The last time I had written something was after the traumatic experience of being in a riot-torn town, and before the dregs could settle from that experience, I was brought down to my knees by the reports of the television news channels that Assam, my home state, the state i am so proud of, has been bombed. That people have died in hundreds. Predictably, I could sense an outrage at what happened, and immediately everyone started blaming Tarun Gogoi, the "Bangladeshis", the "Congress Government", the "Jehadis". Goddamn it, did anyone, anyone think that the problem lies in the economy of the state? That the Government officers are getting rich through emblazoned money while people are lying in hunger, empty dreams mocking their emptier eyes. The youths move around, burning eyes eating into their sockets, not knowing what they are supposed to do, while chasing the materialistic dreams brought before them by cold "capitalists", advertisements et al!!
Goddamn it, there are no good roads, no good schools, no good colleges, no industries. And people still indulge themselves in jingoistic slogans. Why don't people come out to protest the roads which have mini-lakes in them, or the bridges which shake like a maleria stricken patient even when a scooty paases over them, or simply the lack of industrial development? Rather than trying to chase "Bangladeshis" in order to take up the cheap labour being filled by the hapless migrants, refugees from their own land because of floods that devastate the area most of the year (for details, refer to Sanjay Hazarika's Strangers of the Mist), why not just let everybody assimilate into the multi-vibrant culture of Assam. As it is , we have already so many identities within the greater identity of being an Assamese, what harm would it do to have another sub-identity that would only enhance our reputation of being a pluralistic state? One ought to remember that continuous cultural onslaughts like branding a community as "those dirty miyas" would only work to drive the victimized community into any path available before them. So, if a hot-headed lot goes the way of fundamentalism, which I do not have any qualms (No political correctness here. Victimization does not mean resorting to fundamentalism, there are many other democratic options, but only if one would like to think of them as options) in branding as a path which is only bound to create more distractions and hatred (Don't you think the rising influence of the BJP and the RSS in Assam has a lot to do with it?). I find myself guilty of considering them as "them", different from "us" - the othering of a community looked at with distrust. Please let us not do that. we ought to know better.
Of course, the borders need to be sealed. Not because I am afraid of Bangladesh "swarming" into Assam, but only because Assam cannot have more people. It is still, even in this electronic world, a state which depends primarily on agriculture. And agriculture requires land. And how much land is our state left with? (I sincerely thank Prof. Manirul Hussain of Guwahati University, Political Science Dept. for bringing in this aspect to my notice.) The forests are being cut to fit in people, which will create havocs with the pleasant Assamese climate. Does any Assamese want that? I do not think so. And I sincerely believe what our "jingoistic" leaders call as "outsiderrs" will also support me.
And then let us do the unthinkable. Let us use the resources being created by migrants to build our state. Let us learn from their hard work. Let us learn from their struggle to survive in an increasingly hostile world, both environmentally and politically. And let us not crib like infants, infants with irresponsible bombs and guns in their hands. Let us not throw away industrialists with demands of extortions. Let us not scare away potential tourists with kidnappings. As Khagen Mahanta said a couple of days back in a concert in Delhi, " Let us show everyone we do not like bombs, terrorism and communalism. That we like music, arts, culture, peace, beauty, joy."
2 years ago