By Anirban Choudhury
Much water has flowed down the Brahmaputra, but unfortunately many of us still don’t seem to have learnt our lessons properly. No wonder then that the history of the North-eastern region is replete with instances of individuals and groups with blood of their own people in their hands suddenly acting as their saviours. And what’s even more worrisome is that the people also seem to have got along with this recurring phenomenon, thereby emboldening others to pursue a similar beaten track.
The recent unsavoury incident in Nagaon also falls into this set pattern. The situation in the central Assam – as in other parts of the State – reached almost a flashpoint, before good sense prevailed among the larger populace and the situation could be salvaged from the brink. But not before raising some serious questions on the popular narratives vis-à-vis militancy in this part of the country.
One could only stand back to watch with horror and wonder at the heights of hypocrisy when a group of armed men, from whose hands the stains of blood of their own people are yet to be washed off, suddenly started claiming to represent them. And a section of the society was more than happy to oblige with their shenanigans.
But how can those who were considered dreaded outlaws till the other day suddenly masquerade as the larger Assamese community’s saviours? Ain’t that absurd? There’s something surely amiss in the narrative and exposes several loopholes.
Even a section of the broadcast and print media, particularly vernacular, seems to have become totally oblivious, if not selectively amnesiac, to the blood spilled by such individuals and groups. Else, what explains the putting of their entire weight behind these elements and help them build up such a skewed narrative? Even more alarming is the State being relegated to a mute spectator as these elements openly threatened to spill blood again in the name of the very people who it once didn’t dither to kill if they didn’t kowtow to their diktats. Is the State so impotent to act against such hoodlums? It cannot be seen to be falling on its knees just to keep such elements in good humour. That’s a clear disgrace.
Whatever happened in Nagaon was a criminal act indulged in by two groups of people, and prudence would be to allow the law take its own course, irrespective of their caste, creed and community. It’s totally wrong to attribute the entire incident only to a particular community or brand its every member, as has been the case vis-à-vis Silapathar incident too some months ago, and inflame communal passions.
However, the unfortunate Nagaon or Silapathar incident is only symptomatic of a malaise that runs deep within in the region. We have had enough instances of killers turning into politicians and public leaders. Some of them even ended up becoming law-makers, with the State conveniently turning a blind eye to their past acts of bloodletting for political expediencies. And why would a government in a democratic set-up really bother to act when people’s memory seems to be woefully short? This is more than evident in the warm public felicitations such rebel leaders receive whenever they join mainstream.
This is just the type of environment that such criminal elements require to twist the discourse in their favour. No wonder Samuel Johnson’s pronouncement that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel holds so true in the Northeast!
Actually, the society needs to be wary of such people and thwart their evil machinations of acting as saviours from being ruthless killers. And the ideal way of dealing such elements is to deny them that public space that they so eagerly seek to perpetuate themselves. To put the records straight, Ulfa (or its surrendered brigade) can’t be a symbol of Assamese community in as much as various factions of NDFB or former BLT leaders of the Bodo community. The same holds for other communities as well – like the NSCN, NLFT, HNLC, GNLA, DHD, etc. It’s wrong to associate these trigger-happy elements with any community for they are neither representatives nor nayaks (heroes) or saviours of any community. Don’t they say terrorism has no religion?
And nothing’s more ridiculous than to watch those who once were on a killing spree of innocents being received with open arms with much fanfare by vested groups within the society, often to further their own parochial interests. It is absolutely disgusting to witness such a practice with the killers showing little or no apparent signs of remorse for their past acts of spilling innocents’ blood.
There are clearly better jatiya (national) symbols to associate with than these bloodthirsty elements with distorted mindsets. How can killers of eminent persons including the likes of Kamala Saikia be glorified? Let us stop playing into the hands of these criminals.
The propensity among a section within the society, including the media, to categorise any such killers as “ours” and “theirs” has to stop forthwith once and for all. The tendency to look up to them as “our boys” needs to be stopped immediately. Else, history will continue repeating itself with recurring bloody consequences.
And for this to happen, the communities need to give up their persecution complex that many suffer from in this part of the country. For, this is exactly the mindset that these criminals exploit to their advantage. But, in this age of globalisation with cut-throat competition, no one has the time or inclination to indulge in the luxury of ganging up against communities residing in the Northeast.