Tuesday, August 3, 2021
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Thank you to the People, not the Government !

The credit for our elections, does not under any circumstance go to any government that has attempted to run Assam. The credit, without a doubt, goes to the person who with a beaming smile

By Pranab Bora
And so here goes another election. There is so much that has happened in Assam over the past few decades… Agitations, militant uprisings, extra-judicial killings, abductions, disappearances… Over the past few years though, the narrative seems to have changed, going from “We are the ones who brought down militancy” to “We are the ones who brought peace to Assam”, a welcome change in political psyche and perhaps an indicator of a realisation among the political class of what finally gets them votes.

Popular’ governments

The situation on the ground, though, remains quite the same. “Popular” governments, once elected and in position, require Z-plus security. Former militants, who came “overground” and were in “ceasefire” and “in talks” with the government, continue to be just that–“former militants”. The difference, though, is that they have since their “return to the mainstream” been given the best of privileges, their only qualification being that they have killed people and done their best to destroy a state. 

Too many prisoners

Assam has taken simply too many prisoners, no matter how Dispur’s dispensations attempt to interpret that one act of granting amnesty to mass murderers, who much unlike their counterparts in state prisons, roam free and privileged, with fancy cars, fancy houses and television air time, where they get to tell a society how to run itself. 
That is the irony that a child who is sweating it out to pass an exam so he or she can make a decent living some time has to work past – the reality that beyond the books and the learning and hard-earned respect, in Assam, crime, corruption and killing pay. In a rural scenario, that child’s endeavour would come additionally challenged by long power cuts, floods, dirty dingy relief camps, and washed away bamboo bridges. For that child, a trip that involves crossing Guwahati’s GS Road on one of its fancy lift-escalator-staircase footbridges is a holiday. That child would have grown up seeing community centres and schools converted into army camps, the supposed imperative against the state’s fight against insurgency. 

Assam, a military state

No matter how hard the voice on the public address system speaks of democracy and progress and development, Assam has for decades now been a military state. A small news item on a newspaper that no one even notices anymore will every six months say that the Central Goverment has extended the ‘Disturbed Area’ status of Assam by six months. 

Dependence on armed forces

Such is the situation that newspapers no longer have the space to even place before the public the subterranean text that should go with that one story: that that extension has been made at the behest of a ‘popular’ elected state government, that the extension keeps in place the utterly draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the state giving the armed forces sweeping powers to arrest and kill. And that, that seemingly insignificant piece of news also proves that governments in Dispur are incapable of running Assam without the crutch of the central armed forces. The disability is permanent, the prosthetic washed clean and put in place every six months. It has been that way ever since Operation Bajrang was launched in 1990 against the ULFA.

Credit to the people

So if credit for our elections is to be given, it does not under any circumstance go to any government that has attempted to run Assam (though, and rightly so, “rule”, more often than not, seems to be the chosen word).
 The credit, without a doubt, goes to the person who with a beaming smile shows off that indelible ink stain that shows he or she has voted. That common Facebook flaunt this season. They are the ones who keep Assam going, keeping our democracy alive, warts and all. As for Assam’s leaders, well, they don’t quite qualify for the term.

Founder Editor... Formerly resident editor (east and northeast) with The Telegraph, editor (Assamese) with The Sunday Indian, has worked with India Today, National Herald and The Sentinel. Has written for India Today Travel Plus, Darpan, The Pioneer, Hindustan Times online edition, The Times of India. Lyricist and singer, enjoys composing, photography, being a chef and travelling