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Assamese; where is our self respect ?


We come second only to Spartans when we (the Assamese people) as a collective unit announce our glorious past to the world. Our “continued” “struggle” to establish our rights has no parallel in human history. Where we stand today is not a fault of our own, not of our people and our hypocrisy, mediocrity but of the fact that we were pushed to be a part of a nation that always took a step motherly attitude on us.

The flood issue in Assam is perennial. It is similar to how some pockets of India face drought or a crop failure. Assam as a state has a flood control board and also a Brahmaputra Board to look into the issue of perennial flood. Infact there are accounts of flood in Assam even from the 16th century when Musalman invaders were cut off from their supplies due to the severe floods and eventually defeated by the natives. But this game of flood, flood control and flood relief has becomes even more exciting post the 90’s. I agree that several issues pertaining to the NE states were not taken seriously by the centre. But the way the people in the state including the state govt, social organizations and government bodies have taken this forward is an example of the highest order of corruption both materially and morally.

To resolve the issue of drought in certain pockets of India and flood in other pockets of India many has suggested the idea of inter river linkage. The Assamese believe that this will dry up all our rivers. When there is a talk of a dam in our state, we believe that it will flood all of our land. There is one protest for each stand, both separate and mutually exclusive. The middle ground that can come forward as a solution from a comprehensive understanding of all threats is always never rationally argued or even attended. Coming to floods itself; we know it is coming. We will not question our State Govt. of its preparedness. We will not even question where the allocated funds from Centre to State went and regarding its utilization for flood control. But when flood comes few things will definitely come up:

  1. GoI must declare flood a national problem
  2. We need a 500/1000/2000 Crore package from Centre
  3. Media must focus on our floods

We will draw parallels on how other states have got support and we have been left out. Throwing a sense of helpless attitude we basically “cry” out as a community for help.  I still remember the Orissa cyclone and how each of us had donated Rs 20 to the school which eventually donated an amount to the PM Relief fund. Almost every school in Guwahati did that. Every year when floods happen in Assam how many schools does the same ? How different is our behavior in reacting to such floods. We can cry on Facebook, Twitter, on the streets and in front of the camera. But didn’t we know in December 2013 that floods will occur in Assam in 2014. Did our MP’s request Central Government for a package before the Budget? If the issue must be resolved by Centre itself, then has our State Govt ever made a study and based on that submitted a master plan for flood control to centre? Never …

A few days back Central Minister Sarbananda Sonowal convened a meeting under the direction of Cabinet Minister for Highways Mr Nitin Gadkari. None of the ministers, bureaucrats from Assam attended the said meeting. So even when centre is coming to help us, “ego” of our own people is pushing it back. If we show this respect to a minister from our land what stand will he receive at national stage? We will still shamelessly blame Central Minister for bad quality of roads in our state.

It is an open secret that flood control is one of the best ways of making money for all contractors, officials and even a cut from there reaches ministry. These set of people are also well respected in the society due to their financial standing. We cry for flood relief and yet the people who are the culprits behind the non execution of good flood control measures finds good stature in our society.

Forget floods. Promoting Sankerdeva, promoting tourism in Assam, conserving Majuli, saving our one horned Rhino, stopping infiltration, the list goes long. We wish that the centre with its magic wand solves all of it for us. We ignore that not Centre but good irrigation plans by respective State Govt. have resulted in a solution to drought. Obviously they have got support of central schemes. But such schemes exist for every necessity. Question is how well our own people are doing it. We aren’t. For last 13 years we have been happy because Congress could give salaries regularly and AGP couldn’t. Is it even a matrix to compare? A central government is for allocation and the state for execution. We need stronger state govt. who can execute things with an iron hand and with minimum corruption.  We don’t have that. That is our problem; we need to shift our focus there. If we as a race really wish to deserve a good society for us then our people must work and bring the good days. Self respect lies there … Not at the feet of the Central Govt.

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2014 General Elections – Dibrugarh


Till 2004 Dibrugarh was one of the 4 constituencies in the entire country that never ever fell to a non Congress party. Then came the firebrand AASU leader Sarbanada Sonowal contesting on an AGP ticket who brought an end to the endless Congress victory. In 2004 Kamakhya Prasad Tasa from BJP came second with congress stalwart Paban Singh Ghatowar finishing third. Back in 2009 when AGP and BJP combined, Sarbananda finished behind Paban Singh Ghatowar in the ultimate race. Two different equation, different results. This time around the equation is even more tweaked; Sarbanada Sonowal is now the State BJP president and will most likely contest from Dibrugarh on a BJP ticket and has Kamakhya Prasad Tasa as a close aide helping him form a base around the tea tribe community which till now had been Paban Singh Ghatowar’s pocket votes.

