Assam's steady descent into
horror in Assam is not just tragic, it is a malignant devastation
that has visited a place and a people who were known until
comparatively recently for their hospitality, calm and kindness.
places where the bombings have taken place are busy markets
and areas known to all of us familiar with Guwahati and the
other towns where they have been triggered: Ganeshguri, near
the flyover and the large Ganesh Mandir and jostling market;
Pan Bazar, one of the most crowded shopping centres where
bakers, book, medical and cloth stores are lined up on either
side of narrow streets; the Deputy Commissioner's Court, full
of litigants as well as lawyers in their black jackets and
white trousers and passers-by.
steady descent into darkness has been happening over a period
of time, with armed uprisings against the Indian state and
Assam itself, with a proliferation of the ethnic divisions
and communal divides over the past years. And none who have
had association with violence and the politics of intimidation,
hatred and confrontation - and that includes the Indian state
which has tried to pit one group against another, politically
and otherwise - can be absolved of responsibility.
the development of Assam and the northeast has been set back
by decades of agitation and confrontation, no matter how justified.
despite the blasts of the past, the killings and violence
that have characterised Assam in the 1990s, as well as a series
of army operations and oppressive state measures to flush
out militant groups, appeared to abate with discussions between
different organisations and armed groups and the central and
state governments. A shaky peace appeared also to descend
on many parts of Assam, especially in its rural areas.
minds that have planned this carnage had obviously set themselves
a series of tasks:
to inflict the maximum damage in a short space of time and
in high visibility areas. Two, to create a high sense of insecurity,
terror and fear in the public and fan that into a sense of
outrage and anger against government and public officials.
Three, to shake public confidence in the state and central
governments, showing that that they were not capable of providing
protection to the general public. Four, to show that terrorists
can strike at will. Five, that all talk of development and
possible investment takes a back seat because it makes no
sense in a region that is so vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Six, to sow conflict and further confusion among different
ethnic groups, already tense and divided.
now, the first four have certainly happened especially with
the surge of media reporting in 24-hour channels. The state
government is stunned and is trying to move to turn the fires
out. Stern action should be taken against those responsible
including those who harbored them. Punishment should be swift
and uncompromising. Yet, I am aware that this sounds hollow
because I am, like many others, groping to understand the
scale of the horror and also the motives and the organisations
behind the murders.
it is a time when all of Assam - Assamese and Bengali, settlers
and indigenous, tribal and non-tribal, Hindu and Muslim and
other denominations and all ethnics --must stand together
and refuse to be bullied or bludgeoned into submission. We
have been through bad times and this too shall pass.
is a larger dimension to the situation: Assam is connected
to the rest of India with a Chicken's Neck Corridor at Siliguri.
With a population of 30 million with one of the most complex
ethnic hues in South Asia, it is the most critical state of
the entire northeast since it is not just the largest but
also since all surface routes pass through it - whether it
is to get to other states there or to neighbouring countries.
Disrupt Assam and you hit all the northeast and its connections
to the neighbouring states of Bhutan, Bangaldesh, Myanmar.
Hazarika, a specialist on the northeast, is author, filmmaker
and independent columnist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)