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EDITORIAL

Telling India the Assam story

The sharp and unfounded allegations against the preparation of the National Register of Citizens NRC in Assam by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, as well as the comments of a section of self-styled political commentators of the country as were visible in prime-time television talk shows and newspaper editorial features in the past couple of days has brought to fore the fact that a sizeable chunk of supposedly responsible and educated people of India does not know anything about Assam. Many of these people are trying to paint a picture that the people of Assam as well as the various organizations and political parties – AASU and AGP included – are anti-national, anti-Indian, anti-Bengali, anti-Muslim, anti-Bihari and so on. While the utterances and comments of these people have sent wrong messages to the common people across the country, these have also projected a very negative image of the people of Assam. Another section has been trying to tell the world that the situation in Assam is grave, that a serious law and order is prevailing here and thousands of people are on the verge of being thrown out of the state. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has gone to the extent of saying that Assam was heading for a “civil war” situation and has reportedly also threatened of harming Assamese people living in her state.

Such kinds of utterances and wild allegations have been made against Assam and her people by irresponsible leaders of the like of Mamata Banerjee in the past too. Her predecessor and veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu is known to have described the Assam movement of 1979-85 as a picnic after a section of the Kolkata media had falsely described the AASU movement as one directed at Bengalis. Thus there is nothing new in Mamata Banerjee’s utterances, though the fact remains that such irresponsible and unfounded remarks contain the potential of triggering off any kind of law and order situation by inciting anti-social elements. Some individuals have already filed a few FIRs against the West Bengal chief minister, while some others have accused her of committing of contempt of court because the entire process of preparation of the NRC has been going on under the direct monitoring and directives of the Supreme Court of India.

With leaders from Assam failing to make sensational and unfounded remarks like Mamata Banerjee that could attract media headlines, the voice of the people of Assam is not being heard across the country as it should have been. It is also a fact that there is a tendency among a section of the so-called national media – including some TV news channels and some well-established newspapers – to sensationalize and only look at the negative aspects of anything, especially when it pertains to Assam and the North-eastern region. Very few television news anchors, newspaper editors and political commentators have been able to understand the fact that detection of illegal migrants in Assam is one step forward to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India on her North-eastern front. One well-known editor of a well-known English daily newspaper published from New Delhi had shown his true colour by once making certain very objectionable remarks against former Lok Sabha Speaker Purno A Sangma. Very few such self-styled all-subject experts have ever tried to understand the fact that the founders of Pakistan as well as of Bangladesh always have in their minds the map of a larger Islamic nation comprising of East Pakistan/Bangladesh and the adjoining North-eastern region of India. Very few – if not all of them – have probably heard of the Grouping Plan of the Cabinet Mission of 1946 that had proposed and sought to include Assam and the North-east in Group ‘C’ and then club this region entirely with East Pakistan as India attained Independence. Very few among these self-styled intellectuals have probably heard of great patriotic leaders like Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi, Rev James Joy Mohon Nichols Roy and others who fought relentlessly to protect Assam and the Northeast from being clubbed with East Pakistan. Very few among this breed of intellectuals have any idea of what kind of sacrifice the people of Assam and the North-eastern region had made during India’s struggle for Independence.

The blame for a poor image of Assam and the North-eastern Region must be shared by the elected representatives of this region who stay in Delhi for five or six years, during which they practice what can be described as a kind of mauna-vrat or silence. Assam alone has a combined strength of 21 MPs in the two Houses of Parliament. How many of them have ever spoken about the genuine problems and issues pertaining to Assam and the region in Parliament and in various national forums which they get access to? How many of them have been able to imbibe the qualities Hem Barua, Dinesh Goswami or Purno A Sangma and taken the issues of Assam and the Northeast to the centre-stage? Even in this present instance, how many of them have been able to counter the unfounded allegations of the likes of Mamata Banerjee and tell the rest of the country that what Assam has been doing is to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country.

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Sentinel Group