Recipe for Disaster by Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam (SEPTEMBER 11, 2012)
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam, recently back from Assam, looks into the lethal mix of ethnic hatred and communal manipulation that has created the latest crisis in the state.
As I mentioned in the first part of this series, Assam (as well as the entire northeastern region) is a boiling cauldron of ethnic suspicions and mutual hatred between over 400 tribal groups.
If you add the communal manipulations of the Sangh and its affiliates you get a deadly mix that can explode into monumental violence anytime you want. And if the Congress Party jumps into the fray, trying to beat the Sangh at the Hindutva game with a higher dose of Hindutva, you are going to have a situation where violence, once it erupts, cannot be brought under control. This is what has happened in Assam.
The Congress Party in Assam tried to outsmart the BJP by appropriating the language and political space of the Sangh. For this Mr Tarun Kumar Gogoi made Maulana Badruddin Ajmal and his AIUDF the target of Hindutva hatred and (Gogoi) himself the champion of Hindu causes.
For the sake of carrying conviction with traditional Hindutva voters he resorted to all the gimmickry associated with BJP. The result was that BJP’s voters shifted their vote largely to Gogoi’s Congress. The BJP and its ally Assam Gano Parishad were decimated. However, Muslims were made to pay the price because Congress government was compelled to play the Hindutva game as a bargain.
The Bodo Council area politics and the latest round of ethnic cleansing has to be seen in this particular background.
After Congress and Maulana Ajmal’s AIUDF, the Bodo People’s Front came in third with 12 MLAs. As AIUDF has no share in power, the Bodo People’s Front, with its militant and exclusivist agenda, is the second most powerful player in government. One of its ministers, a Bodo, was seen carrying a rifle, leading marauding mobs to kill Muslims and destroy their homes.
This is one major factor that inhibits government action against criminals and serious steps on rehabilitation of the victims. The Bodos in their hubris are not allowing Muslims to return. Bodo Council authorities are saying that Muslims who do not have their citizenship papers will not be allowed to return. This they are doing with full knowledge that the 4.5 lakh refugees driven out of their homes could barely pull out some of the valuables from their houses set on fire by Bodo mobs. Today, many of them may not have citizenship documents as they perished in the fire.
Experts are of the opinion that so far the Bodo accounted for only 25 percent of the population of the Bodoland Territorial Administrative District (BTAD). Every now and then the Bodos have been trying to force other ethnic groups out of the area to get a clear majority over a period of time. So far they have been doing it with the help of BJP and AGP. Today they are doing it on their own and with the help of Congress.
The BTAD is an anomaly that has to be scrapped at the earliest. This is also the main demand of the victims of aggression lying in the camps that I visited recently.
Scrapping of BTAD is essential for any just and reasonable settlement of the issues. The sheer injustice of this is evident from the fact that Bodos, who are only one-fourth of the population in the BTAD, have cornered 80 percent of the authority for themselves.
The foundation of this terrible mischief was laid down by the NDA in 1993 as Bodo Autonomous Council agreement. Gogoi implemented the agreement in 2003 with the establishment of BTAD. Before that the terrorist organisation Bodo Liberation Tigers was made to lay down its arms. However, everyone in Assam knows that they kept back most of the arms and surrendered only a few of them.
Today, the Bodo terrorists are using those arms against Muslims. However, other ethnic groups are apprehensive that their turn would come soon. As I said in my earlier piece, non-Muslims, including non-Bodo Hindus, have been forced out of the area in the past. Many of them never returned.
The Bangla-speaking Muslims must be brought back to settle in the areas from where they have been chased out. The state and Centre must help them rebuild their homes, lives and livelihoods, and compensate them for their losses.
Any proposal to settle them in Garo hills or Khasi hills must be rejected as it would be frought with great dangers.
Finally, the culprits must be brought to book even if it is by using the constitutional authority of the Centre as the state has failed in its duty. There is no reason why the victims cannot be rehabilitated in their villages and why Armed Forces Special Powers Act cannot be employed to maintain peace in the face of Bodo terrorism.