian crisis of gigantic proportions,” says Charan Basumatary, a research Scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. It is surprising that the mainstream Assamese society has ignored to acknowledge it rather remained a mute spectator. The mainstream Assamese organisation like the All Assam Students Union (AASU), though vocal against the illegal immigrants has not extended enough support. Even the state political party Assam Gana Parshad (AGP) are not vocal about the clashes in BTAD though the clash has its roots in the unabated influx of immigrants in Assam, added a local activist in Kokrajhar. The Assamese intellectuals have not called for end to unabated influx of Bangladesh though violence between the violence local tribal communities and illegal immigrants have increased over the past years due to encroachment of tribal lands. This shows lack of willingness to address the bigger issue of illegal immigrants in Assam.

This sort of violence is likely to happen to occur if the government do not ensure that the lands of the tribals are fully protected demographic aggression. Till date, excepting the failed Assam Accord of 1985, the successive government both at the Centre and at the state has not made any systematic effort to stop influx from the neighbouring country, as they constitute a sizeable vote share in the state. Instead, the state government has allow to exist fundamentalist students groups like the All Bodoland Minority Union (ABMSU) as this sort of organization works well for creating communal disharmony. Existence of Muslim fundamental groups is catering to the needs of the ISI in Northeast India. It is unfortunate that the successive governments at the centre and state has failed to acknowledge this threat to national security.


[1] The author is a research scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. This article was published in a national news weekly “The Indian Currents,” http://indiancurrents.org/indiancrm/threeissue/2540issue%2032%20file%201.pdf

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