Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ranoj Pegu's exit: Endism of Mising ethnic politics in Assam?

As the regional television channels, local dailies and social media users are updating their views on noted ethnic Mising Tani leader Ranoj Pegu’s exit in the context of upcoming Dhemaji by-poll, I felt I should write on this transition that would likely to have implications in the Mising nationality’s political life in particular and northeast Assam’s politics in general in the years to come. The
Misings are the second largest recognized Schedule Tribe social group in Assam.

Since the 1980s, Mising people has been demanding political autonomy under the Sixth Schedule even before Ranoj Pegu’s entry into marginalized tribal people’s movement. The Mising Agom Kebang (MAK), the literary body, was formed in 1972. The MAK too had the roots with Adi and Mising tribes students and teachers led alfresco feast while in Cotton College, one of the oldest centres of higher learning, founded in 1901 in northeast India. The apex body, Mising Bane Kebang,  was formed as old as in 1924 in the colonial period. Student organizations such as the Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK) had the history of organization in co-ordination with Adi students since the days of India’s independence in 1947.

Ranoj Pegu is known for Left-oriented political inclination. It is said that Vinod Mishra faction of Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) had considerable influence on Karbi and  Mising national organizations struggling for autonomous state and constitutional autonomy in their respective inhabited areas. I called it Leftist-orientation because Mising ethnic movement is independent of Left parties although it has mixed influences of Marxist, Leninist and Maoist political
philosophy.  Pegu, a son of civil servant originally hailing from fringes of Kaziranga National Park of Bokakhat, is said to be educated in Shankardev Seminary at Jorhat and Guwahati Medical College and Hospital. However, Ranoj Pegu is more contemporaneous in north bank of Siang river of Assam where majority of the Mising lives. He mostly shuttles between Gogamukh, head quarter of MAC, of which he is the chief executive member and Guwahati, the capital city of Assam. There were fratricidal clashes in 1990s between the supporters of Indian National Congress party-influenced Mising Autonomous Demand Committee (MADC) and the national bodies such as the TMPK, Mising Mimag Kebang (MMK), Takam Mising Mime Kebang (TMMK) in Mising inhabited areas.  The intense struggle for supremacy and influence among the political organizations created an atmosphere of chaos and anarchy in the less-governed inaccessible Mising territories of those times. The infamous 1995 Bilmukh killings of Mising ethnic nationalists over the grant of boundary-less Mising Autonomous Council (MAC) by security personnel was the consequence of tussle and differences among the ethnic leaderships.

Come 21st century, there was a change in the political course in Mising autonomy movement. During the early Congress-led state government, after regionalist Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) was defeated in 2001, constituted Cabinet sub-committee to study the feasibility of  Sixth Schedule based autonomy but it was met with violent opposition from neighboring indigenous communities in the north bank of Siang/ Brahmaputra river.  The government response was due to the Mising-Rabha-Tiwa alliance popular movements in their respective belts and demonstrations for autonomy in New Delhi and Dispur. Thus, it led to undeclared moratorium of growing intense non-violent political mobilization for autonomy. In 2006, the Mising leadership prior to state assembly poll with other sympathizers in their inhabited areas founded the Sanmilita Ganshakti, Asom, a micro-regional party with Leftist orientation that claimed to fight for marginalized communities in the upstream belt of north bank of Siang in Assam. It vowed to wage ‘’parliamentary struggle’’ instead of armed movement in contrast to the tendency of many ethnic groups in northeast India. However, in contrary to perception from media it would be wrong to called Ganshakti as Mising-only party. It draws supporters and political aspirants from neighboring communities in the Tani belt. A simple analysis of elected representatives of MAC in 2013 poll clears the air.  By then, the political tempo had resulted in strong support-base for pro-Sixth Schedule voice particularly in Jonai, Dhemaji, Majuli and Dhakhuakhana constituencies challenging the ruling Congress party along with parallel anti-autonomy organizations mainly from the indigenous non-tribal Assamese-speaking populace. Bhubon Pegu won the Jonai constituency in 2006 from Ganshakti party. In 2011, he lost to Congress’ candidate Pradan Baruah. Bhubon Pegu, son of a forest officer from Silapathar, has the distinction of being a former general secretary of Cotton College Union Society (CCUS) at prestigious Cotton College. Pegu has huge following in Mising-inhabited areas which was established during his days at TMPK and subsequent struggle for Sixth Schedule based autonomy. Sixth Schedule became a buzzword in Mising society in early 2000s during his leadership for political autonomy where Johan Doley was the president of TMPK.  In 2016, he won again with the distinction of being the only independent candidate elected to Assam assembly when there was Modi-wave in most of constituencies of Assam that promised security for ‘jati, mati and bheti (nation, land and homestead) under the leadership of former All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leader, Sarbananda Sonowal. It may be recalled that the Ganshakti, having Leftist-orientation, did not enter into pre-poll alliance unlike other smaller parties in the 2016 Assam poll.
Ranoj Pegu and Bhubon Pegu seen with Sarbananda Sonowal Photo: Facebook