Slides
The story of Dibrugarh in win-loss for the last 3 elections has been such:

Name of Constituency 2006 Assembly elections 2009 General Elections 2011 Assembly Elections

Moran

INC

INC

INC

Dibrugarh

BJP

AGP-BJP

BJP

Lahowal

INC

INC

INC

Duliajan

BJP

INC

INC

Tingkhong

AGP

INC

INC

Naharkatia

INC

AGP-BJP

INC

Tinisukia

INC

INC

INC

Digboi

INC

INC

INC

Margherita

INC

INC

INC

Although Congress won 8 of the 9 constituency seats in 2011 assembly elections yet 2014 will be a close contest. 3 years have passed on. Anti incumbency will run on the forefront in the Dibrugarh constituency being the home constituency of the BJP state supremo. Prashanta Phukan, the current MLA of Dibrugarh has been highly successful in motivating the urban population of Dibrugarh district against the rising issues faced during the years of Congress rule namely inflation, corruption, mis governance and the list goes on. In addition the BJP has to its advantage in the coming elections the Narendra Modi card which is expected to play well among the Hindi speaking population of Tinisukia and its adjoining areas. In Assam, Dibrugarh would be the constituency in second position when it comes to a count of urban voters. As the nation senses a strong wave among the middle class urban voters in favor of Narendra Modi, the effect might actually change the voting patterns in Dibrugarh, Duliajan, Tinisukia & Digboi areas. The tea garden belt and the Nepali speakers still remain as a reason of deep concern for the BJP and its star candidate Sarbanada Sonowal.

What Congress has as a major strong point is the presence of an extreme loyal voter base in the pockets of Dibrugarh. Even during the worst days of the Assam Agitation 5 of the 9 assembly constituencies that comes under Dibrugarh LS constituency fell to the INC. The loyal base comprises of the tea garden belt, the Nepali-Hindi speaking population. The Assamese population of the area mostly comprising of the Ahoms, Moran, Mataks and caste Hindus have surprisingly rallied behind the Congress for long. The INC ideology or call it freedom struggle nostalgia runs deep even among the mainstream population in these parts of Assam. BJP will have to target the section of first time voters among the Assamese mainstream, that is where its kill will lie. The INC has always enjoyed this position at Kaliabor, Jorhat and Dibrugarh. Moreover with a central cabinet minister position being given to Paban Singh Ghatowar, he has been able to implement a couple of schemes and projects in the areas. Not the best an MP can do, but still something for the people to see. From a stalwart student leader representing the tea tribes till national politics Paban Singh Ghatowar has been a heart throb of his people. Chances that BJP with a development agenda will be able to slash a few thousand votes from here are still difficult to imagine. Kamakhya Prasad Tasa does have a good rapport among the tea tribes, but will those votes turn back in favor of Sarbanada Sonowal is uncertain. They have to work very hard for this.
Cadre strength is one of the important variables when it comes to the question of winnability of a given candidate. With a long lying AASU career track behind and being seen as a person able to scrap the IMDT act, Mr Sonowal is still well respected and looked up to in the regionalist circles even after he joined the national party. It will be a test for him to motivate the entire cadre base of anti-congress voters in favor of BJP which till date hasn’t been so easy for BJP in Assam. The INC can boast of an extremely strong cadre base in Upper Assam. Yuva Congress, Mahila Congress, NSUI etc will romp in with all their strength in 2014, might even resort to anything under the sun. To beat such kind of a force, all that people considers Sarbanada Sonowal’s ability, his oratory, hard work, motivating capacity will come to test.

A recent positive development for the BJP is the inroad it has made into the Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council. Obviously Sarbananda Sonowal himself being a Sonowal Kachari has helped them in the process and provided this continues till 2014, a certain number of votes from the plains tribes will shift from Congress to BJP. The other question that seems to be instrumental in the coming election is the question of ST status to Maran, Matak & Adivasis. The congress has not come out clearly on this where as time and again the BJP has voiced for the protection of the indigenous. This but is a far stretch, if a clear one line message comes from the BJP as an election promise in favor of the ST status then it will definitely change fortunes for Sarbananda Sonowal.

The AIUDF & AGP is far behind in the race for Dibrugarh. Although AGP won in 2004 it was more a victory of Sarbananda Sonowal. So the race for Dibrugarh is a clear BJP vs Congress battle. The margin in 2009 elections was 35,143 votes. In a general election that can be considered a small margin. Will Sarbanada Sonowal and BJP be able to bring down that difference in their favor remains a question? AGP cutting down on BJP votes is surprisingly not so much of an issue of concern as when it comes to Dibrugarh it is difficult to think of anyone other than Sarbananda whom AGP could have had projected strongly. Also the wave is such that in 2014 anti Congress votes are getting routed to BJP. The recent performance in GMC elections, Sonowal Kachari Autonomous Council elections of the BJP makes me believe that they are serious about Assam. Although I predict a neck to neck fight I will put my money on Sarbananda Sonowal over Paban Singh Ghatowar.

