Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Indirect Art of Making Your Presence Felt..............!!

This post is not about 'personality development' or for that matter enhancing your 'social skills'! Rather, it is about how certain 'elements' make use of national celebrations (in this case the Indian Independence Day celebrations) to announce to the public that they are still alive and kicking.   

Yes, I am referring to various militant groups of the north east of India and their modus operandi. 

Let's talk about Assam, my parent state. Well the usual method adopted so far has been to call a 'general' boycott (led by the ULFA) of the flag hoisting and all other functions that follow. This has been going on for more than three decades now. Yes, I must admit, the initial years when the organisation was much younger, more vibrant and had a lot of muscle, the effect was paralysing. Barring government offices where the national tri-colour was hoisted with a sparse gathering, the people in general preferred to remain indoors. Vehicular traffic was at the minimum, shops and business establishments downed their shutters and the whole state more or less wore a deserted look. Such was the clout that the organisation wielded.  

But those glory days of the organisation are over. Most of the mainstream leaders are either no more or have come over-ground. Some of them are housed in designated camps while others are out on bail. The outfit now has two factions, namely, the anti-talk and the pro-talk factions. Both vying with each other to gain an upper hand!  

So, when an opportunity presents itself, like the upcoming Independence Day celebrations on the 15th of August, the outfit (anti-talk faction) makes a feeble attempt at raising its ugly head by calling for a boycott of the celebrations. But it doesn't work nowadays. Most of the people of the state, especially the younger generation are not concerned or bothered with such antics. It is a national celebration which is to be witnessed and enjoyed by one and all of this great nation. So this boycott call by these outfits holds no water at the present times!    

Funny it may seem, but till date no such call has been given by these outfits. Maybe they are waiting for the last moment to do so, who knows. But what is striking and harassing at the moment is the security-checks that have been put in place. You have these gun-wielding commandos and paramilitary personnel stationed at strategic entry points into every city and town of the state and also at vulnerable points of cities and towns to check and frisk all and sundry (ladies are spared, of course!). And believe me when I tell you, they can be real harassing for the innocent! Whether you are travelling by a two-wheeler, three-wheeler or a four-wheeler, whenever you come up against such a check post, you need to bare yourself (I don't mean literally!)for their scrutiny. From your vehicle documents to the luggage compartment, nothing escapes their prying hands and by the way the whole process is carried out in the most uncouth, gruff and foul manner that, it leaves you cursing the people for whom all this security fanfare is being carried out! Anyways, we have weathered this abuse of our privacy for than three decades now, always before the run up to any national celebration, guess we can manage for another few more days!

But wait a minute, let's analyse the whole scenario! Why this big fiasco of throwing an elaborate security blanket across the state in the run up to the Independence Day celebrations? Why this threat perception by the state machinery? None of the militant outfits practising their trade in Assam have given any inclination of a boycott call or otherwise till date, so why?

You may call it a high level of preparedness to tackle any unforeseen events, being proactive or just a show of muscle, okay, but the end result? The 'big fish' will never be caught, they are not here, some low rung straggler who still believes in the militant doctrines may be caught in the drag net, just may be, nothing definite.

So at the end of it all, hasn't the militants, especially the ULFA, made its presence felt, indirectly?

I hope this gives you an insight into the going ons in this part of the world. Do share the information, so that people are aware of the realities of this region and are not misled with all the incorrect pictures painted by the media!


Friday, 25 July 2014

7 States and 14 Militant Groups in the North East! Mind Boggling, isn't it?

The 14 militant groups or lets call them 'The G-14', are the 'big-wigs' of the region, in terms of experience, manpower, arms and expertise in subversive activities. Besides The G-14, there are other smaller, splinter groups that usually sprout because of some difference or the other with their leadership; these are a 'dime a dozen'! Not so much a threat, but generally an irritant to the security forces.

Let's take a closer look at the state-wise breakup of 'The G-14'.