The Mising political imagination of achieving constitutional autonomy is on the crossroad. The main steering figures of non-violent political struggle for autonomy such as Ranoj Pegu joining of BJP  and Bhubon Pegu’s hinting of joining the saffron outfit marks an era of mainstreaming of Mising ethnic nationalism to pan-Indian nationalist fold after a break of three decades. Three decades can be counted from post-Assam Accord (1985) to BJP’s triumph with the mantra of aligning the “khilonjia’’ (indigenous) in 2016 assembly election. The advent of populist Hindu nationalist fervor since 2014 together with many regional sub-nationalist leaders aligning with BJP in Assam may be attributed to the exit of ethnic leaders. And most significantly, the decades of experiences and experiments of parliamentary politics on Mising ethnic nationalist plank could be the factors behind this development.

Drawing from theories of international relations, the latest political development in Mising political life may be identified as “endism''. Endism is different from declinism. While declinism is conditionally pessimistic that provides warning to the pathway to historical decline of ethnic politics and longing for reverse political state but endism signifies unwavering optimism with the illusion of well-being and escape from history (emphasis added). According to Sameul P. Huntington, endism does not provide corrective action but relaxed complacency. There is a widespread hope, optimism and complacency in the society that Mising ethnic leaders are joining the alliance of powers. Endism, when consequences are met with errors, could be far more “dangerous and subversive.”  The ‘political’ Mising society, bereft of its key personalities and ideologues, may riddle into disarray. It may also lead to 'no exit" at all from the ethnic politics but a shift in the cycle of Mising ethnic nationalism. Nevertheless, the forthcoming by-poll of Dhemaji constituency, whether Ranoj Pegu wins or loses, would be an outlier in the political history of the community.

(Views expressed here are entirely personal. This article doesn't reflect the views of institutions or organizations the author is associated with.)

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Silapathar dok pa:mín sunam: Mo:di sok ommang ké taupénam

Gíné  March 6, 2017 do Silapathar town dok Jonai bélamlo du:né All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) ophis dém Nikhil Bharat Bangali Udbastu Samannay Samiti (NBUSS)  dé bottan kébang ko igela “procession” la:len douém lumín sula édé poriné ope:lok tani yé démbito odokké gerko okum démsin mopen-moren bito. Udbastu dé Bengali gompiré, édém “refugee” émdo.  Mo:di akolokké agin dungko amo:lo lokké ménpakla gílad langkumane tani ém“Refugee” pé sapla do. Gílad kugom sin kangkan pé turra dula ma:ye, pesola turpa:ye. Aba:yang Bornoi (Siang/Lali?Brahmaputra) ané kekon-kesak pé du:ne Bengali British longé (1826) dokke Bangladesh (1971) lendo do:pé  Assam sop ginné. Odok lédupésin gítíla dung motum la:ma do:pé.
Assam mimak éla tribel opín
Assam mimak (Assam movement) dok lédupé Rajiv Gandhi bí Prime Minister pé ila du:dodo August 15, 1985 dok sukti ko ika.  Assam mimak dém ibomnédé AASU dokké supakke Asom Gono Porishad.  Odo ayir do Asom Gano Songram Porishod emdagai. Amin de Assam Accord / Asom Sukti. Ede sukti dem dekko mé:mi-sigila-sapkum-sappala 24 March, 1971 (yume 12 do:pé) do gí:ané takam taniyém “Indian citizen” émna sapyé émna to:likto. Mimak moné ope:yé Hindu dak Muslim dak appingéméi torík su:ye. Odok lédu dokkédem torik sula ma:ye émna atgab ligdanla ru:sékto. Odok lédudok giné sékomsin torik sula:maye emto. Édé Assam mimak dém Mising, Boro Kachari, Deori, Tiwa, Karbi, Rabha, Dimasa appingéi dité-di:rung kinma pé gítéminla angu modi lok taniyém Asom sokké gílen kupé lagiyé émna imín-gímínka. Tiwa taniyé Morigaon district do Nellie émkodo February, 1983 do 2000 boje ko oinu kumli ope:lok bojepe taniyem moketo. Silapothar do:sin ginga la du:ne Bengali taniyem Arne Sapori do moketo. Sapyém Assam mimak do 1979 dokké 1985 dok sukti ido takam do Assam so sékri pé du:toma. Tiwa tani lok popé amongém pa:lad yékuji émna mé:la odo Tiwa taniyé  iboka émna lédudo lusudungku. Émpigel AASU do bottan leaders kídíde “kinma” émna sappakto, Tiwa tribel kídídém aíké émna saptokuma, bulu tani mokene opeye émnam asin ko imoto. Gohpur do mipak taniyé Boro-Kachari taniyém dolu lokké ménpakla Arunachal dok yumrang ara:lo dugsi la du:pa:to. Indira Gandhi bi gikal kado do mipak kidi dok dugra sula dungko camp ong kididem lengkanka. Upai kamala Boro kebang Arunachal dok Chief Minister Gegong Apang me kumtin sula Prime Minister Gandhi bí Boro ngasod démsini kinmoto. Odok lédupé 1987 do Assam sukti do Boro légang okkosin kamang émna kinla Upendranath Brahma bí All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) dokki “Divide Assam 50:50” ilaboi émna mimak tarungém morop kang. AASU igé-gígébonékídídé Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) dem la:len ge:la bulukke migom dola dungai. 2003 do Boro sukti em Bharat sorkar ésin ipatoku abbuk jo:la mimak monékididém, BTAD lenmotoku. Édém bojeko luyar pénam kama emna me:do. Séko opínémsin mé:tin sukanmang nérkur la luyémilo.

