As Gogoi fiddles

Assam govt shows lack of resolve and refuses to learn from the past while the violence continues

Written by The Indian Express | Published:August 9, 2012 3:43 am

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s handwringing over a state he describes as a “volcano” speaks of a blatant abdication of responsibility. More than three lakh people have been displaced and over 70 killed in the continuing ethnic violence that Gogoi’s administration first failed to prevent and then control. Late last month,as the violence in Kokrajhar and its neighbouring districts worsened,it took the Centre and the prime minister himself to prod Gogoi into action. The CM had then accused the “national” media of projecting a negative image of his state and asserted that Assam was “not burning”. It shows startling candour or unforgivable ineptness or both when,in the midst of terrible ethnic violence,the chief minister says that it isn’t possible to track “what happens where” in the state he is in charge of.

Peace in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) area had been uneasy since the Bodo Accord of 2003,and Kokrajhar itself has witnessed large-scale clashes as recently as 2008. In keeping with the practice of erstwhile administrations in the state,however,the Gogoi government has refused to learn from the past. There is an older pattern of unaccountability in Assam and one of its most prominent markers has been the fate of the 1984 Tewary Commission report on the Nellie massacre of 1983 that was never made public,which also meant that those responsible were never brought to justice. Instead,successive dispensations have perpetuated a cycle of impunity that continues to this day and is responsible for the periodic recurrence of such violence despite the promises of the Assam Accord of 1985. The Tewary report had criticised the then state government for failing to prevent the Nellie massacre despite prior information and had castigated it for its refusal to react even after the violence had begun.

In the present instance,the government has made no visible effort so far to bring the two clashing sides together. Nor has there been any urgent seizure of arms — AK-47s were used in the attack on Ranighuli that left three people dead. The Bodo Accord’s failure to ensure a round-up of arms after the BTC came into being hasn’t been reversed. The Tewary report had urged the people and the government to secure the state’s present and future even though history could not be “re-rolled”. Certainly,Assam’s rulers have not heeded that advice.

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