Ethnic issues and uncertainity of the future.
That Indian development is uneven, is recognised but no one speaks out. That is the tragedy of our leadership.
The Congress party was in power for long and it is the party that brought about centrally-sponsored development planning and yet in its long years of power, it has somehow failed to integrate the country emotionally and economically. Or, it could be owing to the unforeseen consequences of a nation developing into a single entity, as India proves to be. The North East, more so Assam and the various linguistic and ethnic groups felt alienated. So too the ethnic groups in Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland.
The current Assam tragedy highlights the complex nature of the feeling of neglect by a people, a section of it and hence the resurgence of militancy. Ulfa is now well-entrenched, the neighbouring countries give shelter, the Pakistan based outfits train them and send them to cause chaos.
All to dismember the country?
It looks like that.
The Centre faces a dilemma. In tackling the many separatist outfits, there are various stages of toughness and a willingness to accommodate to bring the outfits to the negotiating table. So, we don’t say there is an easy answer to this issue. But the latest outrage touches many chords.
It questions the basic unity and India, basic commitment of India to maintain its unity and integrity at any cost.
And also the deployment of military is needed to tackle what is clearly a much more serious threat ,the latest outrage.
Is India one country? Or, are we doing something to articulate this one India vision? Nothing can be more tragic than the ULFA violence that claimed the lives of 69 poor Bihari migrant labour. Newspapers carry pictures and news of the tragedies ,also the picture of the PM participating in routine meets like Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, FICCI and talking of things that are far from the minds of Indian people.
The other prominent news item is Sonia Gandhi attending her office at the AICC for the first time since the party captured power in Delhi in 2004! The militant outfit has attacked the Hindi and Bengali speaking ordinary people. The Bihari migrant workers have come to the state to work on the railway projects, some 100 of them came only a month ago. The outside workers are engaged mostly in very hard jobs, they work in brick kilns and now the government authorities have taken steps to take the labour safely to work in sites and bring them back to their shelters before sunset! Yet, the latest violence has caused panic and the exodus of the workers is going on. Bihari migrant labour is now an all India phenomenon, these hard working lower class are socially disadvantaged sections,whom you can see everywhere.
These people who travel long distances to all corners of India, more so to the remote Assam’s six districts where they have now been targeted as a crime that has no room for any leniency. If army has to be deployed to target the Ulfa camps then let the government do so and stamp out this most primitive methods of an outfit who might have its own noble causes but not at the cost of human lives, so poor, men, women and children targeted by senseless killings.
Assam feels alienated, it is true. Ulfa has resorted to kill the poorest of the poor that is very terrible. Ulfa is an outcome of the perceived neglect the Assamese ethnic identity and the Assamese, it is true, were exploited for long by outsiders, mostly Bengali migrants. This is the first time the CM attended the unifised security operations which was attended by the defence minister and the army chief. So, things are going to calm down so quickly in Assam.
As the CM poignant puts: “Our boys and girls are going out of the state in search of jobs” and so the Assamese people have to be extremely careful not to take the law into their own hands and hit at the vulnerable poor outsiders. It is not just the Bihari labour now hit by the violence, there is a large Rajasthani population in the state. Marwaris always lived in fear in Assam and now the Marwaris too started moving out, as Marwaris were also targeted, a few Marwari businessmen were also killed.
It is no secret anymore that the hatred for “outsiders” has a long history in India. It all started with the regional parties, the Shivsena targeting another set of outsiders, then the Gujaratis targeting the communal groups, so the story is unending. But in all this hatred campaigns against the outsiders, the common denomination of Hindi speaking Bhiaris and that too the poor Bihari labour that is unfortunate.
Compared to the Bihari migrant labour, the other backward states like W.Bengal and other states like Orissa, are more docile. The Bihari labour is now everywhere. We need a national campaign to give protection and even a welcome policy to outside Indian migrant labour to work on farms and other rural industries and road and other housing projects. There is a need for a new national policy to protect the migrant rural labour. They must be identified, there must be easy points of contact for police protection, registration and shelter and even some security cover, medical cover and provisions for children and to get admitted into schools in their places of work.
It is easy to target the Congress. Nor is it any help to question the “social engineering” being attempted. Ulfa is seen as a secessionist outfit. Muslims now constitute 32% of the state’s population. So, any attempt, as reported, to create an Assam of Muslim-dominated state is dangerous. Bangladeshi immigrants are not targeted, it is the Bihari migrants. What does this show? To create space for the Bangladeshi immigrants?
The Ulfa has been asking “Indians” living in Assam to pay a “tax” to the outfit. But no such claim is made on the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, the country that provides shelter for the outfit’s leadership. The Ulfa’s activities show that it has ceased to be an Assamese movement but a foreign wing of the jeahadis wanting to dismember India.
Seen in this context, the Congress has tough task on its hand. Obviously the Congress has had a pre-election deal. This can’t be faulted as opportunistic. Giving in to the hardline community elements might have been tactical in crucial constituencies. The societal divisions have become more sharp in Assam soon after the Congress give-in.