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In Black and White

The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) is not at all satisfied with its discussion with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, nor is the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) so, a crucial ally of the BJP at Dispur. Last Friday, the AASU-CM discussion went fruitless, which was not unexpected though, given the compulsions of politics to which Sonowal seems to have kowtowed as he remains ambiguous on his stand on the proposed legislation. The BJP at the Centre wants the Bill to take an early shape as law so that there could be a solid vote bank of a new kind in Assam, this time the post-March 24 midnight 1971 illegal Bangladeshi Hindus. The transformation of these illegal immigrants from Bangladesh to legitimate Indian citizens that the Bill seeks to achieve, in addition to the millions, both Hindu and Muslim, who have made Assam their living and breeding space at the behest of ‘secular’ political species, does not bother the BJP-led government at the Centre, which is clear from its indulgence in the mere ritual of sending a joint parliamentary committee to the State for what has been called ‘hearing’. Who has heard whom? Had the JPC heard the voice of the indigenous people of the State who have very valid reasons to decry and oppose the Bill tooth and nail, it would have informed the Narendra Modi government of the ethnic pulse here. It was not to be. After all, the party in power at the Centre and its obedient extension at Dispur have already chosen not to heed the ethnic voice of the State considered since Partition the most suitable dumping ground for migrants from Bangladesh. But that the indigenous people of Assam will eventually be outnumbered by aliens – a population hostile to Assamese culture and tradition – and lose their very identity, thus becoming extinct as a people with a home to call their own, has not moved even the so-called sons of the soil within the State BJP fold, is a far more tragic story. And the State has a person at the helm of affairs at Dispur who is none but the same legislator whose petition against the IM(DT) Act in the Supreme Court had it scrap the perverse immigration law 13 years ago in what was hailed as a major triumph of the natives of the State over the nefarious designs of illegal Bangladeshis and their patrons, including downright fanatics out to create a greater Islamic state of Bangladesh in Southeast Asia.

The AASU and the 28 ethnic organizations bent on fighting the Bill till it is scrapped after addressing the concerns of the patriotic people of Assam who want the Bill to be done away with absolutely because it directly threatens their very survival as citizens in a free and democratic country, said on Friday that Sonowal was not “categorical” about his stand against the Bill. The clear-cut stand of the Meghalaya and Bihar chief ministers is missing in the Sonowal narrative vis-à-vis the Bill despite the enormity of the jeopardy that the State is in. But Sonowal’s lack of clarity is understandable. For one, he must remain in the good book of the party’s central leadership as it tries to expand its base in the State and further in the rest of the Northeast; Assam has been an astounding success for the saffron party, and then the incredible Tripura story happened. At the same time, chief ministership is a huge fascination in itself. But, then, did we not hear the same Chief Minister a few days back say – at his indigenous best perhaps – that if he was unable to safeguard the interests of the sons of the soil, he would have no right at all to lead the State? For another, he could well have a huge problem in effecting unanimity in his own cabinet team minus the AGP and the BPF, the latter two having already made it plain enough that they are not going to accept the Bill in its present form. That is perhaps the whole intrigue in black and white. But Assam is being endangered gravely. And it is this that concerns us the most.

Journey of the Brain
It is interesting that researchers at the University of California-Santa Cruz have identified three genes involved in brain development that may have contributed to the rapid evolution of humans from other apes about three million years ago. These genes, along with others unique to humans, offer clues about what separates us from chimpanzees. The story is that about 6.5 million years ago, humans and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor, and a few million years later, the size of the human brain began to grow. As things stand today, the wrinkly outer layer of the human brain responsible for our faculty of reason, called neo-cortex, is three times larger than that of the chimpanzee. In a recently published paper in the journal Cell, California University researcher David Haussler has said that “understanding ourselves and how we are different from other species has been a scientific quest for millennia” and “these findings help address the age-old question of what makes us human”. Apart from the biological part of the story – to be furthered via the route of genetic engineering – what has been addressed insofar as “what makes us human” is concerned is that it is emotions that lead to love and fellow feeling that define us uniquely, besides our incredible mind power and spiritual dimension. In fact, you hardly would have an animal go spiritual! It is we the homo sapiens who have the element of spirituality making us so rich a species on earth. With this asset, combined with the brain with its journey so far and henceforth too, our life has a huge potential. Let us appreciate this amid all tempests and turbulences. The fact of being a human with mind and heart is itself a hope dynamo.

About the author

Ankur Kalita