The violence in resource-rich Assam underlines that the region needs attention beyond development packages from Delhi. Unresolved socio-economic issues make the region a powder keg… waiting for a spark.
The eldest of the Seven Sisters seems to have no respite from sorrows. Barely had the people recovered from the devastating floods and started to pick up the threads of their lives when an even more vicious man-made disaster struck in the form of communal riots. For the last one week, the picturesque landscape has been reduced to a ghost of its former self with villages reduced to ashes and the air reeks of fear. As the toll climbed to 44, with about two lakh displaced from their homes, the ghosts of the past seem to have returned to the state.
The latest round of clashes between Bodos and Muslims is reminiscent of the violence that has been a companion to the state since 1979. That was the year when All Asom Students Union began its campaign against illegal migrants in the state. Though the more militant section went on to form the dreaded United Liberation Front of Assam, the 1985 Assam Accord was able to bring some calm to the state, though its ineffective implementation would remain a bone of contention. The next ethnic unrest was from the Bodo people and the toll it took on lives and property was equally devastating.
After intense agitations by All Bodo Students’ Union and violence by the Bodo Liberation Tigers Force, peace was reached in 2003 with the formation of autonomous Bodo Territorial Council. However, the influx of illegal immigrants continued unabated and their numbers tilting the demographics to unsettling levels and putting severe pressure on the economy.
The politicians paid only lip service to the agreements with the ethnic groups as a consolidated vote bank in the form of illegal immigrants, which would guarantee them power regardless of the quality of governance was something they did not want to risk losing. With occasional clashes, the smouldering embers never went out and were waiting for some fuel to grow into an inferno.
Clashes that took place were just that and in no time it was spreading across the state. With shoot-at-sight orders in place and the army called out, an uneasy peace is prevailing; but unless the fundamental issues that plague the state are decisively dealt with, it is only a matter of time before vultures start circling for carrion.