5.5.14

Bodos and Political Opportunism in Assam



Is arming a section of people who are victims the solution? 35 people have been killed, a few hundred injured, and many more displaced. Their houses are rubble. Days after the Bodo insurgents struck in the Kokrakhar and Baksa districts of Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), came this suggestion:

The Assam government on Sunday was thinking of arming Bengali-speaking Muslims in Bodo areas with licensed guns and asked for applications from villagers even as the situation in Kokrajhar and Baksa returned to normal with no reports of fresh violence. 
State forest minister Rockybul Hussain said Bengali-speaking Muslim villagers should be given licensed arms by the state government for self defence. "Since the home department in Bodoland Territorial Council area is under the state government, the government can provide licensed arms if anyone applies for it."

This is ridiculous, especially considering that the Bodos are armed and in a majority in the area. This would amount to merely creating a parallel form of false insurgency. They tried it in the Naxal areas. It does not work. Besides, some Scheduled Tribes are Bodo, and they too are poor.

The gun license would require official documents, and many might not have them, which would be further reason to harass them. The arms could also be used by others. These are dangerous ideas. There is Bodo history, but it is not difficult for the ruling class to use a disaffected people's aspirations.



Fortunately, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, whose Bodoland People’s Front is a Congress ally, has denied any such plans:

The state government has not taken any decision as reported in a section of media that the government would issue firearms to violence-affected people in BTAD area, Gogoi said in a statement here. The government would provide security cover to the people in vulnerable areas by increasing the number of police pickets and outposts, strengthening of Village Defence Party, formation of peace committees and by taking up other security measures, he said.

While it is not possible to anticipate violence, this is ripe territory for politicians to capitalise on election fever. The government ought to have considered this. We now have the usual blame game with everybody from Omar Abdullah in Kashmir to the Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra either accusing or standing by certain politicians. The BJP’s Venkaiah Naidu took this opportunity to remind people, "Everybody is blaming Modi because Modi is a darling of the masses”.

The BJP, like the Congress, does have a stake in territorial violence. How can we forget the Modi reference to “Bangladeshi immigrants” occupying the land that was meant for the “pride of Assam” – the one-horned rhino? Then there is promise of the separate Bodoland (Telangana redux?). The rightwing also thinks it is the right time to discuss other states where Muslims are not in a minority. It is fair to do so, but why on the ashes elsewhere? Why can’t they deal with what is happening now, since they had not done so when the other displacement and violence took place?

It is not only political opportunists. The Times of India report too states:

Bengali-speaking Muslims have clashed with Bodos four times in the past, the earliest being in 1952 and the most recent being in 2012 when 105 people from both communities were killed in five days.

So, Muslims clashed? In 2012, they were shot down, and the rest had to flee or find succour in relief camps. This time too other reports have mentioned how the Bodos entered the villages and chased them, even firing at those who jumped into the river. It was an organised attack.

“There were about 40 of them, some in battle fatigues and faces covered with black cloth, and some others wearing khaki. All of them held weapons.” 

It is important to note that if the clashes started in 1952, how can it be a question of Bangladeshi immigrants? The ‘immigrants are taking over’ is an old ploy to whip up nationalistic frenzy. It is particularly galling considering that politicians have never paid attention to the North East. From 2012 to today, the interest has been purely to create and add to the fissures.

Finding a solution is not about leaders playing one group against another and empowering one to fight another.

© Farzana Versey

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Also: Rediscovering the North East or Riding the Bandwagon?

13 comments:

  1. FV:"The rightwing also thinks it is the right time to discuss other states where Muslims are not in a minority. It is fair to do so, but why on the ashes elsewhere? Why can’t they deal with what is happening now, since they had not done so when the other displacement and violence took place? "

    Just playing devil's advocate here, but how is the right-wing to raise a voice against displacement from other places such as Jammu&Kashmir, when they did not have much of voice in the media back in early 90s? (now there are sites like niticentral which provide a voice to that side)

    Oh the contrary, one sees self-proclaimed "secular intellectuals" heap scorn on those displaced people of J&K even now, while
    being sympathetic to the religious bigots that have ethnically cleansed the state and now demand secession from the Indian state.

    Ideally, every incident of violence and rioting needs to be treated on its own, but they are not. I see how readily "intellectuals" are labelling the Bodos as "terrorists" after one incident, while the real terrorists pushed in pakistan into J&K were labelled as "militants" for decades until recently. So it is not just politicians and parties that have a stake in territorial violence -- the media seems to have its own stake in supporting these political parties by selectively portraying violence against some groups but not others. Selective outrage and camouflaged hypocrisy seem to be much in fashion these days.
    -Al

    ReplyDelete
  2. Al:

    The NDA had one term and you do not need to be in power to raise a voice. (Niticentral offers avenue to "other side" by fabricating lies. Oh, never mind.)

