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What Ails Assam?
|by Ananya S Guha|
Assam is in turmoil once again. And, this time too it is linked to the immigrants’ issue. Apart from people being killed by police firing many have been displaced.
The Rabhas - the local tribal community in the Goalpara district and in the lower Assam district came out ostensibly to protest against the holding of the Panchayati elections, areas they felt fell under the district council. The Bodos, the Dimasas and the Rabhas had been asking for autonomy, and after local district councils were granted, they have demanded statehood. In the process, and after police fired on the protesters, the people went on a rampage dismantling homes of the immigrants from Bangladesh.
This was a repeat of what happened in the Bodo areas last year, plunging the state once again in social, political and ethnic turmoil. The tragedy is that this goes unnoticed by the Centre, and there is an impasse to the problem of immigration. However what started as a frontal attack on the state government turned into an ethnic calamity, bringing to question the immigrant issue once again. And again, it is dispute over property and land. It is saddening to read about tribal children unable to appear for the matric examinations, as their books have been burnt, or have lost their parents. One intrepid girl said that she would appear for the examinations, as her father always wanted her to be educated.
What will the authorities do in such situations? How do we find lasting solutions to the vexed issues of illegal migration? Even as the cataclysm continued, students and other related bodies accused the state government of pampering the immigrants for vote banks. This has come full circle. Ever since the 1980s this issue has struck at the chords of Assam leading to dismemberment of the state, which in reality is a mosaic of cultures. The tragedy is that communities are pitted against one another and there is an undercurrent of tension between the tribals and the non tribals as well the immigrants. This has led to demand for autonomy and separate states. Once autonomy in the form of local district councils are granted, then larger issues surface. How are the authorities going to look at these vexed problems, so that Assam can remain united? What is the solution, simply treating them as law and order problems is not the solution.
The common ‘enemy’ in Assam is the Bangladeshi immigrant as he eats into the fertile land, leading to deprivation among the local people. Any wrath against the government is turned to animosity against him. What checks for the immigrants can be put here? The government both state and central does not look at the problem fair and square. It always tries to evade the central issue and in the process things simmer and then go out of control.
It is high time a concerted policy is adopted to tackle the problems in Assam and in the neighbouring North Eastern States such as granting temporary work permits and renewing them after a particular duration. Otherwise, the turmoil in the shape of ethnic riots will continue to haunt the North East Region especially Assam which is the largest state in the region.
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