  • Assam: Leading the pack is the ULFA or the United Liberation Front of Asom. Followed by the NDFB or the National Democratic Front of Bodoland. Then there is the KLNLF or Karbi Longri N.C. Hills Liberation Front, and finally the UPDS or United Peoples' Democratic Solidarity.
  • Manipur: The major militant outfits of this state are the PLA or Peoples Liberation Army and the PREPAK or People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak.
  • Meghalaya: The 'abode of the clouds' has a dubious distinction of rearing three militant outfits, namely the ANVC or Achik National Volunteer Council, HNLC or Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council and GNLA or the Garo National Liberation Army.
  • Mizoram: More or less a peaceful state barring one outfit, the HPC (D) or the Hmar People's Convention (Democratic).
  • Nagaland: Perhaps the oldest of all the militant groups in the region is from this state. Earlier known as the NSCN or the National Socialist Council of Nagaland  since been split into the NSCN (I-M) or NSCN (Isak-Muivah) and NSCN (K) or NSCN (Khaplang).
  • Tripura: The militant outfits active in this state are the NLFT National Liberation Front of Tripura and the ATTF or the All Tripura Tiger Force.
  • Arunachal Pradesh: The youngest among the 'Seven Sisters', Arunachal still has not opened its account with militancy per se. But it is still guilty of aiding and abetting militancy by way of opening its lush green jungles to all the other militant outfits as a safe haven for setting up training camps and hide-outs! 

So, there you have it, 14 militant outfits spread across the seven states of the northeast of the Indian subcontinent!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

3 Reasons for Bangladeshi influx into Assam

Okay folks, there has been a lot of debates, panel discussions, write- ups and even agitations (The Assam Agitations), not to mention my own posts on the influx of Bangladeshi into my parent state of Assam. Well, the problem is there and a very real one at that, there are no two ways about it. But when I take a step back, and look at the whole issue from a very unbiased point of view, the following stand out as the possible reasons for the present scenario:-

  • Work Culture: We, as a people lack this essential ingredient of development and progress. We love to laze around, doing the bare minimum to survive and for everything else, expect someone else to do our dirty work. And that is precisely what has happened. This was the window of opportunity that has allowed the illegal immigrant to take full advantage of, and with the passage of time, slowly but surely, allowed him to settle down in this part of the world. But it is was not the 'blue-collared' job that he was after. He understood, that was far out of his reach, instead he made the menial jobs his niche. By toiling relentlessly under the hot and humid weather conditions as a daily wage earner, a hand-cart puller or pulling a cycle-rickshaw, he became an indispensable part of the Assamese society. And we loved it. It gave us a feeling of 'master and slave'! Little did we realise the ramifications this would have on our society in the days to come. We continued to encourage and patronise these illegal immigrants. Why? We were too lazy to get our house in order by dirtying our own hands!
  • Government Policies: The government at the centre really did not have have any clear cut policies to tackle this problem faced by Assam. In fact, it still does not. They talk about erecting border fences along the entire border. I have not heard of a more absurd solution to a problem than this. Imagine for a moment fencing a terrain that includes rugged hills, dense forests, rivers and the works! To me, its all just 'lip-service' to quell voices of dissensions. The political will to solve the problem of illegal immigration into Assam is just not evident in the policies formulated by the powers that be. I have seen this happen down the years.
  • Vote Bank Politics: No illegal immigration is possible without the 'blessings' of the powers that be. And I am afraid Assam is that 'blessed' state of India, where the illegal immigrant from Bangladesh is treated with utter reverence by the political parties! Well he ought to be, simply because he can either make or break a political party with the power of his vote! Surprising isn't' it? Wondering how an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh have the right to vote? Well, it has happened, it is happening and I hope for the sake of my parent state, it doesn't happen in the future! I wouldn't like to go into the nitty-gritty of it all, but suffice it to say, the magnitude of the problem is huge.

So, when you have three forces acting in tandem in favour of the illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, there is little that a lay man can do to upset that rhythm.

But then all is not lost! I see a very positive change in the younger lot of my state. They are more aware about progress and development and many have embodied the spirit of entrepreneurship by setting up various units across a array of disciplines. This is extremely beneficial for the state as a whole. Besides providing livelihood opportunities to the indigenous people, it is the shift in the mindset which is more noteworthy! At Least, with this effort, work ethics is being instilled in the youth, which should in the long run, be able to nullify the primary reason for the illegal immigrant from Bangladesh, to set foot in Assam. 

