Millennium Post

Flowing against the tide

So Team Anna couldn’t sustain the movement. Without clinging on to clichés, one can say that its not easy to flow against the tide but there are activists in this country who are doing exactly this – that is, taking on the government and doing so in the midst of immense pressure.

If core members of Team Anna wanted to join politics, they should have declared so at some earlier stage. Not after making a mockery of this movement. They used the people’s genuine anger to create their base and expand their platform and then jumped into the political fray. There is not just confusion but it is laced with disillusionment and disappointment. For, a good movement fizzled out, even before the actual take-off.

Don’t know whether to laugh or cry with these thoughts hitting: what if Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi go contesting in the next general elections, and then go further – that is, winning and becoming ministers, to be well lodged in golden cages. Far, far away from the crowds, the masses, from the actual ground realities.

Why couldn’t they have shown that level of grit and patience and sacrifice that’s required of genuine apolitical activists and workers. In fact, even today you have individuals who are trying to bring about changes in their own subtle ways. No, no ongoing fasts or lengthy speeches. Just sheer focus and the capacity to connect. Almost spontaneously I can think of New Delhi IIT ‘s Professor V K Tripathi. This full fledged professor of Physics has been undertaking journeys to the communally sensitive locales of the country and reaching out to people – amidst hopelessness and at the mercy of opportunists in the hape of politicians, cops and administrators.

And last week Professor Tripathi traveled to Assam, to see and sense the ground realities. Here is his report on the ongoing ethnic violence hitting Assam – ‘...The ethnic violence between Bodos and Muslims in the Bodo territorial region of Assam is a national calamity. It has taken a toll of 65 innocent lives [besides the scores of people missing] and rendered four lakh homeless. The first priority of sane polity and responsible government is to restore the trust between the warring groups, Bodos and Muslims, without the slightest of ill will against any of the communities, and to isolate miscreants from the masses. Muslims are poorer, have lost more lives and fled in larger numbers [up to 80 per cent] but Bodos are no economic elite. The creation of Bodo Territorial Council [covering 4 districts – Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baxa and Udalguri] by the centre in 2003, has given a section of them an upper hand but masses of both the communities are in hardships.

I spent three days [August 3 to 5] in the area, visited relief camps – two Bodo camps in Kokrajhar [with 560 and 1500 people], one Muslim camp in Kashipara [960 people], one Muslim camp in Dhubri [360 people] and three Muslim camps in Bilasipara [2000, 2500 and 3500 people], visited a Muslim village Bhadyagudi, a mixed Bodo-Muslim village Bhatipara and met a cross-section of people. I also met the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Kokrajhar Jayant Narlikar, DC of Dhubri Kumud Kalita and Principal, Vice Principal and Librarian of Bhola Nath College, Dhubri… I saw no trace of a Bangladeshi offensive in the conflict, so systematically and vigorously orchestrated by the BJP and VHP, led by L K Advani, Tarun Vijay and Praveen Togadia. They are playing with the lives of people and poisoning the atmosphere for the future. Bangladeshi is more of an abuse to humiliate Muslims who are native Indians. There may be a few per cent Bangladeshis but even these, in all likelihood, are labourers and labourers are no exploiters but an exploited lot. They need to be treated with dignity. All countries have legal and illegal migrants. The US has a very significant percentage of illegal Mexicans. But who engages them and benefits from their hard work? The business class, for cheap labour. US is immensely more powerful than us but it cannot force the Mexicans out. India has limited resources and can’t afford to sustain the work force from neighbouring countries, hence legal ways, commensurate with workers’ dignity, must be employed to identify and deport them and to stop their migration. Kokrajhar district borders with West Bengal and Dhubri with Bangladesh. 100-150 years ago British tea planters brought labourers from Bengal where Muslims were a predominant landless work force. Thus they speak Bengali. One more observation. In 1971 India welcomed lakhs of Hindu and Muslim refugees as a part of strategy on Bangladesh. Many of them overstayed.

The current conflict developed as a chain event. Miscreants killed two Muslims on 6 July. On 19 July, a prominent Muslim suffered bullet injuries and a mob killed 4 Bodos. Subsequently sporadic killings of Muslims and display of fire power by Bodo elements, created a frightening atmosphere, forcing people to flee their homes.

In Muslim-dominated areas Bodos were made to flee. Once people fled, many of their homes were looted and put on fire. Most camps, having over 2.5 lakh Muslim refugees, are located in Dhubri district.

Humra Quraishi is a columnist and author
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