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Who will kill the Assamese now?

india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 17:18 IST

So who will be the first to kill the Assamese? The ULFA or the Bihari?

ULFA thugs are killing Hindi-speaking people in Assam, said one newspaper. Does this read like "the Assamese are killing Hindi speaking people in Assam"? Perhaps not to you, but the way things are going, very soon you may believe so.

If this article was in written in Hindi and read in Bihar, maybe the readers would have read it like that. So what is happening in Assam, and why? A recent poll showed that 95 per cent of the Assamese do not support the ULFA anyway. After the recent spate of killings, I am sure this number is closer to 100 per cent.

What is also likely to be true is that a majority of educated Assamese youth today who grew up in Assam's towns is probably speaking more Hindi than they do Assamese. Such youth have had no option but to leave the state and find livelihood elsewhere, because of adverse conditions in Assam, thanks largely to ULFA. These Assamese youth have found livelihood in the software industry in India, in Bollywood, in various parts of the world, as drivers, as night watchmen, you name it!

So will ULFA kill such Assamese outside their state because they have started speaking Hindi? Or will such Assamese be targeted by the Biharis because the Bihari is being killed in Assam? The Government has already stepped up security for trains to and from Assam passing through Bihar fearing this. Ironical, isn't it?

How did it become like this? Historically Assam has been one of the most peaceful regions where various races and religions have lived in peace. Shortly after seven states were carved out of Assam in the early 70s, and towards the late 70s, the Assam agitation began. This agitation, started by students, sought to bring to the government's notice, two things:

1) Assam being neglected by the Central government in creating employment opportunities, despite Assam producing so much oil and tea,

2) Illegal migration by Bangladeshis and the Assamese slowly losing livelihood and land to them. These being pertinent issues, the whole of Assam supported the causes. This agitation carried on for about a decade, turning violent at times, and resulted in the Assam accord of 1988, when the Congress government at the centre, led by Rajiv Gandhi, made some lofty promises.

Assam was overjoyed and the student leaders became overnight heroes. Somewhere along the same time (late 70s) the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) was formed; their agenda was similar to the students, except that they always demanded an independent nation.

Although none in Assam really believed that an independent nation was possible or necessary, ULFA got the support of the then sentimental Assamese, as the ULFA appeared to be fighting "for" the Assamese. Things turned nasty after 1988. The student leaders did not know how to use the newfound power, abused it and made a mess out of the accord and of Assam.

Corruption and lawlessness ruled. ULFA started killing Marwaris in desperation, as they found no "real" issues to motivate the Assamese. Bangladeshis started flowing in by the droves and the student leaders, the Government and the ULFA, seemed to have blissfully forgotten the real issue: invasion of Assam by millions of illegal immigrants.

ULFA's desperation became so bad that on and off they had to resort to an act like mass killing to draw the government's attention as the local populace had shown their back and the government was after them. With a complete lack of support for ULFA within the Assamese community, it is alleged that it started recruiting Bangladeshis to fill in the ranks.

It is, of course, no secret that the top leaders of ULFA are living in palatial bungalows in Bangladesh. There is also talk of the ULFA now being the front-end for the ISI in this region, and it is no more in control of Assamese leaders.

This is a believable theory, what with the ULFA leadership running flourishing business in Dhaka, it targeting Indians (Biharis) instead of Bangladeshis.

Where does this leave Assam? Is there some sinister force attempting to take over Assam from India by letting Indian's fight amongst themselves? It is not that subsequent governments in the centre do not know all these issues, but they choose to remain silent.

It is an open secret with governments that the situation is very critical and many believe that it is beyond repair. But still the government refuses to do anything by way of an attempt to diffuse the situation.

There are those who draw a parallel with Kashmir. It is often said that respective governments in India and Pakistan would not solve the Kashmir problem as the Kashmir situation is more of a political need for governments, more so for the government on the other side than on this side.

As of today, Assam is probably not yet a "political need" for the Government of India. But is Assam being led along the same way, along the way securing the ulterior motives of a few politicians and fanatics. If yes, then at whose cost? Innocent "Bihari" labourers?

Remember that there is no recorded case of any violence between the Assamese and the Bihari at any level. Or is it at the cost of the Assamese, who, besides losing livelihood in their home state, today run the risk of losing face in front of India, because of some mindless politics.

Either ways the Assamese is trapped. He will now be targeted by the ULFA because he has started speaking Hindi, and also by the Bihari, because Biharis are being killed in Assam.

Gajen Barua is our surfer and can be contacted at gajenbarua @rediffmail.com

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