Silapathar témpin ansin jégalo bagémpé  kapé édempe ikan?

                 Lékoda Silapothar do odo longédok  édémbulum ka:la gíla gíkun tani lukampé 2 kilometre kopé procession dé iyyapé dokké 10, 000  ko:pé giminé tani dungai. Gimin ne tani kidi de ko:kang kamangi, mine-mijing, yame-mimbir, ne-milbong gidagai . Kanggabla ka:nampe aike agom lok placard  dokké poster appidém attagai. Aiké genam-bomnamém gebomdagai. Mising amo:lo kape edempe idun takam Misingei taddung ? Mising kébang kidi dok bulum Silapothar dok doying em okkomna luyen tani taudung? Mising  képé Aasu dé amik opinlok porin kébang. Bengali détu amik kérung, bulu okolai lokké gidung émnamdé ta:to-ya:yo manggom 50 ditag Mising tani ko iné taumiloi kinyé. Ludaggomsin Silapothar dé ngoluk Mising among lo dung, émdaggom ngolukké émna tokuma:bo. The Telegraph dé attak 25-30 per cent ko Bengali yé dung. 2001 census léngkankampé 22, 307 ko tani dung. Supak 30000 anindupé bong.  Town committee do:tu séko du:dakji kindagai.
2014 do BJP pa:la central (ki:ni)odokké  state government so 2016 do BJP pa:ma dapébong “Hindu refugee” émsin citizenship biyé émna buluk “manifesto” doi bitak. Émpila 2016 do Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 émnam ko Parliament do tosatak “refugee” kídí dém lomdanla citizen pé idopé. AASU odokké angu-angu Assam sok kébangé édém ilam:ye émna lutíla ajéngém jé:la dung.  Sok “khilonjia”/ “tholuwa”/ “indigenous/ “mo:di sok ommang” taniyé “minority” pagyé agom , tani, migom gomnam (politics) appílok émna.