The other two reasons? Well its pretty difficult to change a politician, isn't' it?    

Monday, 14 July 2014

Will a Separate Time Zone for the North East be Beneficial?

I was a bit amused by reading the Sunday supplement of the  "Assam Tribune", a leading newspaper of Assam and the region as a whole. In one of the articles, the author, enumerates several factors that plague the northeastern region of India thus stunting its growth and advocates, guess what, a separate time zone as an answer to all the vexing problems!

So, I did a quick research and found that the region is about 2,55, 500 sq. km. (approx.) in area, which is about 7 per cent of India's total landmass and with an approximate population of 45 million (4%). Mind you this is spread across the "Seven Sisters"!

Now, with this backdrop of the region, will a separate time zone for the region be feasible?  I personally feel this is not the answer to the development of the region. Although the author opines that, by being ahead of the rest of the country by 1 to 1.5 hours, we in the northeastern part of the country lose 'daylight' and as such there is a dip in our productivity due to this geographical phenomena and goes on to give several other reasons that are counter productive. 

One that seems rather absurd is the rise in the consumption of alcohol. Come on man, this is rather far fetched! A person hooked to the bottle will take to the bottle immaterial of whether his time zone is changed or remains the same.

But what caught my attention was the mention about Bangladesh enjoying a steady economic growth because of being 30 minutes ahead of us in the northeastern part of India. Well that's good isn't it, but then if that be the case, then why is there unabated influx across the border? Why can't Bangladesh provide employment to its own citizens? Why then should these illegal immigrants continue to cross over to these parts, especially Assam, set up base and procreate like nobodies business and create an imbalance in the demography that's been the bane for so much of turmoil in the state of Assam? 

Yes, I do agree the North East of India has a long way to go in terms of economic development and growth, but setting up a separate time zone for the region is certainly not the answer. It is no magic wand! Just by setting the clock back and saying "OK we are now at par with the rest of the country, so lets get our act together and grow". It doesn't happen that way, there is more, much more that each of us in this region needs to do for it to happen. The effort is more "inward" rather than "outward"!

You can read the full write up at A Matter of Time

Take a moment to read up on the above link and let me know of your opinions.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

7 Sisters of the Northeast of India

Popularly known as the "Seven Sisters", this nomenclature in reality denotes the seven states that comprise the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent.

I am sometimes surprised when people from my own country, including the powers that be, refer to the seven states of the northeast of India as the 'Northeast'! I mean, come on people, this region comprises of seven states, namely, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. Each of these states have very distinct characteristics that are unique to each on its own. So clubbing them as one entity, does not do justice to the vibrancy that each state exudes!

Generalizing the region as the 'Northeast', I guess is fine, but to understand and experience the uniqueness of each of the constituents of the "Seven Sisters", one has to come and enjoy first hand what each one of these states has to offer. And I can assure you, that would be a handful. The warmth, natural beauty, simplicity and the colourful people will make you come back for more.

It is in no way my intention to make my posts a writ-up for promoting tourism of this region, in fact the truth couldn't farther. Thats the work of the respective state tourism departments, where everything is spruced and showcased for all and sundry. What my intentions are, is to give you a first hand information, with no holds barred, that would help you to understand this 'region' as a whole. 

I have started this journey with posts regarding my parent state of Assam, there's still so much more I need to share with you. I sometimes sit and wonder when will I get around to the other "Sisters" of the northeast of India?

But I guess, patience and perseverance and a good dose of viewership support from you guys out there, should get me there!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Of Bangladeshis' and the northeast of India!

Where or when does one say, "Okay, that's enough, this must stop!"

I am referring to the influx of illegal immigrants from the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. The very exodus of people moving freely across the border into the fertile soils of India, in particular, that of Assam, had led to the famous/infamous (you be the judge of that!) Assam Agitation of the late nineteen hundreds. An accord was signed and one of the clauses of that accord was the Detection, Deletion and Deportation of these illegal immigrants. But sadly I must confess, more than three decades down the line, nothing concrete has materialised in this regard.

