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MAD AS A HATER

The politics of hate is never far from insanity. When that kind of politics tries to draw blood from false religion, it becomes a sure recipe for disaster. The general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Mr Praveen Togadia, has offered one such outrageous recipe for Assam by threatening to launch an “Ayodhya-type movement” against Bangladeshi influx into the state. In the worst tradition of religious fascism, he has sought to distort Assamese history and culture to suit his agenda of politicized Hindutva. His invoking of Lachit Barphukan, one of the most popular heroes in modern Assamese history, to suit his politics is simply revolting. Mr Togadia’s anxiety to “save” Assam from being swamped by Bangladeshi infiltrators is obviously phoney. The state has had to grapple with the problem like other states which share their border with Bangladesh. Successive Central and state governments have tried to work out ways of dealing with it. The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act was one such step devised by New Delhi and Guwahati at the time of the Assam accord of 1985. Since he wanted to rouse passions on it, Mr Togadia conveniently glossed over the fact that the Centre had recently decided to scrap the act. But his suggestion that India invade and occupy a part of Bangladesh to “resettle” the migrants betrays a streak of insanity.

Assam’s politics has long been hostage to communal and ethnic divisions, erupting intermittently into carnage and bloody conflicts. Even insurgent outfits exploit ethnic passions in their battle against the Indian state.The last thing that Assam needs is another call to communal discord. Mr Togadia’s appeal to the chief minister, Mr Tarun Gogoi, to “dump the Congress’s brand of secularism in the Brahmaputra” is actually a thinly-veiled attempt to set the state on communal fire. Neither the Bharatiya Janata Party nor its electoral ally, the Asom Gana Parishad, can hope to widen its support base through such divisive politics. But the VHP leader’s war cry should be yet another challenge for Mr Gogoi to keep the rabble-rousers in check. Mr Togadia’s political allies in the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance government should also move in fast to restrain him. His call for an invasion or an “economic boycott” of Bangladesh is not a matter of party politics. Religious fundamentalists in Bangla- desh would jump at his speech to add to their anti-India campaign. Mr Togadia has not only harmed the cause of social and religious harmony in Assam, but he has also provided fodder to those who do not want relations between New Delhi and Dhaka to improve.

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