Agomdém sapyémilo  Silapathar do kapil Mising asop dun? Ngok méngkipé sé do:ying kídí sokkipak: Misingé mé:ra sula du:padak :
                               Gíné 2013 dok Mising Autonmous Council (MAC) election idodo Akajan constituency ( Silapathar desin giadak) Bengali luné éla mipak agom luné ope: (Ahom, Sutiya, Koch, Kolita, Bamun, Rajbongshi appidé) takamdé bulu jigyed motomang, édé opín anyyi déi topaksuto MAC election imoma émna. Simen Somkong constituency do:sin du:pakkang édémípé. “Indefinite bandh” Dhemaji do “Indefinite bandh” binamko bulu bidan?
             2004 dok “independence day” lo  Dhemaji do bomb bukmola ngoluk Sixth Schedule modak do “law and order” ngasod aba:yang ko angkang abbuk jomapé sékri inam mimakdo. Dhemaji district dém bojéko “militarized”  zone pé imoto. Dhemaji tém séko bayukkan  buk mop lage émna, angu district patomapeyam (Ngolu army camp ru:yi lo saikel dugyém lo:dém gíy bekdungai édé sin iskul lendom. Police ésin émmumpé ngolum yuméko lock-up lo léngkita)
           Jonai do Ali-a:yé Lígang dírbí yumédo 2008 do séko bullan bomb bugmonékidé, édémpé sékkai opinlok dirbi yumélok bugmo kitakne Assam so okolai? Sékom ménggédan? Sékai mipak organization “culprit” kídídém etgabla “justice” pabopé lage émdune? 2016 assembly election do takam adjin opiné BJP mannggom Congress do “alliance” ito,  Sanmilata Ganashakti, Assam éla Autonmous State Demand Committee (Karbi Anglong) mégela. Bengali lok “Bongo Sena”dé Karbi dité talédo angupé Bangladesh “Hindu Bengali du:téng: mayeku émna longku lenkang émnabdém kindanlang ngoluk tani kídídé? Sapyémilo Ganshakti dok dunggab ko:dém rago ko:pak monam légang “Hindu” “refugee” kídí dok do:yingém itélíkla igo-siro dung.
                NBBUSS dé Rashtriya Swayam Sevak  (RSS) dok alagkan kébangko émna lugéngko kadung. Buluk Presdent Subod Biswas émnamdé Nagpur do du:dak émna lutad bigoné ope:yé ludak. RSS dé BJP lok luyir odokké bélam sutkan biné abu é. “Citizenship” dok “politics” dém odo idung okol mipak agom luné opeye sin bojek kamaji, tribel bojeko dungkodo. Tribel kébang lok érokné kébang dém andan ge:la. NBBUSS dé Morigaon do:sin édémípin kébang iyé émnamko ludagamalang. Morigaon dé Tiwa lok du:téng mo:diyé okolo mipak opeyéyasin gingane tani abayangkaboji. Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Silchar odobulu édé kébangdém ilatomane sékriru:pé ipé mé:mílo?
           Mising agom lok sign board/ poster ko mo:la “aíké” émnam tani kídídém “ayang” ko léngndagne ngoluk amo:lo dung émla. Mising tani lokképé annyi opíndéi édílai lokkébong ngolum aíkémpé mé:mang émna léngkan la dung. Annyi déi Mising ké pé“amme” (other) pé ila dung.
        Gopinath Bordoloi 1947 ma:da:pébong “reserved constituency” dokké tribal belt ilen bo:ye émna odo gígéboné tribal leaders kídar dém luka. Odokképak Bordoloi ké ibonam Assam Congress Committee do gímínka:ku. Tribal leaders Bhimbor Deuri, Rupnath Brahma, Rabi Chandra Kachari, Karko Chandra Do:le bulu Bharat sé “independence” ma:da:pé angu modi lok gi:né amme tribal lok among ém dungkulub bomye émnamdém ka:bekdagai. Tribal belt and block lo amo:lo amme (non-tribal) é amongém la:la ma:yé réla ma:yé émnam ko 1938 do:bo lunamki  lédupésin édémípé iyépé émna mé:tinsuto.

Assam Accord do tribal légang okko dun?

Assam sukti dok Clause 10 dé sémpé attak:
“It will be ensured that relevant laws for prevention of encroachment of government lands and
lands in tribal belts and blocks are strictly enforced and unauthorized encroachers evicted as
laid down under such laws.”
Sé adnam sém éddíko supakké ayir sok migomé ménggabla gerduji édépék nérkík agomdé. Odo mé:dak Silapathar démpin ngasodém lékoda sido Assam “mo:di sok ommang” (sons of soil) ka:bekma:yé dokké lékopé ager tarungém iyar tílayé.

Réngamké angka:nam (nationalism)

Assam sok mipak réngam manngom Boro réngam lok  ang ka:nam kayir sula Mising taniésin dakropa:yé émna dekkoi mé:né dung. Silapathar dok pa:mínsudak  lédupé  Mising lok porin kébang édémarpésin kínggípé imín-gímínla ang léngkan toma, luyémílo “limited participation”  itak. Sapyémílo mipak ang dém  mikjém gel gímín ma:nam de aidak. Buluk kolok ang dém ka:yir suma:pé Assamese agom éla gomlam (language and literature) la:sa bokunamdémpak ka:yir supénammé, angu kídí takamdém aidak émna luguma, réngam agl£ng ka:mínsunam pé iyé. Mé:po ménganla sékri du:nam dé ajukayé. Réngam ang-kanam  dém kangkanpé irop pé réngam ako murkong-tarung dok dakra su:namdémpak (economically self-reliant) irop po:payé. Amikolok réngam ager gerdung émla murkong langkumsunam (kumlai la:daggom morítlai la:daggom) dírbídém mokab pa:yé..

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Skill India Mission and Problems in Northeast India

I am writing this piece to share my experiences and thoughts regarding the central government of India's initiative called Skill India Mission. I was really amazed by such initiatives started by the government.

I thought the mission to skill our youth population would give a much needed employment space  especially for rural youths. When I went to Delhi in February 2016, I saw Skill India mission advertisements in many city bus stoppages which I felt this must be a grand and serious initiatives for reaping the demographic dividends.

Image courtesy:
Back home, months ago I encouraged some of our youths that a free three months course for tribal unemployed youth are imparted in CIPET, Changsari, located in the outskirts of Guwahati in north bank of Brahmaputra river.

A neighbour boy who was educated up to BA in the local college of Dhemaji district showed interest in                                                                                                                                                          
joining the course. Out of their hard earned money, he rushed to Dhemaji's industries and commerce office and submitted the necessary documents. One day while his illiterate father was working in crop field, he got a call from Guwahati and listened the term 'Plastic". His son was informed and he comprehended later that it was a official call for the much waited course.

