[Assam] Forcing unilateral choice-The Sentinel Editorial

kamal deka kjit.deka at gmail.com
Sat Mar 21 17:20:13 PDT 2009

     * On Whose Mandate?*    The 69-member pro-talks group of the United
Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has submitted its charter of demands to
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh through Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, wherein it
has replaced the ‘‘sovereignty’’ demand of the outfit by ‘‘complete
autonomy’’ for the State. The leader of the group, Mrinal Hazarika, has said
that only a full autonomy can bridge the gap between the people of the State
and New Delhi. The memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister harps on the
futility of ‘‘sovereignty’’ thus: ‘‘After 29 years of revolutionary
experience and looking at the political and economic situation, continuous
threat from neighbouring countries (surrounding Asom), age-old religious and
cultural ties with the country’s people, possible terrorist attacks in Asom
by anti-Indian religious fundamentalist groups, we believe it (sovereignty
demand) is not a reality.’’ This is a welcome awakening, though very
belated. After ‘‘29 years of revolutionary experience’’, it must have dawned
upon the likes of Mrinal Hazarika that the ULFA’s was not at all a
revolution to emancipate the masses, but only a cowardly indulgence to
perpetrate terror on even schoolchildren. Remember Dhemaji, August 15, 2004?
And at that point of time, today’s pro-talks ULFA leaders like Mrinal
Hazarika and Jiten Dutta were very much part of the ULFA terror fraternity.
They must have also realized that ‘insurgency’ was just a pretext for the
ULFA leadership to set up a vast business empire in Bangladesh in the
company of jihadi forces and Pakistan’s ISI. They must have also realized
that today the people of Asom identify the ULFA with the ISI alone and not
with anything Asomiya. They must have also realized that after 29 years of
loot and murder of innocent people, the ULFA stands totally exposed — as an
outfit that does not and cannot represent Asom and its people, and whose
only commitment is to the ISI and other fundamentalist groups based in
Bangladesh to carry out their orders against the people of Asom. But now
that the ilk of Mrinal Hazarika and Jiten Dutta seem to have regained
sanity, let us ask them as to whether ‘‘complete autonomy’’ would ever
salvage this sinking State of ours if its real maladies were to remain
undiagnosed, such as corruption and the easy money culture that militancy
itself has helped propagate (think of offshoots like SULFA).
If there is anything that the ULFA ‘insurgency’ has achieved, it is its
orchestrated ruin of the State’s economy and potential for development —
compounded by the architecture of corruption and a vested interest to keep
that insurgency alive because of its status no less than that of a thriving
industry that has a whole lot of stakeholders in the mainstream too. The
State today needs freedom from a set of leaders bent on selling their own
motherland for cheap electoral gains. It needs freedom from the vicious grip
of corruption. The State needs a developmentist brand of politics, as
distinct from the one that the people are presently suffering. The State
needs an ambience that supports and promotes entrepreneurship. It needs
leaders who have a vision for a better tomorrow; leaders who lead the people
and not mislead them by concocting lies like today’s class of  rulers. The
State needs freedom from a bureaucracy that exists only for itself and its
political masters. Will ‘‘complete autonomy’’ work out any such miracle? The
answer is ‘‘No’’. There is another fact of life. What is the guarantee that
the pro-talks ULFA leaders will not eventually go the monstrous SULFA way?
There is already a precedence of SULFA men thriving as ‘businessmen’ by the
sheer use of force and intimidation of law-abiding citizens. It is the SULFA
men who are big names in the world of contractors and who have deprived —
again by force — every single aspiring Asomiya entrepreneur of his due.
There is also a precedence of the NSCN(IM) taxing none but the Nagas
themselves despite being in a ceasefire mode with the Government of India.
So what is the guarantee that the pro-talks ULFA leaders will not follow the
SULFA and NSCN footsteps? As for ‘‘complete autonomy’’, let it be said here
that the people of Asom are happy with the set-up they have been living in
since Independence. Only, their tragedy is that they have been looted both
by the ULFA and its SULFA avatar as well as by some among their own elected
representatives. Their tragedy is also the rotten bureaucracy in place.
How do the pro-talks ULFA leaders define ‘‘complete autonomy’’? What is
their expertise in the field? How have they come to believe that in the
present set-up the Asomiya society cannot grow and prosper, and that only
‘‘complete autonomy’’ can bail it out from the many crises? The crux of the
matter is that the people are not demanding any autonomy; they would instead
demand a better and more responsive and responsible leadership. Does the
‘‘autonomy’’-seeking ULFA section have any mandate from the people? Not at
all. Who then do they represent?

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