The irony I must add was that, a government was formed on the backdrop of this agitation, there was a lot of expectation from those elected to power, as these were the same persons who spearheaded the agitation. But even the span of ten years in power could not yield any tangible results with regards to the influx! Well I wouldn't like to go in details about the successive governments, both in the state as well as the centre, and their efforts to check this cancerous growth, called "Bangladeshi influx". But suffice it to say that, it was more of a blessing in disguise for the politicians. 

Now what does the central leadership have to say, after our country has been 'Modi-fied'? I clearly recall a statement where our Prime Minister had earmarked the 16th of May 2014, when the illegal immigrants had to pack their bags and leave and I thought to myself, well here's a guy who talks tough but can he 'walk the talk'? Anyways, I didn't really believe him. And I was proved correct!

A few weeks back, our foreign minister lands up in Dhaka on a good-will mission to try and improve bilateral relations and it was hoped that she would also discuss the burning issue of influx. But what a let down! The issue was never brought up leave alone discussing it. And to rub salt into the wounds, she goes ahead and announces that those under the age of thirteen and above sixty-five, don't require legal documents to enter our country. Oh! Had I been in such a situation, I would have thoroughly welcomed it! And I guess those in Bangladesh are certainly licking and smacking their lips at this opportunity. Imagine the joy of waltzing into another country on the veracity of one's birth certificate, which by the way, can easily be duplicated and tampered with in our side of the world by greasing the palms of some officials in the health department. And to top it all off, the foreign minister goes and announces a bus service from Guwahati (capital of Assam, in case you didn't know) to Dhaka the capital of Bangladesh!

Well done Madam Foreign Minister, this was the 'icing on the cake' we were so eagerly waiting for! I mean let us all welcome them with open arms in a legal way. This would cut down on the wastage of money, time and manpower in trying to put up defunct border fences, that would never materialise. Look, I have no qualms nor am I in any way against having good neighbourly relations, I fully understand that no one can survive in isolation, but there has to be proper check and balances in place to ensure that the indigenous populace is not harmed in any manner. 

But can this be actually expected from our leaders? I have my doubts. Their whole game is one of one upmanship and as long as this attitude pervades, logical thinking will never surface. 

And what of our student leaders who are still crying sore about the whole affair? Well, I guess they will just have to live to fight another day!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

'General Elections' and the North East!

This is election year in India.

When we as citizens of this great country of ours, exercise our constitutional rights and elect our parliamentarians, to govern the country for another fresh term. And like the rest of the country, the northeast, has also exercised her rights, barring a few districts of lower Assam, which go to polls on the 24th of April.

It was rather funny reading about and watching TV coverage of the campaigning efforts of the two major political parties of India. It was like, you know, "monkey see - monkey do" syndrome! No sooner a star campaigner of one party leaves a place, after belittling and degrading the other on all fronts; up surfaces the other star campaigner of another political party, in yet another place, to get back at his adversary with his brand of verbal tirade of all the wrongs, misdeeds, vices, and what nots, just to score a few political points. And this pattern went on throughout the campaigning phase, till the polling dates. With the last phase of polling slated later this week in the districts of lower Assam, the stronghold of vote bank politics, as well as the capital city of the state, all these jokers and their troupes are congregated there, biding their time, sharpening their 'tongues', plotting and planning and devising strategies to woo the voters with their tall manifestos and hollow promises!  

But this is of little consequence to the general populace of the region. What with only 24 MPs returning from the north east to the hallowed corridors of parliament, we are, for all practical purposes, clearly outnumbered. In the house of 545 vociferous, loud mouthed, desk thumping, obnoxious narrators, our poor reps are reduced to mere spectators, reclining in the back rows, to witness the ever changing drama that unfolds in parliament.

This region needs good, strong, assertive representation, but that is not forthcoming from the lot that we elect. So it is of no use crying foul at our state of affairs. It reminds me of a line
from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - 'the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings...' 

So, when all is said and done, the government formed, and the members take to parliament with renewed gusto, including the two dozen from the north east, what transpires in the days and years to come is anybody's guess.

All we can do as underlings, is hope for the best, for our country, and in particular the north eastern region as a whole!