I took the boy in following days to join the course in the institute. The course was machine operator course relating to manufacturing of plastic materials. When some more villagers heard of the course, I was contacted by some boys including their parents expressing interest to join such skill development course provided if a work is guaranteed thereafter completion. There was some boys who even wanted to discontinue their college studies to join the course because their parents had problems in arranging their resources for higher education. Since the required qualification to do such course was matriculation only, many in fact match up to the eligibility. The boy informed that there were number of boys coming from Arunachal Pradesh and some even from Tripura.

 Two more boys later joined such course in the institute.

The interested first boy joined and completed the course successfully. He got a work in Dimapur, a town which is regarded as Nagaland's commercial hub. He worked for an individual owned plastic factory that produces items like mugs, buckets, bottles etc.

He worked for three months. He came home but told me he won't return to his workplace again. Why? I asked.

He said the working hours is terrible. If you starts from nine in the morning you have to work up to nine in the evening. Or if some starts his duty from 12 pm he have to work until 12 am. Six days a week.
The salary is fixed at 6000 INR initially. If there is consistency for three months or more it would be increased up to 8000 INR, they were told.

I am talking about the working conditions for skilled youths in northeastern region of India. Even the amount of remuneration needs to be seriously discussed.
Image courtesy:

When an individual left his home to earn his livelihood, don't we need to consider the liabilities back home? Now, he is skilled, overworked and underpaid.

Can't we make policies which is decent with working hours and perfect with perks? Or should we still work 12 hours to earn 6000 INR a month? Is this what meant Skill India Mission for the youths intertwined with uncertain glory? Where is the pragmatism to show the hopes? Can there be something call regulations? I hope our policymakers ponder over these issues.

What will the particular boy do now? He would go either to tap rubber again for estate owners in Arunachal Pradesh, the skill he learned already while in village or work in the field to help his father. Skill was cultivated in the hope of better tomorrow. But it did not happen.

Hello India! 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Book review: The Nellie massacre of 1983: agency of rioters

Please check this link to find my latest book review piece published in Social Movement Studies journal by Taylor and Francis:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Article on Ethnic Mobilization in Assam and contribution of Lakhsminath Pangging

The Political Path of Ethnic Mobilization in Assam and the contribution of Lashminath Pangging-A Review by Bhasker Pegu, Asinang Onam: Journal of Research and Reviews on Mishing History, Ethnology and Language, 20th Year, 15th Issue, 2015, Mishing Society of Mumbai, Mumbai, ISSN 2277-9906 (Print)

In order to read or download the full article, please click here .

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The real story of the conflict in western Assam

