Debate: The NRC Is What Will Allow Assam to Escape From the Cauldron of Hate

Instead of cursing the common Assamese, the need of the hour is to identify those pulling strings from behind the scenes and setting people at each other's throat.

While denouncing the NRC mostly based on his memories of the undeniable acts of cruelty during the Assam Movement, in his article ‘Decades of Discord: Assam Against Itself’ (August 11), Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee admits that he has been out of touch with Assam since those days. He is perhaps unaware that a lot has happened since then.

Assam has been repeatedly plunged into blood-spattered chaos since the end of the Assam Movement. But Bengalis have lived for decades now without friction and in friendly relationships with the Assamese. Muslims of migrant origin, who suffered much more, such as in the massacre at Nellie, have also been living in peace and amity with the Assamese for decades now. All the hue and cry is outside the state.

While the ghosts of the past need to be kept in mind, they need not be stirred back into action. The common man has time and again been whipped into hatred and blind spite by evil powers who escape indictment. Did ordinary Hindus and Muslims not indulge in an orgy of unimaginable violence in the 1946 Calcutta riots? And in the Partition ‘holocaust’, did ordinary Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus not rush into one of the most horrifying communal vendettas lasting weeks?

The only glimmer of hope lies in the fact that once the perpetrators of ‘black magic’ retire, people return to their senses, feel remorse and yearn for normal human sympathy and good fellowship.

Does Bhattacharjee think such crimes are committed by the Assamese alone? What about the murders in broad daylight inspired by hatred of a religion or a caste, as the guardians watch wringing their hands? Such acts are inspired by recognisable evil powers, which was also the case during the Assam Movement.

Such a pogrom took place in Gujarat in 2002, and the real culprits are very much still around and still strutting. Early in 1980, the chief election commissioner S.L. Shakdher spread panic in Guwahati by declaring that hordes of foreigners had been enrolled as voters in Assam. Was the commissioner an Assamese? The RSS/BJP camp now gloats that it gave the Assam Movement an anti-Bangladeshi turn, whose deadly results are on record.

Also read: Decades of Discord: Assam Against Itself

So, instead of cursing the common Assamese, as much victims as the targets of their wrath, the need of the hour is to identify those pulling strings from behind the scenes and setting people at each other’s throat. Does he not know who or what rules the country today? It is imperative to stop those hoodlums in their tracks.

From railing against the Assamese, Bhattacharjee has jumped to the conclusion that the NRC is a devilish plot by the BJP. He would do well to remember that the demand for the NRC got traction in the late nineties after years of internecine feuds that were leaving hundreds dead, mind-boggling excesses by both insurgents and ‘peace-keeping forces’, spreading anarchy.

At that juncture, democratic voices and sensible political leaders came together to form a movement and appealed for return to sanity and peace. Most significantly, influential clerical leaders of immigrant Muslims, after wandering for years in wilderness seeking repeal of the Assam Accord, joined this movement and in one voice appealed to the Muslims to accept the Assam accord and the base year of 1971.

In that blood-besmeared fog of mistrust, suspicion and ill-will, the NRC appeared the only sane and tangible instrument for restoring peace and goodwill among communities. It is another thing that the state under its present leadership is trying every possible means to hijack or derail it. By painting it black outside Assam, the detractors of the NRC are only helping those who want to push Assam back into that boiling cauldron from which it had emerged scalded barely a decade or so ago.

Federalism in India is only a fig-leaf to cover the naked plunder of the state of Assam and the reality of daily hardship, destitution and migration of youths to the South to serve as waiters, security guards and door keepers amidst rampant corruption and obscene accumulation of ill-gotten wealth. Every day, the atmosphere is poisoned by release of vicious doses of communal propaganda by the cold-blooded countrywide campaign. There is also resistance to this design on the ground. God forbid that other kinds of noxious stuff add to its potency and disarm people of goodwill.

Hiren Gohain is a Guwahati-based scholar and intellectual.