Burning of Assam and the Burning Issues Behind: Special Report from Organiser
AFTER turning into a basket of Bangladeshis, the unabated influx continues, Assam is now feeling the heat of socio-economic tension and conflict, a warning repeatedly given by sociologists, but ignored. Bodo Territorial Areas District (BTAD), located on the north bank of Brahmaputra and on the foothills of Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, is again on boil.
Bodos and Muslims have come in for clash, taking a volatile, violent and bloody shape. Till date more than 50 lives officially have been lost and more and more dead bodies continue to be recovered. Over 1.5 lakh people belonging to Bodo, Muslim, tea tribe and other tribal and non-tribal communities have been rendered homeless and sheltered in relief camps. Thousands of villages across the three districts of Kokrajhar, Chirang and Baska have been set on fire. With the coalition government of Congress and Bodo People’s Progresive Front at Dispur, the capital, caught in quandary, the security forces have been finding it difficult to tackle and control. Neither round the clock curfew nor the flag march by army could douse the flame of hatred and enmity. If the UPA-II rule is a trailer of scams and scandals, Gogoi government III has set the worst example of misrule and mis-governance with open loot of central funds, stagnant development, disconnect ministers and MLAs of the party from the masses, thousands of illegal migrants from across the border making a vanishing act, unchecked encroachment of forest lands and tribal belts and even buffer zones around the Kaziranga National Park and wild life sanctuaries under pressure along the state and its administrative machinery on drift along with deteriorating law and order. The fall out of such ill governance is quite natural. The waves of violence that started on July 20 continued to sweep the BTC (Bodoland Territorial Council) areas. Rampaging mobs from both the Bodo and Muslims dared to defy all sorts of prohibitory orders.
The violence did not trigger all of a sudden. Sequences of events involving both the communities gave enough indication of confrontation. Just a few days ago, two student leaders of minority community were badly thrashed by Bodo miscreants. It was retaliated with the merciless killing of four former Bodo extremists belonging to Bodo Liberation Tiger. What people could realise about the impending violence, the government, the administration and the intelligence just preferred to sleep over it. To say that it was the immediate cause would be a wrong assessment of the situation. The background for another bloody clash was building up. Bodos assertive to protect their identity and culture found themselves being swamped by aliens. The coming into being of BTAD on February 10, 2003 did not end the conflict. Rather, it created resentment among other tribal and non tribal groups. The Bodos got the territory they wanted without finding a solution to the problem that has been haunting their territory. The very composition of the Autonomous Council with 46 seats has sent a wrong signal as the non Bodos have been accusing of their disproportionate representation.
While 30 seats have gone to tribals, 5 to non-tribals and 5 to all communities, 6 of them are to be filled up by the Governor. This has generated the fear-psychosis among the non Bodos of losing their identity, social and economic as well as political rights. Apart from the resentment among the non Bodos, the Bodos have genuine fear of losing their identity. The root cause is not seriously thought of by the policy makers and the government at the Centre and the State. Talking to Organiser, Aditya Khakhalari, general secretary of All Assam Tribal Sangha, based at Guwahati, when asked about the causes behind the frequent clashes between the Bodos and Muslims said over telephone, “The root lies in shrinking land mass of the Bodos in the forest and tribal belts due to encroachments by outsiders. This has been continuing since the 60s under successive Congress and AGP governments.”
Bodo Tribal Council chief Hagrama Mahiliary too blamed Bangladeshis for the communal clash which he described as a ‘third force’. The clashes spilled over to Dhubri, known as the hot bed of illegal migrants, with backlash which convinced him to say that hard line Bangladeshis are crossing over the Brahmaputra to reach the Muslim dominated districts of Dhubri and Goalpara with mischievous design. His urgent demand was for sealing the border of Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Goalpara with Bangladesh. Promod Boro, president of All Bodo Students Union, too echoed, “Deep conspiracy has been hatched by Bangladeshi elements who are adding fuel to fire.” It is no secret that on the Dhubri front, Islamic extremist
groups have been active for some time in the past, making easy access from Bangladesh through the porous border. It is also on record that some Huji operatives were caught by police sometime ago. It is not only the Bodoland, the
ground for ethnic clash exists in Karbi Anglong, Dima Hasao district and other tribal areas. Tea tribes, Koch, Rajbongshis, Marang, Matak and Tai Ahom even after long agitation have not been granted ST status. Their anger and anguish is compounded by the loss of their traditional land.
After all the mayhem, carnage and genocide, both the Centre and the State have realised that it was all due to ‘security lapse’. Thousands homeless would be rehabilitated, dead would be compensated by Rs. 6 lakh each and those in relief camps would be well looked after till they returned home. The assurances and promises would continue as it has always happened to wait for the repeat of another blood-shed. But, no serious and sincere effort to reach the cause of the crisis.
- Content Type(Ctrl+click to select more than one):