    Welcome to the old order ->>

    {one sees self-proclaimed "secular intellectuals" heap scorn on those displaced people of J&K even now, while 
    being sympathetic to the religious bigots that have ethnically cleansed the state and now demand secession from the Indian state.}

    No comments. J&K is not a song.

    {I see how readily "intellectuals" are labelling the Bodos as "terrorists" after one incident, while the real terrorists pushed in pakistan into J&K were labelled as "militants" for decades until recently.}

    Don't know what you read, but people were/are called jihadists and Islamists by the ignorant who have no clue about such terms, and who are obsessed with Saudi Arabia. And is this one 'incident' by Bodos? 

    {So it is not just politicians and parties that have a stake in territorial violence -- the media seems to have its own stake in supporting these political parties by selectively portraying violence against some groups but not others. Selective outrage and camouflaged hypocrisy seem to be much in fashion these days.}

    Of course, the media is biased, as one has mentioned several times. An opinion is biased. It is prejudice that is a problem. Not everyone has the ability to talk like an atheist and covertly behave like a true-blue religionist. 

    What's your fashion these days? It's a hypothetical query, not seeking an answer. 

    ---

    Hello F&F:

    You needn't comment. It's been done above! 

    ReplyDelete
  3. "The NDA had one term and you do not need to be in power to raise a voice. (Niticentral offers avenue to "other side" by fabricating lies. Oh, never mind.)"

    I am not giving any certificates on trustworthiness of this news site or others, but Indian English media, to be more specific, has been one-sided for a while, and that is probably just a fallout of people in the business being susceptible to their own group think. local languages have more variety in covering all sides, even today, so I should have been more specific.

    "No comments. J&K is not a song."

    It is place that saw ethnic cleansing of a certain community, and the english language press was mostly unsympathetic to their plight for some reason. J&K is an Indian state, definitely not a song.

    "Don't know what you read, but people were/are called jihadists and Islamists by the ignorant who have no clue about such terms, and who are obsessed with Saudi Arabia."

    When islamist groups, specifically those that indulge in violence, and that too mostly against other muslims who are "less religious" than them (according to them) proclaim where the motivation for their behavior lies, who are we lesser mortals to disagree? And I choose to be ignorant about religious horsesh*t of all types -- "understanding religion" has not bearing on the politically motivated behavior of its followers.

    " And is this one 'incident' by Bodos? "

    Of course, this bloodletting has been going on for decades, but this is the first time I have seen a reference to these tribes as terrorists, when citizens of a neighbouring country were being treated with kid gloves. I am just observing -- don't care enough to passionately take sides on things involving violence.

    "Of course, the media is biased, as one has mentioned several times. An opinion is biased. It is prejudice that is a problem."

    prejudice cuts both ways and the first mistake made by all sides is assuming that the other side is monolithic, when that is not the case. Then, acts and rhetoric based on prejudice push people from one side of the spectrum to another side, especially if there is a lot of disinformation in the mix.

    " Not everyone has the ability to talk like an atheist and covertly behave like a true-blue religionist. "

    Couldn't have said it better myself. Supporting religious bigots belonging to group X who committed ethnic cleansing and dumping on their victims, and exhibiting the opposite behavior to perpetrators of group Y while sympathizing for their victims is more common than we might believe. Examples abound. Bias and prejudice in society at large comes out when members of these tribes become part of the media or politics -- not like such behavioral traits are something that they can leave at home when they step out.

    "What's your fashion these days? It's a hypothetical query, not seeking an answer. "

    No problems here answering such questions: Two horns, a pointy tail, and a reddish sleek spandex costume. Quite easy for me to see all sides of an argument to easily mimic any of them.

    Deliberately leaving out smileys of all sorts here. If I have to add smilies to make myself clear, there is no reason for me to make myself clear anyway.

    -Al

    ReplyDelete
  4. FV, This article is probably relevant to all this -- it is likely that the uniformity in political views of the English media (which is the only one read across india, given the linguistic diversity) was hiding the actually diverse voices that showed up only in the local vernacular media...not necessarily saying one is better than the other or not. Just that reality of diversity in opinion was hidden by uniformity (in a broad sense, not the details) of opinion in the english media.

    indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/politics-and-the-english-language/99/

    One thing for certain is that there is enormous change that could be transformative in a good way if we are lucky...or not otherwise.
    -Al

    ReplyDelete
  5. FV:"You needn't comment. It's been done above! "

    I suppose that was in reference to my comment.

