Author: Mrinal Talukdar
"Assam’s shifting geopolitical landscape" | Post-Colonial Assam
Assam’s history is both long and turbulent – since Independence, the state has been frequently facing severe socio-economic crisis stemming from industrial strikes, agrarian struggles, and natural calamities including frequent floods; emphasises Subimal Bhattacharjee
Mrinal Talukdar’s new book Post-Colonial Assam (1947-2019) covers 72 years of Assam’s political history in a very concise form since the attainment of India’s independence. During the period of 1947-2019, Assam witnessed a series of events including agitation, language movement, Bangladesh liberation war after effects, violent extremist movements and the book optimally covers them all. The book acts as a virtual tour of the entire 72 years penned precisely in just 382 pages in a chronological pattern. Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, remarked recently that this particular book would be the right guide for an outsider to understand Assam and its perspectives.
Assam has been on the tumult since Independence; much of that still is a result of the partition and its various ramifications. Initially, violence forced refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan to come to Assam but this soon changed to spates of illegal migration that continued for decades. Poor attention from Delhi in the formative years of the state saddled with economic issues and overburdened with refugee rehabilitation in the face of poor infrastructure has been well covered. The implementation of the 1951 National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) is well covered and it helps to understand the context for the current NRC updation which is facing legal and political scrutiny.
The growth of tribals’ aspirations in the state and subsequent creation of autonomous district councils in Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, the carving of the states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram has also been dealt precisely. Assam’s relations with the neighbouring states is still a work in progress.
At the same time, the rise of other movements within the state has also been covered particularly the student’s movement led by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) against foreigners in 1979. While the agitation was meant to be peaceful with the mass support in Brahmaputra valley, but on many occasions, Bengalis became the target of violence and oppression. The early 80s have seen lots of bloodsheds as many movements spiraled along similar lines.
Finally, the Assam accord was signed in 1985, but the incumbent government led by erstwhile student leader Prafulla Mahanta soon deviated from their promise of building a golden Assam and never implemented the provisions of the Accord. At the same time, the ruthless killings by the ULFA led Assam to a state of anarchy through the 90s.
With the ongoing issue of NRC remaining a delicate issue, the author has covered its various ramifications extensively and used his skills to help readers understand the consequences. One aspect is very clear: the bold and straight shooter that he is, Mrinal has kept the discourse open and factually correct.