Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many, they are few
The signs of another ethnic uprising are clearly visible in Assam. Brutal killing and burning of houses of the indigenous Bodo people by the Bangladeshi Muslims have provoked/worked as the immediate impetus for the uprising. Land encroachment of the Tribal people by the illegal migrants has kept the situation tense for a long time.
During the 1980s the students of Assam led a mass movement against the large scale illegal migration from Bangladesh. Fight against the apathy of the Centre was also one of the main issues of the Movement. In fact the illegal migrant problem, to a great extent arises from centre’s refusal to look at Assam’s problem from Assamese people’s perspective.
Looking into Centre’s apathy towards Assam’s concern:
One’s gaze or perspective is guided, to a great extent, by his particular location. “I am, therefore I think.” If I am an Indian, I think in a particular way. My way of thinking may be different from, say from a Pakistani, American or Chinese etc. This position may necessitate a binary distinction. A travelling spirit may take an all-inclusive view of a situation. The ideology of Nationalism may resist such a view. Nationalism is a collective consciousness of a society deeply rooted in a particular culture. Writers like Salman Rushdie witnessed an ideal secular, pluralistic society when he was a child in Mumbai. Situation and circumstances might have changed a lot since then. He may want to see the India of his childhood as eternal, but ground reality may be different. Whenever that secular, pluralistic vision seems to be under threat, he ruthlessly offers his critique. One’s gaze is ideologically constructed. A person’s gaze is constructed, to a great extent, by the dominant ideology of the political space in which he operates. Again the ideology of the powerful group gains legitimacy. This, however, does not mean that other’s ideology does not exist. The conflict between the Centre and the margin always remains. A more accommodative and inclusive ideology may avert conflict for a long time. To judge a situation or incident that takes place at a particular space, one should be acquainted with the geographical and socio-political context of the space. But to judge an incident outside one’s ideological space without acquainting oneself with its context may be equivalent to epistemic violence. It would be gross denial of other’s holistic existence. This, however, does not mean or should not mean that a space should not or need not take value from others. Adding value from a ‘transcendental other’ may be an enriching experience. A space which is like a pool of stagnant waters may create mosquito like elements. This is neither expected nor desirable. Assimilation has remained the leitmotif of Indian Sanatan culture.
Assamese nationalist organisations have long been complaining of centre’s apathy and step-motherly attitude towards Assam. The leaders at the centre failed to realise the gravity of Assam’s major problems like the illegal migrants problem, problem of flood etc. From the metropolitan centre, Assam’s problem might have appeared trivial or negligible. Foreigner’s issue appeared communal. But by locating oneself in Assam, one could easily realise it was not so. Locating oneself in Delhi, one cannot get the true picture of Assam’s problem. Assam’s or any other state’s problem may have its own socio-cultural context. Without having deeper understanding of the socio-cultural context of the particular area, or without acquainting oneself with the socio-cultural context, it would be a grave injustice to formulate solution for this particular area’s problem from the perspective of the metropolitan culture. It may be seen as an imposition. Because of the differences of perspectives between Delhi and Assam, Assam’s major problems have remained unaddressed by Delhi for long. Delhi’s refusal to recognise Assam’s peculiar socio-cultural context has contributed to conflicting situation. Delhi’s long indifference to address the major problems of illegal migrants has threatened the identity of the indigenous people of the state. To sacrifice our cultural identity cannot be the price to be Indian.
From the perspective of Delhi’s dominant ‘secular’ ideology, the process of minoritisation of the Hindus in Assam is but a natural process. It is not at all matter to be worried about if Hindu population in the state declines from 72% in 1971 to 64% in 2001.The Hindus should not raise concern if Shariat is imposed in some parts of the secular country. If someone raises concern, then he appears communal. No matter if the illegal Bangladeshi Muslim migrants occupy our land, acquire voting right to overthrow us, no matter if polygamy, unabated birth rate of the community contribute to make the Hindus a minority group. From the perspective of the ethnic /indigenous people, such a secular view is totally unjust, unacceptable, an imposition on the Assam’s indigenous Hindu population. Secularism should not mean minoritisation of the Hindus by undemocratic means. It may be pointed here that large section of the Hindu population of Assam is the product of ‘give and take’ kind of assimilation process. Assam is a land where Aryan-Non Aryan race have merged with each other and laid the foundation of a greater Assamese society. This society is now under threat because of the unsaturated elements intruding into the state from across the border. Assam’s indigenous communities are facing threat from these unsaturated elements while Delhi is indifferent to these communities’ concern. This is the ideological conflict between Delhi and Assam. The conflict, which culminated in the form of Assam agitation, still continues. To sort out this conflict Delhi must reach out to Assam. Ironically some prominent intellectuals of Assam along with other so called secular organisations have been trying to feed Assam Delhi’s version of secularism. These intellectuals opposed the Assam agitation; for them identity threat to the Assamese people is not a major concern to be worried about. It seems the so called secular intellectuals never tried to feel the psychic trauma of the Hindus of the areas where they have been outnumbered undemocratically by the illegal/settler migrants. For a long time they have used the power of the pen to work as a shield to those who have posed threat to the Hindu/indigenous identity. Hiren Gohain, for example, kept himself busy exploring if some Brahmins exploited other caste people in areas like Darrang etc while the state was facing serious threat from the Bangladeshi Migrants. While the state is facing grave threat from the illegal migrants, he kept himself busy in creating a gap/division in the Hindu society. He has spent much of his ink in abusing the Hindu word. Most of the time, he used his literary genius to give/add Marxist colour to the great literary text of writers, artists like Jyotiprasad Agarwala. For a long period of time, he opposed the Assam agitation. He opposed almost any move to detect and deport the illegal migrants by any patriotic Assamese organisation. Government system has failed to assure the indigenous Hindu people. What should they do now? Surrender to the Zehadi force?
Definition of Assamese, issue of constitutional safeguard:
To the question of protecting/preserving Assamese identity, the definition of “Who is an Assamese?” has appeared as an obstacle. Some communities have refused to identify themselves as Assamese. Again many migrant people have accepted Assamese culture and have contributed to Assamese culture. Should time limit be drawn to prevent them from enjoying the opportunities, which so called mainstream Assamese enjoy?
A strong mechanism of assimilation may help solve the problem. In fact power to assimilate has been the sustaining force of our culture. Sankaradeva showed the path of Assimilation. His middle path is the path of the greater Assamese society. A society is directionless without a spiritual path. Sankaradeva’s path is the spiritual path of the Assamese. This path is the path of not only for the so called mainstream Assamese people but for all the communities living in Assam. The path of Sandasai may be the path for many to assimilate into Assamese culture. Any definition of Assamese would remain incomplete without adding the spiritual dimension of Sankaradeva.