Even as bodies of children, women and men killed in the recent violence in western Assam were being buried, rival politicians jumped in to gain political mileage. The heated exchange among national leaders over the issue has generated more heat than light, and has served to mask the complex reality leading to the current conflict in the region.
This is unfortunate because such irresponsible politicking can sow the seeds of even greater tension in a bewilderingly diverse and geo-politically sensitive region, so close to Chicken’s Neck, a stretch of land just 20 km wide that links the north-east with the rest of India.
The troubles of western Assam just after elections in Kokrajhar sprang from the bitter and messy political battle in that constituency ahead of the elections. Kokrajhar is the administrative headquarters of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD), which has historically elected Bodo lawmakers.
BTAD is a special administrative region comprising four districts in Assam, created a decade ago after a tripartite peace accord between the Centre, the state government and former militants belonging to the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), who gave up their demand for a separate state in exchange for autonomy. The political party launched by the former rebels, Bodoland People’s Front, captured power in the region.
Ahead of this election, the four-time member of Parliament (MP) from Kokrajhar, Sansuma Khungur Bwismuthiary, was denied a ticket by his own party. Bwismuthiary had acquired the reputation of a fiery politician among Bodos over the past few years, thanks largely to his uncharitable remarks on non-Bodos of the state. Given that the Bodos are not a numerical majority in Kokrajhar, the BPF probably dropped Bwismuthiary to avoid consolidating the non-Bodo vote, and instead chose another prominent Bodo leader and former state cabinet minister, Chandan Brahma.
Bwismuthiary poured cold water on such calculations and filed his nomination papers as an independent candidate, and weaned a substantial chunk of his supporters away from the BPF fold to campaign for him. To add to this, another high-profile candidate, Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary, former governor of Meghalaya and former National Security Guards (NSG) chief, joined the fray on a Trinamool Congress ticket. The influential All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) extended its support to an independent candidate, Urkhao Gwra Brahma, a former MP and student leader.
Even as Bodo loyalities were getting divided, non-Bodos rallied behind a common candidate, Naba Kumar Saraniya. Saraniya, who uses the alias Heera, is a former commander of a dreaded battalion of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and belongs to the Saraniya Kachari tribe.
The tribe is a sub-group of the umbrella Bodo-Kachari fold, which once encompassed the Bodos and several other plains tribes of Assam. The Bodos are the largest of Bodo-Kachari ethnicity whose sub-groups are spread across a few north-eastern states and neighbouring West Bengal. With the passage of time and changing cultural influences over the centuries, the Saraniyas, along with several other communities, have moved away from their heritage and no longer speak the Bodo-Kachari tongue but a variant closer to Assamese.
Heera Saraniya’s claim of belonging to a scheduled tribe (ST) was contested by Bodo groups even after the acceptance of his nomination papers by the Election Commission. Kokrakjhar is a constituency reserved for STs.
Bodos and non-Bodos have shared an uneasy relationship in the BTAD for long. The non-Bodos, comprising the caste Assamese, other tribes, ethnic groups such as the Koch Rajbongshis clamouring for ST status, Bengali-speaking Hindus and Bengali-speaking Muslims constitute the majority in BTAD, and the experience of being ruled by a minority discomfited many.
Saraniya was able to bank on such sentiments and secured the backing of several influential leaders of non-Bodo communities. The All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), dominated largely by Bengali-speaking Muslims, and a faction of the All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRSU) came out in open support of Heera Saraniya during the poll campaigns, asking people to vote for someone who could represent the cause of non-Bodos in the region.
There were reports about non-Bodos voting en masse for Saraniya on polling day, making the BPF leadership jittery. Prominent BPF leaders such as Pramila Rani Brahma made inflammatory remarks against Muslims of the region, and the attacks on that community followed a few days later, igniting fears of a repeat of a 2012-like situation, when more than 100 people from both Bodo and Muslim communities were killed and hundreds of thousands of Bengali Muslims fled their homes in panic.
Even in that year, the violence was preceded by sharp exchanges between an aggressive Bodo leadership, which was mobilizing opinion for the creation of a separate state, and the Muslims, who demanded that the BTAD be scrapped as it had not benefited anyone other than the Bodos. While a substantial section of non-Bodos harbour resentment against the BTAD, it is the leaders of the Bengali Muslim community who have been most vocal in their opposition. Already facing flak or failing to deliver on their promises of developing the BTAD region, the BPF leadership became insecure and upped the ante against Muslim settlers.
The politics of competitive extremism in the region and the consequent polarization is a direct product of the history of misguided interventions by successive Central and state governments in addressing the vulnerabilities and insecurities of different communities living in the region. In trying to pacify one aggrieved ethnic group, the state has often ended up making other communities insecure, perpetuating conflict in the region.
When the Bodo movement first sprang up, it was brutally suppressed. By 2003, the reaction to the movement had moved to the other extreme, with a willing Centre amending the Indian constitution to create the BTAD, turning a blind eye to the interests of other communities. Previously, such a body could only exist in hill areas of north-eastern states according to the Sixth Schedule of the constitution.
Creating the BTAD has only served to antagonize the non-Bodos, lending power to organizations such as the Sanmilita Janagosthiya Aikyamancha (SJA), an umbrella grouping of 20 non-Bodo organizations. The chief minister of Assam had to hold out assurances time and again during his election campaign in this part of the state that “there would be no further division of Assam”.
The Bodo peace accord has clearly not led to peace in the region. The other big failure has been the inability to solve the problem of illegal immigration. As a result, all settlers or Bengali-speaking Muslims are tarred as Bangladeshis even though a substantial section among them has been living here since the British Raj.
The Bangladeshi tag, however, makes all of them soft targets whenever conflicts flare up in the region. Other communities such as the ‘adivasis’ have also born the brunt of violence by Bodo extremists in the past but it is the Bengali-speaking Muslims that have suffered the greatest casualties over the past three decades in western Assam.
Unless the mistakes of the past are acknowledged and the perpetrators of violence brought to book, these incidents of violence will only prepare the ground for even bigger conflicts in the future. If the inflamed passions of western Assam are to be doused, both civil society and the polity have to rise above partisanship and petty politicking to bring peace to the region.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Social Mobilization for Higher Education: Sequence Exemplar of Tezpur University Jonai Campus Movement 2013

The Outcome: Mobilizing success

The Communication: Diffusion of grievances for action
The mobilization: Women's power
The issue: Lending a voice 

Social movement mobilization have taken place across the globe on various issues. Here's an exemplar of social movement for higher education in Jonai of Dhemaji district, Assam, India articulated and participated by social organizations, educationists, students and masses. The above is bottom-up representation of mobilization of people in symmetry on the issue, reason for mobilization, communication of grievances through potential effective  channel(the above is Prof Mrinal Miri, noted Indian educationist)  and the outcome of people's mobilization. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MisingOnline were used as communication tools to diffuse information and updates.The events took place in April-May 2013.  The credit goes to fellow members of ethnic Mising community and other compassionate participating subalterns. Despite hurdles created by politicians in connivance with lackadaisical administrators to block the project, the land allotment finally took place due to mobilization.(Pictures are not my own.). One can read more details about this small scale social movement here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Guwahati's Kangkin Kebang flopped this year?

