|The railway notification for the nomenclature. Source: NFR/ Facebook page|
The Kamakhya-Murkongselek Intercity Express that was started in 2015 after a gap of decade due to conversion to broad gauge (BG) brought many cheers to the people in upstream north bank of Siang river, the region characterized by underdevelopment and non-industrialization in Assam. Being inhabited mostly by tribals, it is one of the most neglected region in the state. Silapathar, which is in the same region, was recently in news due to the attack on a local office of influential student union by supporters of refugee rights body.
The train to Murkongselek, which was once a part of North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) now Arunachal, was introduced post-1962 Sino-Indian war as metre gauge (MG) line in 1976. The foothill Mising inhabited region was clubbed under the "Excluded Areas" (Sadiya and Balipara Frontier Tracts ) in the colonial British period that followed restrictive intervention in interaction and policy matters and total exemption from provincial laws unlike the other plains part of Assam.The then MG train was named Arunachal Express. But, what surprises many in recent times in greater Murkongselek region (also known as Jonai) is the Indian Railways lack of demographic and cultural sensitivity after the introduction of BG line. Without any consultation with any quarters, the train was named via notification in March , 2017 as Lachit Express, which has no cultural resonance with the place. The Mising people, who are otherwise the second largest tribal group, having their own language and culture, came under the grip of hegemonic project adopted by ruling elite's parochial nationalists. The Mising has no influential and conscious leaders in the political quarters which could had exert influence or offer resistance to such chauvinist policy. There has been many trains running from dominant Assamese elite belt such as Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Guwahati , Kamakhya which are also a developed and industrialized region located in the south bank for many decades almost to all parts of India. The majoritarian communities has produced influential leaders who has enormous say in policy matters of Assam since the post-independent period. There cannot be just one but ten of trains named after the great general Lachit Borphukan. But it remain a questionable policy as to why the north bank's tribal belt was targeted?
|The order copy from Indian Railways to Guwahati office. Source: Facebook|
These trains running for decades in southern bank of Siang/ Brahmaputra has never been named Lachit Express but some has quietly pushed the nomenclature to a place where train has been introduced in recent times. It may be noted that Rajen Gohain, a long time BJP Assamese MP is the minister of state for railways in India whereas Suresh Prabhu is the union minister of railways. The policy matters relating to Assam and the northeast must have been under the Assam minister's charge. If he was not aware of it or involved in naming it, he should help in withdrawing the same as matter of ethical public policy practice .
|Screenshot from IRCTC app, notice the nomenclature|
|Source: The Assam Tribune news on inauguration of new train to Murkongselek in June 19, 1976|
|The train to Murkongselek was named Arunachal Express. The news report also mentioned Murkongselek was in Arunachal Pradesh.|
|The train was inaugurated by then Assam CM Sarat Chandra Sinha,one of most progressive chief minister Assam ever had, in presence of S. Tayeng from AP due to absence of CM Prem Khandu Thungon..|
Oi nitom, a form of Mising folk song, composed based on "Intercity Express" will be a living testimony against imposition of nomenclature.There must be equality for all people irrespective of their numbers in our democracy. There should not be forced and malicious imposition. Assam has multiple cultures, it does not just belong to certain privileged linguistic groups. The composite character must be uphold.
N.B. We are not against Lachit's ideals and his great deeds in protecting Assam. One of our great warriors Miri Sandikoi was subordinate of Lachit, fought in the historic battle of Saraighat of 1671 to repel Mughal invaders. Many Mising soldiers took part in the battle. For further details on the role of Miri Sandikoi (Hazarika), please read eminent historian Surya Kumar Bhuyan's book , Lachit Borphukan and His Times. The step taken by Ministry of Railways reflects Mising's contribution to peace and harmony being undermined, cultural insensitivity and ignorance about the demographic significance of the region.