A pattern is emerging of diabolic attempts to divide Assam along commul lines, if the recent happenings in Cachar and Dhubri districts are any indication. This is a portentous development in a multi-ethnic, multi-religion State going for assembly polls in about ten months. Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts shut down on Monday with the BJP calling a bandh to protest the arrest of its Silchar MLA Dilip Paul, the party’s Cachar unit president and some other leaders. After miscreants desecrated a temple in Meherpur on Friday evening, a protest rally in Silchar town next day led to the police action. At around the same time, similar trouble rocked Agomoni in Dhubri district. After a group of people caught two miscreants for desecrating a temple in Kaldoba, a rumour spread about the miscreants being thrashed to death. Within a few hours, a vengeful mob descended on Agomoni, destroying several shops along the main road and setting some vehicles afire. Timely police action prevented the situation from going out of control in both places, but serious allegations have been raised against some police officials for high-handed conduct. Thanks to a series of peace meetings by concerned citizens representing different groups, Agomoni is limping back to normal after curfew. But the situation in Barak valley needs watching, facing as it does the threat of commul polarisation following the Central government’s move to regularise the entry of Hindu and other minority refugees from Bangladesh and Pakistan.
With the Congress government in Assam now upping the Barak representation in the ministry and among parliamentary secretaries, while the BJP and AIUDF are going all out to get their votebanks battle-ready, Barak valley seems to be heading for testing times. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has meanwhile said that commul forces, both Hindu and Islamic fundamentalists, are active in the State and trying to foment conflicts. But he needs to walk the talk, with the Home department for long under his command, but failing miserably to prevent commul and ethnic clashes. The State cannot afford another nightmare like the BTAD riots in 2012. Senior police sources have pointed out that jihadi groups have become more active in the last three years after those riots, indoctriting youths, setting up modules and organising arms training both outside and within Assam. State police DGP Khagen Sarma has recently admitted that the threat now posed by jihadi elements is ‘much bigger’ than that by other militant outfits. These elements are said to operate at a different level, not hesitating to hire people and outsource their activities. Jihadi groups like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) spreading their tentacles outward from bases in Dhubri, Goalpara and Barpeta to lbari, Chirang and other districts — will pose serious challenges to the police administration if allowed to operate unchecked. The jihadi camp busted recently at Daukhagar in Chirang district revealed a cache of AK series and INSAS rifles along with ammunition; though six operatives were bbed, the kingpin of the module with other trained cadres made good their escape. With the tiol Investigation Agency (NIA) likely to take up the case soon, more leads can be expected in the coming days. But police and intelligence quarters will have to sharpen their vigil further, so that no political parties and terrorist groups take advantage of the coming elections to leave the State irreversibly polarised.