Mising damsels posing for a photograph in KBR Hall. Photo: Payal Doley/ Facebook
Over the last three decades, the Mising student community with full support from the citizens of Guwahati has been celebrating Kangkin Kebang, literally " Know Gathering/ Assembly", which means a meeting to know each other.  It's formally organized once in a year among Mising youths comprising largely of senior and junior students.

The venue of Kangkin Kebang 2013 (KK'13) was at Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha hall ( KBR ) in Cotton College on September 15. The organizer of the  KK'13, the TMPK, Guwahati City Committee was criticized badly by the student community for the program did not happened as it was supposed. It is said that the Cotton College students were also left discontented. The failure of kangkin kebang became open of social media with many girls and boys expressing about the program. On Facebook some were critical of the Gomug mouth piece, others were dissatisfied with long lectures without any entertainment break. Was this year's kangkin kebang the worst of all?

On October 14, 2013, after almost a month, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk about the flop kangkin kebang. Lila Taye, the president of TMPK, GCC, Rhitu Kumbang and Tanuj Tayeng, all are affiliated to Gauhati University, and I discussed the issue.

Lila pointed out that the main reason for failure was financial reason. Organizing members including himself were running managing bucks till the hours of kangkin kebang schedules.
Besides, when Ganesh Pegu and I was asked to anchor the kangkin sunam (introductory program of new and old students), the backstage arrangements such as musical instruments to start off with chorus, was not ready enough to kick off. So, we took more than hour.

The program started very late behind schedule. This also prevented the revelers from having entertainment. The invited guests lecture series ended in the evening with a lively performance of Gumrag dance by students of Cotton College. Cotton College's Gumrag was the face-saving mask of the kebang in the name of cultural program. It really thrilled every watchers.

Why Kangkin Kebang is a serious issue?

Kangkin Kebang is a social gathering exclusively organized for the youths. The new generation students are the society's future of tomorrow.
Kangkin Kebang, going by it basic meaning, we might not understand the importance. Our friend Rhitu had said, it's not just a gathering, it has become an institution of society. Kangkin Kebang is the only program meant for students in the Mising society. Over the decades of practice in various towns and colleges, Kangkin Kebang is evolving itself to be a social institution. It must be well organized in such a way where youths in towns and cities get to interact and introduce not just with new friends, but with the society's traditions, cultures, literature and language. When top personalities lecture before the students, these issues are always cared for.

Some bitter experiences

During my college days at Cotton, I was actively involved in organizing  three kangkin kebangs. Of course, now a days with academic pre-occupation I am off from raising funds and circulating invitations actively. This too makes a good a experience being in an organization.
Lila, Rhitu and Tanuj, had recounted their experiences while going for raising fund to organized kangkin kebang. What left me shocking, the encounter they experience with some big people; Some "big people" of Mising society simply doesn't want heed to KK invitation because their name are not printed in the program sheets. What they meant, since my name is not printed I'll not come to Kangkin Kebang, neither I'll help in donation. Of course, there are equally some excellent people, they never care whatever is printed. They come forward with cash and kinds to make the event successful every year.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Adventurous Journey to Sadiya via Mebo- Namsing-Gadum

On July 20, 2013 early morning, Rhitu Kumbang and I set out in a car to the National Highway (NH) 52 from Annapur village of Misamora. Rhitu's plan was to dropped me to the highway to get me passenger vehicle to my home village.  The weather was pleasant with no sun rise in the morning, so he offered to take a drive along in the beautiful highway upon reaching Simenchapori.

While driving, I asked him what was the plan for the day where he replied there was no such specific plan as paddy transplanting was almost over in their family. So, my mind just played the idea that whether we should tour to Sadiya. Both of us had never been to there.  "Why not we take the car to there?" Rhitu exclaimed. But we did not had sufficient bucks. I countered how could he be so sure of driving the car to Sadiya since we did not had the knowledge of road condition. "Have not you listen oi nitom mentioning about Sumo-Winger vehicles plying to Amarpur, Sadiya? "

Sadiya is a historically significant place. From the chronicles, we come across in where Miri (Mising) tribe had raided and attacked in the territroy of Ahom kingdom till seventeenth century. With the advent of the British after Yandaboo Treaty, 1826, Sadiya had become a place of seeds of Tani languages and literature. British and American Missionaries left the place with indelible mark among the present Adi and Mising people. J.H. Lorrain's " A Dictionary of Abor-Miri Language" (1906) is the earliest ever lexicography produced in those times in Tani language. Other contributions includes J.F Needham's "An Outline Grammar of Shaiyang Miri Language" (1866), collection of folk story in Padam clan language. And in modern times, because of the inaccessible surface communication Sadiya was a safe haven of insurgent outfits where cadres moved around freely in island villages. Even red rebels are gaining ground as the media of late has reported. Many things were heard, never seen.

