WITH EYES WIDE OPEN
D. N. Bezboruah
Soon after his deplorable conflict with Speaker of the Assam Assembly Prab Kumar Gogoi, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had occasion to tell jourlists that the Speaker's action in arriving at a definition of Assamese on his own without taking the views of all sections of the population was undemocratic and dictatorial. In making this comment, Tarun Gogoi was, however, careful not to me the Speaker of the Assembly. Unfortutely, the outcome of the unseemly conflict between the Chief Minister and the Speaker has resulted in a sort of stalemate. In accordance with parliamentary procedure, the Speaker’s views on the issue stated in the Assembly and sent to the Chief Minister, are required to be forwarded to the Centre with the Chief Minister’s views. Tarun Gogoi has made it clear that he is unwilling make his comments on the Speaker’s report without a proper discussion on the issue. This stand has resulted in the Speaker’s report remaining a dummy legislative instrument even though the Speaker had consulted a host of ethnic groups, State organizations, the Sahitya Sabha and eminent citizens before recording his own views in the Assembly. As such, the Speaker’s definition of the word Assamese, which has the support of the largest section of people in the State, will remain a milestone document in the Assembly, regardless of what the Chief Minister does with it.
What is indeed interesting, however, is that the Chief Minister should have attempted to dub the Speaker of the Assembly dictatorial and undemocratic (without ming him) while insisting that he himself was a democrat and not a dictator. “I am a democrat, not a dictator. Can things go entirely according to my wishes? Even when I do not like something, when the people want it, the majority want it, I have to do it because I believe in democracy,” he said. Unfortutely, in the last 14 years, people have come to know how dictatorial and arbitrary he can be in imposing his decisions on the people and how misplaced his claims of being a democrat are. If anything, it was the Speaker of the Assembly who had taken pains to seek the views of different ethnic groups and organizations of the State before expressing the view that the NRC of 1951 projected a fair definition of the word Assamese. We often overlook the fact that a democrat can live and function as a democrat only within a democratic setup. If Tarun Gogoi claims that he is a democrat, he must be referring to a democracy cobbled together with the votes of foreign tiols not all of whom have maged to become Indian citizens despite strong efforts made by the Assam government to turn them into Indian citizens. In a sense, therefore, we have a paradoxical situation where someone is making a claim about being a democrat when he has in mind only the votes of the illegal migrants from Bangladesh, who have ebled him to win election after election, even though most of the votes cast have been illegal votes. Not surprisingly, his persol view of “the people” and “the majority” are vastly different from the views of the people of Assam. So, when he talks about doing things the way the majority wants them done, he is clearly talking about the majority that he is in the process of creating with the help of Bangladeshi migrants—most of them illegal ones. He has in his armoury two sinister weapons. One is the huge vote bank of illegal migrants from Bangladesh that he and his predecessors of the Congress have created, and the other is the alarming fact that even in a so-called secular country, people of just one faith are still permitted to be polygamous, thereby being given a free hand in increasing their numbers as they please. As such, in course of time, the migrants from Bangladesh and their progeny will so vastly outnumber the indigenous people of Assam as to reduce them to a minority. The latest demographic study by the Pew Research Center of the United States indicates that India will have the largest number of Muslims of any country in the world by 2050, surpassing even the Muslim population of Indonesia which was 205 million as against India’s 177 million in 2011. This is because India is that rare country that permits Muslims alone to marry four wives despite proclaiming itself to be a secular country. And while Indian Muslims are, by and large, monogamous, the Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam are almost invariably polygamous. There is this neat plan for the so-called majority to be turned into a minority. It is this burgeoning majority of Bangladeshis that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is talking about. As creator of this clandestine majority, this is the only majority that he can talk about—the majority of aliens that vote illegally for his political party time and again. Such aberrations do not really make him a democrat since he is really talking as the resident of a shadow democracy of aliens that are not citizens as yet. But even if he were to be talking about a democracy of aliens in the making, the very fact that he lives in one such land does not make him a democrat. The true democrat strives to be a citizen like any other. He is a person who does not hanker for any privileges that the average citizen does not have. He is happy to stand in line and wait his turn. He is completely law-abiding, and the rule of law is his best armour. In the most developed countries like Norway and Sweden, ministers are not driven around by chauffeurs. When a minister has to go somewhere on official work, he merely asks for a car from the car pool and drives to his destition. We find none of this in Tarun Gogoi who calls himself a democrat. He invariably has an entourage of 16 to 18 vehicles (not counting the ambulance van) whenever he travels by road. The redundant number of vehicles in his convoy is attributed to the demands of security, since people in India think that security is no more than a matter of numbers. He has privileges like being able to use a sports stadium complex for a family wedding and being able initiate awards in the me of prominent people of the State without having to ask anyone about them. All his claims about consultations and consensus come to nought when he wants to launch a new award in order to please a community or ethnic group by honouring some distinguished citizens and thereby to win a few more votes for his political party. As for the rule of law, he has scant respect for it, considering the number of laws and rules he has broken to have his way. Lately, he has even been finding fault with the Centre for being strict about utilization certificates and statements of accounts and for holding up payments to the State under different heads. Very recently, he even warned the Centre that cutting funds to States like Assam would jeopardize Centre-State relations. And yet it is his government that has broken all records in the matter of breaking fiscal rules. In the 14 years of his rule, 24 departments of his government have not submitted accounts for Rs 8,000 crore. Up to November 2014, utilization certificates for Rs 12,688 crore had not been submitted to the Centre. The Centre is expected to behave in a manner as though asking for accounts of the Centre’s development grants is about the worst possible sin. And it is this Fince Minister and Chief Minister who makes claims about being a democrat! He is very far from being anything of the sort. True, he has turned out to be the greatest enemy of his own people, always protecting the interests of the Bangladeshi migrants against the legitimate rights of the indigenous people. And if the people of Assam do not watch out, the next thing on his agenda is a total sabotage of the updating of the tiol Register of Citizens on the basis of the NRC of 1951. All we shall end up with is colour advertisements in newspapers and television in place of any real work for updating the NRC. In the next few months we are about to see several orchestrated riots to oppose the updating of the NRC so that the Centre and the Supreme Court can be told that it is an impossible task because the ‘majority’ of Assam are opposed to the exercise. Of course, he would be talking about his majority and not the real majority. After all, here is one chief minister for whom electoral victory for his party by hook or crook rates a far higher priority than tiol interests and tiol security. The real people of the State just do not matter.