Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and the principal Opposition party in the Assam Assembly, the AGP, have done the right thing by rejecting the Bodoland People’s Front’s (BPF) demand for a separate ‘Bodoland State’ in the Assembly on Friday. The demand for further vivisection of Assam raised by certain tribal groups, principally a section of Bodo leaders, is wholly unjustified simply because the already much-truncated Assam had long ago lost the negotiating power with the Centre over many an issue of direct bearing on the people. This is the main problem with smaller States. They lose the negotiating power with the Centre with minor representation in the Lok Sabha. Besides, the resources too get that much reduced for smaller States to think of any independent economic initiatives for their people, forcing them to fully fall back on the Centre even to bear the expenses to run the day-to-day administration. In other words, the concept of a State government envisaged in the Constitution gets considerably diluted, resulting in a situation where small-time politicians start determining the destiny of the hapless, unfortunate people. But more importantly, the complaint of various tribes that successive governments in Assam had failed them because the government was run by non-tribals too has been proved to be wholly out of place since the autonomous district councils run by several major tribes of Assam under the Sixth Schedule have proved themselves to be worse ‘anti-tribal’ than the ‘non-tribal-run’ State government. On the contrary, the tribals of Assam need to ponder over the fact that Assam is a de facto tribal-majority State and it should, therefore, be made a de jure tribal-majority State by recognizing all other tribes as tribes who have been demanding tribal recognition since long. The tribes of Assam also ought to ponder if by resisting the non-tribal indigenous people they were not helping the ‘minorityists’ and ‘secularists’ to create a Bangladeshi-majority Assam in none too distant future. However, there is enough scope to discuss and debate about how to go about reshaping the political contours of Assam where every son-of-the-soil tribal gets his due in every matter of governance.
To rake up the demand for further division of Assam only because of Telengana is outrageous. In the first place, the original sin was committed when Telengana was tagged with Andhra Pradesh while carving out the State from Madras Presidency in the early fifties. Since then the demand for Telengana State had been the principal political issue of Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, the demand for ‘Gorkhaland’ too is over a hundred years old. The Gorkhas are a separate, distinctive, resourceful people from the Bengalis of West Bengal. Their demands for separate States cannot be supplanted over Assam. They are justified causes but which cannot justify similar division of Assam. Assam is a different issue altogether. In fact, the country’s Communist movement started on a major plank over the demand for separate Telengana when the undivided CPI had launched an armed struggle soon after Independence. But it is ironical that the CPI-M is opposing Telengana today only because that could justify the demand for ‘Gorkhaland’. This is speaking from the perspective of the real ‘internationalist’ as the communists claim to be! In plain terms, the politics of separate States is based on local aspirations and loyalties, and therefore, is fraught with the danger of landing everybody in parochial politics as the case of the CPI-M shows. Assam being a de facto tribal-majority State should be recognized de jure and all talk of further division of Assam must stop for good. THE SENTINEL