Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kamatapur Movement: An Issue Always Ignored

The Kamatapur movement may take violent shape in the coming days. All parties should now show greater flexibility for the sake of peace in Assam

An intense and indefinite phase of agitation is on its way by the Kamatapur State Demand Committee to press for their demand for a separate Kamatapur State. Recently, the chairman of the committee, Biswajit Roy, alleged that the government had failed to hold talks with the committee that forced it to intensify its agitation. In fact Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had assured the committee several times that talks with the Centre on the demands of the organization would be held, but till date no such step has been taken. Significantly, Roy said that if the Government of India convened a meeting with the State demand committee, it would be ready to discuss the issue of ST status at the meeting.

A democratic movement should be addressed democratically. This is one of the important prerequisites for the success of democracy. But as envisaged from the government’s policy in this context, it has been the application of military means so long the water reaches above the shoulder. This is the fact in the case of Kamatapur movement as the government’s attitude has made the problem more complicated. When the students’ organization of the Rajbongshi community, All Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union (AKRASU), was formed about two decades back, their demand was confined to ST status. It is a legitimate demand considering the fact that this community enjoys this status in other States. But both New Delhi and Dispur failed to address it or rather deliberately kept it aside.

The leadership of the community considers BJP as the main culprit as during the NDA regime the ST issue was completely ignored. But what is the present reality? Now they are demanding a separate State and recognition of their language. The demand for a separate State is an impossible one for the government to address considering the present reality. If any such demand is entertained, the identity of Assam will be lost into oblivion. But who is responsible for all this? None but the government that missed the opportunity way back in 1992. It took the situation too lightly and let the movement spread. But as has always been the case in a democratic system, a negative approach towards a democratic movement results in a form of violent outburst that affects the entire region, regardless of communities. This is also the fact in the context of the Kamatapur movement.

On the other hand, the emergence of Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO) has added to the worries of the security forces. The founders of KLO were primarily directing their efforts towards organizing an armed struggle for a separate Kamatapur State. This led to the formation of the KLO. The ULFA’s agenda was to prop up the Rajbongshi militants for its own gains, and the West Bengal tribals were aiding the outfit to create safe haven in North Bengal. Intelligence reports suggest that the ISI was supplying a large quantity of arms and ammunition to the various Northeast terrorist outfits from the stockpiles of the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia after their defeat and eventual obliteration. These were picked up from the markets of Thailand and were transported to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, eventually to be used on Indian soil. The demographic profile within a five-kilometre belt of the international border with Bangladesh has undergone rapid changes in recent times. Thus the Kamatapur movement, which once began in the form of a peaceful democratic agitation, may take violent shape in the coming days. Take into account the ultimate outcome of the Assam Agitation or the movement of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU). Both began with the demands that were within the reach of the government. But the failure to address them timely and with sincerity has done much harm to this region. Is the government waiting for the worse to happen in the Kamatapur case too?

It is also time for the leadership of the Kamatapur State Demand Committee to analyse the situation from a broader and unprejudiced perspective. They must admit their confined presence. Only some workers of the organization cannot succeed in a democratic movement. The people’s support will be crucial. But for this the policy of the Kamatapur agitationists should be to convince the common people, regardless of caste and community, of the cause they are fighting for. They must respect the demographic profile of the region and give a serious thought to the rapid change in the demography of the districts of lower Assam. They must try to emerge like an umbrella organization if they really want their movement to be successful one.

As far as the demand for a separate State is concerned, what should be taken into consideration is that mere political power will not serve any purpose if the economy is not stable — as it is related to the livelihood of the common masses. If the separate Statehood demand is taken into account, consisting parts of Assam and West Bengal as per their demand, the reality is that it is perhaps economically the most backward region of the country. If it gets alienated, it will ultimately have to rely on the benevolence of the Centre. So greater autonomy is certainly the only answer in this trouble-torn region.

As far as the present state of the movement is concerned, it is merely the duration of bandhs the agitationists seem to consider — as if a longer bandh period means more prospect of success! But the reality tells us a different story. A long duration of bandhs can never be successful as it never becomes comprehensive. The leadership of the organization concerned should realize the fact that even a mere 12-hour comprehensive bandh has greater utility than 1,000 hours of partial bandhs or road blockade. In fact, the approach should be realistic and not rhetorical, qualitative and not quantitative.

In the light of the new developments, it is imperative to critically assess the situation and initiate steps for the greater interest of the region. The security and integrity of the region, as also of the nation at large, should be at the top of the priority list. As far as the strengths of present-day India is concerned, they are mainly the democratic system of governance and economic resilience. Therefore, both the government and the leadership of the Kamatapur movement should show greater flexibility and prioritize the greater interest of the region. This is not for any particular community but for all those who have concern for peace, prosperity, development and more opportunity for work and engagement for the new generation of the region. It is possible if the government initiates a dialogue process with different dissenting groups.

In fact, the government has a greater responsibility, as the present situation is the outcome of the government’s wrong policy of handling democratic movements with due respect to the aspirations of disadvantaged people.

Shibdas Bhattacharjee

(The writer is a freelancer based in Halakura, Dhubri) THE SENTINEL

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