Kokrajhar, July 27: Bhajan Mandal was one of the dozen-odd carpenters, masons and painters who within hours today ensured that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s visit on Saturday is politically correct.
Buildings do have political significance here in this ethnically sensitive, diverse and fissured society. Therefore, when Bodoland Territorial Council chief Hagrama Mohilary suggested that Singh could rest and review the situation at the BTC guesthouse, foreheads got wrinkled.
“That would send a signal that the Prime Minister was visiting the Bodos. So we insisted that the circuit house was the right place to go,” a senior official said. Circuit houses in India are a legacy of the British and although many of them are ill-maintained, their significance for the government machinery can hardly be undermined.
The building here was taken over this morning by the Special Protection Group whose officials toured the area and ensured that there would be peace at least in the vicinity of the Prime Minister.
As Mandal sawed a piece of ply to carve out a temporary extra step to a stairway, others busily painted the fašade of the old Assam-type building. A hall with cobwebbed windows and layers of dust settled from years of neglect could not be recognised by evening. All for political correctness, officials conceded.
It is imperative that Singh be correct politically, too. This is the expectation of both the communities, best expressed by the powerful young people.
All Bodo Students Union president Pramod Boro and All Assam Minorities Students Union president Abdul Rahim Ahmed are ready to meet. “But that should not mean our organisations are responsible for what is happening,” Boro said, adding a corollary on what he meant by political correctness from the Centre. “The Prime Minister’s visit should not be a mere political visit.”
Ahmed said he was always ready to meet his fellow student leader. Both know the history of Bodo-Muslim riots in Assam — the first in 1950s and the last grim reminder on October 3, 2008 in the villages of Udalguri district. With over four lakh people affected, Singh and Sonia’s statements tomorrow will impact the return of the refugees to their own land and gutted homes.
Simply announcing a relief of Rs 50 crore may not help.
Boro demanded an inquiry into what triggered the violence and why the government could not control it for days.
Former Rajya Sabha MP U.G. Brahma pointed out how an entire village of Muslims next to Dotma police station was allowed to be burnt down.
Student organisations in the Northeast in general are powerful and political parties have to willy-nilly listen to young voices. Here, too, assertion of student groups is visible. The Absu had inspired the Bodoland agitation a few decades ago. Boro today said he would live in relief camps “on both sides” from Sunday.
The district committee members of Absu and AAMSU got together in Udalguri today as they handed over the body of a slain CRPF jawan to his family, Boro added. The jawan was taken out of Rajdhani Express and hacked to death at Srirampur in Kokrajhar district on the Assam-West Bengal border on July 24. His body was found yesterday.
Inspector-general of police, Bodoland Territorial Areas District, Satyendra Narayan Singh, said he was waiting for the first opportunity to get leaders from the affected communities together. “They can resolve the problem. We are meeting soon,” he added.