Tuesday, August 21, 2012

When UPA appeases: Its playing with Fire

By its inept handling of things in Assam and vote bank politics, a discredited UPA regime on its lowest ebb in last 8 years is actually playing with fire.

The return of over 5000 native youths from their places of studies and job in a highly sensitive region bordering China would only mean that there is a ready made 'fodder’ for fresh rounds of anti-government and anti-India agitation in the vulnerable northeast region.

The government attributing Pakistani groups for rumour mongering and the belated blocks of questionable websites are only too little and too late.

And as Sharad Yadav says it's only a "cover up" attempt and that too very poor attempt. Nailing Pakistan does not absolve union Home Ministry its own job, nor Tarun Gogoi's.

The Congress and other secular brigade players – both in Assam and in the centre - are playing peculiar game with leaders after leaders denying any illegal migration. They are mostly trying to only consolidate Muslim votes won in the last Lok Sabha elections in 2009 across India as well as in 2010 in Assam.
In the process, as the towns and hamlets in Assam burnt and unfortunately these led to indiscriminate and unprecedented exodus of northeast tribals from across the country, none seemed to be trying to reach at the root of the cause of the conflicts.

The issue is never a Hindu-Muslim conflict as the political class would like to paint. The illegal immigration is definitely one of the major issues, ironically admitted by the then Home Minister P Chidambaram.

But there are other factors too for the anguish amongst Bodos. One such crucial reason is alleged step-motherly treatment of Bodos and Bodo areas by Assam government and of course the “demand for linguistic rights” of the Bodo Kacharis.

Thus, it was proved for once that the “language is the chief” and the most favourite saleable political issue in Assam or for that matter in the region.
“Ironically, the same yardstick of New Delhi’s elder brotherly attitude and exploitation, which helped fan agitation in Assam, was being used for a Bodo cause against the “local state government and the seat of power” --- earlier Shillong (then a capital of united Assam) and later on Dispur,” says my book,'The Talking Guns: North East India’ (Manas Publications).

Thus, in more ways than one, it is ironical that Bodos today find themselves caught in a quagmire kind situation against Bengali-speaking Muslims. This was perhaps never their goal.

All along, since 1967, when Plains Tribal Council of Assam came into being, Bodos are actually in a war-like situation against both New Delhi and Dispur (Guwahati) for their own rights. The complain against Assam government for trying to impose an Assamese hegemony only got a major bolster when in 1986 the state government committed a blunder by imposing Assamese as the compulsory third language upon non-Assamese students. The circular Assam Board of Secondary Education on February 18, 1986 imposing Assamese language as compulsory third language though was withdrawn after protest it had left a far-reaching damage beyond a point of repair.

In 1986, under late Upendra Nath Brahma, influential All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) gave a momentum to Bodo movement and later the apex Bodo People’s Action Committee (BPAC) in the four-day annual conference between 19th and 22nd December 1988, at Basbari instead of a union territory demand made a demand for a separate state. A group of youth had gone underground and floated militant organisation. It was truly beginning of yet another phase of Assam’s spate with violence.

The Bodos are tribal from the plains. Most of them are either Hindus or Christians and account for about 10 percent of Assam's about 3 crore people.

The Bodos started making headlines in national media but for all wrong reasons.

But, undoubtedly the clashes of July 2012 had left people amazed especially by the scale of it. As the hamlets burnt and people were either killed --- over 70 deaths confirmed - and the body count has been rising, officials as well as locals are unable to define whether this is ethnic strife, communal violence between Hindu Bodos and Bengali Muslims or simply a turf war over land.

Besides Muslim appeasement, the UPA government in the cente and Gogoi administration in Assam failed to initiate timely action.

But th political class and Muslim leadership for reasons obious got busy in turning the Bodo battle against 'influx' as tribal-Muslim warcry. From Badruddin Ajmal to Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi the refrain has been that the violence that have claimed over 70 lives and rendered lakhs homeless was a Bodo(read tribal)-Muslim conflict.

That’s a sad paradox. Northeast watchers say perhaps this is the single biggest factor that sparked off unprecedented exodus of “north east people” from across the country. The lopsided handling of Mumbai violence and letting the real wrong doers scot free have done more damage.

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