Wednesday, August 1, 2018

'Rajiv Gandhi-AASU Assam Accord' of 1985 full of lapses and has HARMED ASSAM

Just as BJP chief Amit Shah has highlighted 'Rajiv Gandhi-AASU' Accord of 1985 highlighting the issues with regard National Register of Citizens (NRC) row in Assam, as a northeasterner I can say the document was no panacea and had several lapses. The Assam Accord has actually perhaps not helped Assam in one way or the other, they say.
In fact, to many, the signing of the accord itself post midnight of August 14-15, 1985 was a typical case of reflection of  "a young Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) in hurry".
Mahanta, Rajiv Gandhi and others

The agreement was signed barely a few hours before the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi went for making his maiden speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort. "The All Assam Students' Union (AASU) movement was virtually on its last leg......But the centre was in haste. Yet another illustration of how things could be mishandled by Delhi for considerations totally different from ground
realities," - I did highlight in the book 'The Talking Guns: North East India'.

Observers in northeast have been particularly critical of the manner students leaders led by the likes of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Bhrigu Kumar Phukan were allowed to 'encash' the publicity and storm to power with least experience of running the state of affairs. "Rajiv Gandhi did not know what sort of leadership he had created for Assam and the people in the state," says the book published in 2008.

"He (Rajiv Gandhi) also did not realise the futility of electing a bunch of young student leaders, who have shot into fame only through negative means - the agitation - whatsoever may be the cause they stood for".

It also says the hurried manner the pact was pushed could be understood that even Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's objections on certain phrases vis-a-vis English language was brushed aside by the then Home Secretary R D Pradhan, who actually signed the paper with AASU president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.

Thanks to the Rajiv-AASU pact more popularly known as the Assam Accord, the governance in Assam passed on to the hands of 'students leaders' - who were "novice in the art of running a state".  In fact, stories of corruption flourished and young ministers also fought over which cushy rooms to occupy, says the book.

Another book also echoes similar sentiments. "The overriding consideration was that the agitators (student leaders) wanted to get rid of the streets and encashing the 
goodwill and support that their movement had granted in Assam, come legitimately to office and power at Dispur," writes Sanjoy Hazarika in 'Strangers of the Mist'.

Post Script/penned in 2015

Even in 2012, Assam witnessed a bloodbath owing to conflicts of interest between Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslims. The clashes and subsequent remarks from politicians — especially the likes of Hyderabad-based Asaduddin Owaisi, who lately expanded his base in Maharashtra too — aroused passions and undoubtedly created the upsurge for a violent protest in Mumbai. The Mumbai hara-kiri and lopsided handling of the entire situation primarily due to police complicity and the then Congress-NCP regime in Maharashtra actually accentuated the unprecedented exodus of North-east people from hubs like Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. 

Those who propose to rake up “Muslim population increase” in Assam now in the run-up to the 2016 assembly elections should also remember that the genesis of the insane rage in Bodo tribal pockets in 2012 also owed its origin to population arithmetic. There has been an interesting and perhaps funny angle to some of the statistical figures those were reported then. 

It was said only in 2011, in Kokrajhar and neighbouring districts, that the Muslim population was counted at about 235,000, but by June-July 2012 Badruddin Ajmal, chief of the pro-Muslim All India United Democratic Front championing the cause of minorities, said about 500,000 Muslims were in relief camps. So the obvious question was: from where did so many Muslims come so fast? 

Even then, Union home minister P Chidambaram admitted that illegal immigration had been one major issue that got lost in the din. 

That’s the paradox of North-east India. Forwarding the clock to 2015, let us revisit the official data now released by the Census authorities. The Muslim population has increased by 28.8 percentage points in Darrang district, 14.88 points in Kamrup, 13.86 points in Nalbari and 11.37 points in Barpeta. 

Interestingly, in districts bordering Bangladesh, Dhubri saw a rise of 5.67 points and Karimganj 4.08 points. So does this imply — as Muslims are growing in numbers in districts away from the international border — that there’s a decline in the Bangladeshi influx? 
A neo-Vote Bank protagonist


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