    Did mention I was playing DA -- it is not too difficult to mimic predictable arguments from all sides, not that being predictable makes any side righter or wronger, but does indicate mindsets set in stone.

    Every side seems to find lame excuses to support (or cover up bad publicity) violent religious bigots in their own cloister, while treating victims as non-entities and referring to the rest of the crowd -- mirror image of itself -- as bigots. And the circus goes on.

    -Al

    ReplyDelete
  6. FV,

    Shya! Somebody stole my thunder. And FV's barb struck right where it hurt most. All that has made me so angry that I may just declare myself a NaMo fan. :) :)

    Meanwhile, the infiltrators better watch out!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. F&F:

    You do know that even Gujarat trying to infiltrate into Delhi needs to beware, right?!

    Al:

    Disagree. There is too much history ignored and too much conflating. Not very devil's advocate. Your choice. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  8. FV,

    Gujarat is part of India, unlike Bangladesh. Are you really baiting for the 'anti national' tag?

    ReplyDelete
  9. "Disagree. There is too much history ignored and too much conflating. Not very devil's advocate. Your choice. Thanks."

    That is just your opinion. I have been following the news and been reading up just as well as anyone. And thanks for the patronization. What would I do without it. I was around when the bigots went around bloodletting in J&K so I shall ignore claoims I was not paying attention and "ignoring history". Far from it.

    I am done.

    thanks


    -Al

    ReplyDelete
  10. F&F:

    You know what I mean when I say Gujarat and Delhi together in one sentence. There are all kinds of anti-nationals.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Al->

    Yes, it is obviously my opinion as yours is yours.

    I was not being patronising, but your comment wasn't short on taking a swipe at what you assumed others did not know/understand.

    {I was around when the bigots went around bloodletting in J&K so I shall ignore claoims I was not paying attention and "ignoring history". Far from it.}

    I did not know you were in J&K at the time. And the bloodletting...I assume by bigot you obviously mean Kashmiri Muslims. So, you think they killed all the Kashmiri Pandits. Even the KPs do not make these claims.

    Anyhow, you have paid attention.

    Let's just stop this for now. No more on this subject. I have written a lot...don't recall reading your views expressed so passionately before.

    As the BJP ad goes..."achche din aane waale hai"...good times, they are a-comin'...

    Cheerios...

    ReplyDelete
  12. "your comment wasn't short on taking a swipe at what you assumed others did not know/understand. "

    FV, I just see a lot of symmetry at arguments and accusations from difference sides of the fence and was pointing it out. I pretty sure many of the people who call themselves liberals or hindutvadis or islamists ascribe characteristics to their ideological opponents while they themselves pretend to be beyond it. As for devil's advocate, I presume you know what that means, surely. I would have to really give a damn about all this crap to actually argue about any of this passionately. I joined the NMFP club a long time back (Not My Freaking Problem) in most such things. Just annoys me sometimes to see each side pretend to be more virtuous than the other when they are not.

    " And the bloodletting...I assume by bigot you obviously mean Kashmiri Muslims. So, you think they killed all the Kashmiri Pandits. Even the KPs do not make these claims. "

    Err...no. Never claimed they killed all KPs..I know they were all thrown out of J&K and live in refugee camps in New Delhi or have just settled elsewhere. You only need to drive people out of a territory to change the demographic makeup, not necessarily kill them.

    "I have written a lot...don't recall reading your views expressed so passionately before. "

    Just a bad day, and pardon my snakiness about being patronized in my response. I travelled to those parts shortly before Mehbooba mufti was kidnapped and J&K exploded in an orgy of violence (with more than a little help from across the border), and used to grate me that all of this was under the excuse that elections were rigged in J&K...that was the norm in India back then, so it was obviously an excuse by a bunch of violent bigots who had no compunctions taking help from across the border to terrorize their neighbours and take over their property.

    The trigger was that I happened to read something by a bunch of bigots from Srinagar while looking for something else, and nothing is more endearing than a violent bigot with an exagerrated sense of entitlement whine about how his human rights are being violated, after having denied the same rights to other people and taking over their property. Need to stop getting annoyed by random annoying people and issues....working on it.

    "As the BJP ad goes..."achche din aane waale hai"...good times, they are a-comin'..."

    You are likely to be disappointed....reality is usually more disappointing than all such fantastic claims (on both sides) and if the BJP does come to power, it is because those in power have screwed up royally for 10 years.

    As a member of NMFP club, I really could care less.

    -Al

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  13. Correction, I meant Rubaiya Sayeed, not Mehbooba, MSayeed's other daughter.
    -Al

    ReplyDelete

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