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Games people play

Okay, so Kokrajhar has calmed down for now. But that really changes nothing. There is a school of thought in Guwahati and Dispur that believes that if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to come to Assam one more time to do Tarun Gogoi’s job for him, the chief minister of Assam would lose his job.

The rationale is simple: Why have a chief minister here if the Prime Minister, like a headmaster, has to keep coming here all the time because the state becomes a cause of embarrassment for the country?

He comes here once after the July 9 incident when a girl was molested on GS Road; just months after that Kokrajhar burns and the Prime Minister is back, going from camp to camp, giving out doles.

And for weeks and days before that, Dispur would have us believe that all is well, that such things happen. Such things don’t just “happen”. Either they are allowed to happen, which is the case with Kokrajhar and the Bodoland Territorial Council and the turmoil that has scarred the area, or the government simply hasn’t done much after something has happened, as was the case with the July 9 incident.

On that occasion, the government didn’t react when local media carried the story, on television and in print.

The government has never reacted to hoodlums turning moral police.

Then, the incident was carried on national television and then all hell broke loose: arrests, a clampdown on bars and partygoers, and what have you. Not to, of course, mention our bunch of self-styled “xoseton nagoriks” (conscious citizens) who had a field day, our pontificating party-poopers. Just now, after the courts allowed most of the bars to reopen, they have disappeared.

But for now, with people dying in BTAD again, a few basic questions need to be asked: Who declares tribal belts? Isn’t it the state government? Should it then not protect those lands and not allow other people, Bangladeshi or otherwise, to settle on them? Then again, aren’t the deputy commissioners and superintendents of police in the BTC, according to the Bodo Accord, “not under the superintendence” of the BTAD administration, but the dispensation at Dispur?

In other words, aren’t they supposed to report to Dispur? So was someone not passing on information to Dispur or were such officials not being allowed to pass on information? Or is it that Dispur had the information but didn't have the courage to act?

Crucially, after the first wave of violence and the first exodus was it right to send back the refugees without verifying their land papers, as that was what the government had said? Does the government have enough security forces to protect the entire population of displaced people? And aren’t they going back to tribal lands all over again? Will Dispur guarantee their safety?

Trouble is, Dispur is caught on the wrong foot: it never protected tribal lands for votebanks. So all it can do is blow hot and blow cold and pray and hope that the problem goes away. It won’t, as we can see.

A Union home minister is always welcome to come and advise the people of BTAD and Assam that “we should learn to live together”.

Of course, we should, thank you. But who signed the Assam Accord? A Congress Prime Minister whose wife now heads the UPA of which the minister is a part.

And this government doesn’t seem to be interested in the accord at all. Dead-end again.

So what happens now? There is an easy way and a hard way to deal with this. Take the easy and put party before country and expect trouble.

Put country before party and expect the country to stand with you. And that would include the people of Assam and BTAD.

Is that so difficult to comprehend? Short-term measures won’t pay. Have they ever? Politicians need to go from partymen to leaders to statesmen. That sadly doesn’t seem to happen too often in Assam.

Which is why we need the Prime Minister to drop by now and then.


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