MUCH water has flown down the Brahmaputra after the recent riots in the BTAD area of Assam. And despite the orchestrated violence in Mumbai as well as the exodus of our youths from major Indian cities, the one welcome change that is so visible is in the articles that are being written on the conflict in different newspapers and magazines. They are quite different from what has been written about Assam in the past. These articles reflect a far more rational approach and a fair perspective of the conflict and even a vague sense of remorse at the lack of fairness in such matters in the past. There is also a clear indication that writers are anxious to shed prejudice and preconceived notions in their assessment of the situation as it has unfolded. People like KPS Gill, Lt Gen. (Retired) SK Sinha and Shekhar Gupta who know the Northeast well, have made appreciable efforts to help people get out of their preconceived mindsets regarding Assam and the Northeast. Shekhar Gupta’s article “We the Ignorant” in The Indian Express of 21 August 2012 puts aside the riots for the time being and concentrates on how little the rest of India knows anything about the Northeast. He mentions how even Amitabh Bachchan made the mistake of naming Assam as the home State of Mary Kom. He goes on to talk about how several Indian States are likely to be hard hit by the exodus of workers from the Northeast who are returning home in their thousands due to threats made to them by certain groups in cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune. KPS Gill’s article “Demographic Invasion” (Outlook, 13 August 2012) is a well-researched one on the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh to Assam. He has shown how Bangladesh, an Islamic state, has repeatedly refused to accept the Rohingiya Muslims of Myanmar as refugees. And yet the same Bangladeshis and the lobby working on their behalf expect India to spread the red carpet exclusively for them even when they threaten to take over India’s Northeast. “If the Indian leadership was susceptible to learning anything, it would see a strong lesson here… Unfortunately, leaderships and administrators in this country remain tenaciously uneducable,” says Gill. He has the latest figures of abnormal increases in population and shows how, between 1971 and 1991, the Muslim population in Assam grew by 77.42 per cent as against 41.89 per cent for Hindus. And even though the rate of growth came down between 2001 and 2011, it remained higher for the Muslim population than the rate of growth for Hindus. “Above all, the corrupt politics of the vote banks and crass electoral calculi, to the manifest detriment of the national interest, must be defeated,” he says in conclusion. My attention has also been drawn to that perceptive report “Why blood will flow in Assam?” by Ratnadip Choudhury and Avalok Langer in the Tehelka magazine of 18 August 2012 that demolishes all the humbug about the recent riots in the BTAD area being communal in nature. Choudhury and Langer have clearly indicated how the violence was directed against those who came from another country and took over the land in the BTAD area. One could easily distort things to conclude that the group was being attacked for its religion. Badruddin Ajmal seeks to give the conflict such a bizarre spin by claiming that the conflict was between the Bodos and the “trans-border” non-Bodo immigrants. Considering that the Bodos are either Hindus or Christians, quite obviously the non-Bodos would have different religious and linguistic identities. The real mischief arises from trying to create a myth that the clash was communal in nature. It was nothing of the sort. It was a clash between the Bodos and those who had migrated from outside to grab much of their land. Since they had come from a country where over 93 per cent of the population is Muslim, it is but natural that the land-grabbers were Muslims. The clash was between Indians and non-Indian invaders. But Ajmal’s claim that the violence was against Muslims had in it the diabolic motivation of whipping up anger among Indian Muslims because he sought to conceal the fact that the land-grabbers of the BTAD area were Bangladeshi Muslims and not Indian Muslims. He could not have been talking of the indigenous Muslims of Assam who are very different from the Indian Muslims in terms of education, in their refusal to be polygamous or to divorce their wives summarily and in their rejection of the idea of jihad in a secular country. Ajmal has dishonoured this better educated breed of patriotic Muslims by lumping them together with the Bangladeshi invaders.
Perhaps the best defence of the Bodos comes from Kenny Basumatary who claims himself to be half-a-Bodo since his mother is not a Bodo. His article titled “Would you Not Protect your Home from Outsiders?” which he has put out on his FaceBook page, has given expression to the angst of Bodo youths with remarkable poignancy. He analyses the conflict between the Bodos and the Bangladeshi invaders in terms of the indigenous population striving to protect their land and homes. In a just defence of the Bodos, he raises the question of what anyone would do if someone who had come asking for a small bit of land turns out to be the proverbial camel in the Arab’s tent that eventually throws out the benefactor from the tent. The younger generation of Assam would do well to read this article in FaceBook and to pass it on to their friends.
There are several aberrations in the functioning of the administration that underscore the fact that the indigenous inhabitants of Assam have been turned into second and third class citizens in their own State and by their own government. I had very clear proof of this a couple of years ago at a place called Besimari near Dalgaon in the Darrang district. There was a sudden bandh at Besimari that day over jute prices. A mob of Bangladeshi immigrants attacked and severely damaged about ten cars under the very eyes of two truckloads of armed soldiers and about seven armed police personnel. Had there been any resistance from the victims of the violence, there might well have been a few deaths. The policemen did not lift a finger to disperse the mob or to protect those under attack. Travelling in their own State had ceased to be totally unsafe for Assamese people. The police obviously have very clear instructions about not touching any Bangladeshis. However, this is perhaps a minor aberration compared to the gamut of aberrations and perversions within the government that chooses to alienate the Indian citizens living in Assam and to “grapple with hoops of steel” the alien invaders of the land to its bosom.
The heart of the matter is that the elected government that we have in the State has long ceased to govern. For instance, there has been no planning for the rapidly increasing demand for electricity for almost 30 years. For more than three decades, there has been absolutely no industrial development in the State. As a consequence, Assam has the highest unemployment rate in the country. The health care and education in the State are in a total mess. The progress of developing highways here is undoubtedly the slowest in the entire country even though the funds come from the Centre. The only visible activities in the government departments are the creation and conferring of new awards; endless seminars and symposia on development which take us nowhere at all because no one acts on the deliberations of these seminars; huge and expensive cooked-up propaganda advertisements in newspapers about so-called ‘progress’ and large-scale loot of the exchequer. The most remarkable aspect of this total lack of governance is that our leaders aspire to remain in power despite a total lack of performance. And how best can they do it in a democracy? By importing voters from another country to vote for leaders who have so kindly opened up the borders and made access to this State so free. If this has violated the Constitution of India, who cares? After all, when the mischief is complete and the Northeast gets annexed to Bangladesh (courtesy the government of Assam) all those responsible for having given away their country just for votes would leave Assam and move into the houses that they have all bought outside the State. What happens to the rest of the people is not their concern.
The people of Assam must find ways of defeating these evil designs. We must also accept the fact that no help will be forthcoming from the Union government since it is party to this dirty game. We shall have to stir up the right kind of public opinion all over the country so that throughout India the demand for disfranchising the illegal migrants, deporting them and sealing our international borders is heard in one loud voice. If we can achieve this, it will then be time to demand elections without the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs). If, by some miracle, even this can be achieved, we might just about manage to save the land of our birth from being annexed to Bangladesh. The time to begin the task is now.
Courtesy: The Sentinel 26 August 2012, http://www.sentinelassam.com/mainnews/story.php?sec=1&subsec=0&id=129560&dtP=2012-08-26&ppr=1#129560