With all these exciting impressions in mind we plan to see the tip of Mising habitat, immortalized in many well-known folk songs in Mising society. We passed via the proposed Jonai campus Tezpur University in Majulipur village and reached our home. Rhitu and I had light breakfast given by Mom.

Then we drove to Jonai to meet Bhisma Doley, once a senior who now works in a college. We exchanged our car with his bike. We filled few litres of petrol at Ruksin and moved towards Pasighat.

Rhitu clean shaved and cut his hair in a salon. I bought some chocolates and chips in the town. We moved towards Mebo. We passed the beautiful Raneghat bridge over Siang. The highway was very clean with green forest on either sides with absence of man and vehicles. We crossed the famous knee-deep beautiful Siku river immortalized in oi ni:tom.
We reached an intersection where we found signboards indicating Mebo town. We asked about the route to petrol pump men in an fuel re-filling station. "You have to go straight to reach Gadum Tiniali. It is 58 kilometres from here. Amarpur is not far from there". (For details on driving direction from Jonai to Amarpur, please refer this link of Google maps. Also see text display .)

Then the adventurous journey begun! No village, no people, only thick forest! We rode along the unknown small metalled road with scary mind imagining of wild animals and robbers with sword!

There are few villages in between Mebo and Gadum namely Ngopok, Serum, Borguli, Namsing. And again, the imagery about these places is drawn only from one source--Oi ni:tom! We sung in the top of our voices with beating heart in the jungle road. We passed small wooden and iron bridges over streams and rivers.

We passed the Serum korong (literal meaning for river in Adi and Mising). We drank water of the river and also had a face-wash with cream. People generally speaks Adi language here, which is very much intelligible to Mising except the variation in tone. On  the hut shades in the river bank,  we saw a retiring middle-aged couple while listening to melodious old oi ni:tom of Kunjalata Kaman. When they came to know that we were from Jonai, the avid oi nitom listeners curiously wanted to verify a rumor from us, " Heard Tongki had gone mad, is it true?" (Tongki bi simad kang emna tattungai, arroi?). We smiled and told them that we did not know about it that we too stay in Guwahati although we belongs to Jonai.

We saw a group of damsels carrying a rifle most probably on their way to farm at Borguli. Rhitu and I did not dare to stare these damsels!

There are repaired wooden bridges. Local people who look after the bridges charges Rs. 20/ 30 from travellers with vehicles. The road where there are villages are stained with cow dung. Males are generally seen wielding dao as it happens to be a forest area.

There is a ghat after crossing Namsing. It is known as Taro-Tamak. We saw an old and long incomplete iron bridge stained with rust.

We reached Gadum Tiniali nearly at 1 pm. We looked for tea shop and found one where we ate puris as we were hungry served by a Gorkha woman.

We asked a couple on bike on how to reach Dotung ghat. People here generally tells travellers "Inde" (meaning there) when asked about distance to a place letting you presumed that it's  in a stone's throw distance! Actually, it is not the case exactly, may I provide you with a tip---it's not less than 5 km!

Gadum is a place with vast arable land with thin habitation. One would see stilted Mising houses with thatch roof in the country-sides in pictureque green background. We rode down from metalled road of Gadum to reach  Amarpur. You have to passed through chapori in muddy road. If you are lucky, you come across vehicles in the forest coming from Roing that passes via Dibang and Dotung ghats. Of course, there are cattle-grazers and cowsheds which is true of every chapori.

We crossed the Dotung ghat in country boat managed by local villagers. We went first to the famous Kedan Baazar where a weekly market is seated every Sunday. The bike was puncture just after crossing the Dotung ghat. It took almost two hours to find the small nail stuck in the back wheel by the mechanic and fix it back. This place of Amarpur came to prominence when the Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK) once organized their central committee conference in 2008. Amarpur is an island and falls in Tinsukia district of Assam. The northern side across the river falls in Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal. The region of Assam is called Sadiya. It is said that there is no proper demarcation of boundary between Assam and Arunachal here. Land entitlements and permanent residence certificates keep worrying the minds of the people.  Both sides are inhabited by Mising people.

It was a sun set hour. We passed village after village in this unknown and new place to reach to a house we were looking for. When we reached, we came to know the person was not at home. We knew only one person in this unknown place, that too was not there! Rhitu was red-faced and I was speechless, we rode back via the muddy road and sat in an intersection thinking of where to proceed. In the twilight, we were left in a situation of --No Where To Go! To back to Jonai, there is the fierce jungle road. To reach the Chapakhowa town, we did not know the distance and possibility of getting ferry was thin! All our adventurous journey ended up in smoke!

However, we managed to refuge ourselves in an stranger's house near a lower primary school in the night!

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