The last four days of mob violence in Kokrajhar district (that has also spread to Dhubri) is indeed most unfortunate for a plural society that has become an even more complex conglomeration after the demographic changes in Assam wrought by our politicians over the last three decades. The death toll rose to 20 on Monday with allegations of policemen in one of the police stations just looking on as four persons were lynched to death by a mob. The riots have led to large-scale arson, thereby forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and take shelter in relief camps in and around Kokrajhar. The number of people in relief camps that was about 40,000 on Sunday has gone up to well over 50,000 and could rise even further in the coming days unless very firm measures are initiated by the administration to control the riots. Shoot-at-sight orders have been issued in Kokrajhar and curfew has been clamped on neighbouring areas of the riot-hit districts. The Centre has stepped in to assist the State administration by sending 14 more companies (about 1,750 personnel) of the CRPF to control the situation. What is indeed saddening is that we should have had a repetition of the violence resulting from ethnic cleansing that had rocked Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon soon after the Assembly elections of 1996, resulting in the setting up of relief camps that had to be sustained for many years. There is no way of predicting at this point as to how long the newly created relief camps will have to be sustained in the interests of the personal security of thousands of people. Such things are a major slur on any civilized society and its government.
Politicians who are directly or indirectly responsible for creating bizarre demographic changes in any State, should stop to think of not just their own electoral equations, but also of the traumatic effects of such changes on the lives of innocent people. In the last three decades, we have been witness to a callous indifference to the disasters that have overtaken people as a result of the actions of politicians directed solely at electoral gains even with the help of foreign nationals. At this point, any objective and dispassionate penal action against rioters would seem to be quite impossible because of their electoral clout and the inability of the government to punish wrongdoing on the part of the so-called minorities who are actually in a majority in several of the districts of Assam.
We are in a situation where the only solution for the plural society of Assam is to achieve a certain level of harmony and a will to coexist in amity even amid the demographic chaos created by our politicians for their electoral gains. The bottom line of the present equation is that people must survive and exist even in the most adverse situations created by our politicians for their own electoral gains. People must begin to realize that violence and killing and ethnic cleansing have no place in the society that we find ourselves in and one that we will have to sustain willy-nilly for our survival and our future. The man in the street does not have the advantage that politicians do. He cannot just decide one fine morning to migrate to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Bangalore because foreign nationals welcomed by politicians have turned the indigenous population into an insignificant minority. The need of the hour, therefore, is the realization of how important amity, goodwill and harmony are to our plural society as it exists today. This is something that the ‘minorities’ (that are, in fact, the majority in several districts) as well as the other ethnic groups must appreciate if we are to talk about and dream about development of a society that has already fallen far back in the race of development.