Every constituency has a story – 2014 Assam Elections, a possible tipping point?? – Mangaldoi.


I choose to begin with this constituency for a multiplicity of reasons. It was re-elections into this constituency after the death of MP Hiralal Patowary that brought into prominence the abysmal growth of immigrants of East Bengal origin into Assam and kicked of the Assam agitation. It is an unpredictable constituency, that’s second. But most importantly this constituency would be the closest choice while we look for an Assam in miniature both politically and demographically. Assamese speaking Hindus & Muslims, Immigrant Muslims, Bodos, Tea tribes all mix together is sizeable numbers to decide the result of this constituency. Before we begin an analysis of the constituency, let us have a close look at the results of the yester year elections of the constituent state assemblies of Mangaldoi constituency.

Name of Constituency

2006 Assembly elections

2009 Gen Elections**

2011 Assembly Elections

Kamalpur

INC

BJP

BJP

Rangia

CPI(M)

BJP

INC

Nalbari

AGP

BJP

INC

Panery

BPF

BPF

BPF

Kalaigaon

BPF

BPF

AGP

Sipajhar

INC

INC

INC

Mangaldoi

AGP

AIUDF

INC

Dalgaon

AIUDF

AIUDF

INC

Udalguri

BPF

BPF

BPF

Mazbat

BPF

BPF

BPF

 

**General elections do not declare state assembly constituency wise winners, this is just the majority party in the respective constituency as per number of votes polled.

From 1 assembly seat in 2006 the Congress has come up to 5 seats in 2011. The AGP-BJP combine that fought 2009 elections together have retained the same number put together. With BPF taking 3 of the 3 remaining seats, the AIUDF has been reduced to a zero. If one closely observes the alignment of the Bengali-speaking Muslims towards the Congress party, it is a definite alarm for the BJP to retain this seat. In addition with a clear message in the air that AGP and BJP will fight elections separately one can stop the analysis at this point and state that the seat is going to the Indian National Congress.

But before we stop there are a few points we cannot do away with, the majority Bodo and Muslim population are in a split post the 2008 and 2012 riots with the ABSU stating clearly that they will rally behind a party that supports the cause of the Bodos. It is worth mentioning that BJP was the party at centre that created a separate BTC for the Bodos. It is highly unlikely that both the Bodo and the immigrant Muslim community shall rally behind a similar party i.e the Congress. Also post 2011 elections the AIUDF has started to enter these constituencies with much greater efforts and specially sidelining the congress as a false sympathizer of the Muslims post 2012 riots they have portrayed Badruddin Ajmal as the messiah of all Muslims in Assam. This will definitely cut into the Congress vote base.

Knowing that it is practically impossible for the BPF to win the constituency, a sizeable portion of Bodos might want to choose an indigenous sympathizer and a non Muslim pacifier to be the winning party. Will BJP be able to tap these votes is a question of major concern. The Christian Bodo votes are not coming to the BJP and for obvious reasons. But amongst the Hindu Bodos and particularly in the riot hit areas with the kind of relief operations BJP and its umbrella organizations are involved in there is a good opportunity that lies ahead for them. The number of tea-tribe voters will not exceed beyond few tens of thousands but they do matter. And if BJP sees in them an opportunity knowing that they have been traditional vote banks of the Congress they will need to play the smartest of politics to woo them. With an indigenous plain tribal leader as state president and with a major tea tribe leader leading BJP from the front there is good chance for them to pull sizeable votes from the Bodos and the tea tribes.

BJP cannot expect anything from the Muslim voters be it the Assamese speakers or Bengali speakers minus a few who are not concerned about communal politics and believes only in development. Is this number high enough in Mangaldoi? Certainly not. It is expected that 2014 will see a huge voter turnout and given that the AGP is not in a good shape both Congress and BJP will be giving their best to win the Assamese Hindu voters, Congress with its multiplicity of schemes and BJP with a promise of development. And this is where I begin my final bit of commentary, on the incumbent MP and the works of his.

Ramen Deka was facing a definite weak Congressman in the last elections and his works in the past 5 years have not been really noticeable. This is where I think BJP needs to be a little cautious, with talks of a powerful state minister being pitted from Congress, a RS MP from AGP; BJP will need to decide on each and every clause to choose the right candidate. The AIUDF and BPF cannot certainly win Mangaldoi. If the battle is Ramen Deka vs a Congress stalwart with AGP also in fray then it is a Congress, Congress all the way. If all the equations I posted miraculously falls in favor of BJP with a good candidate, with the PM candidate charisma standing to work then there stands a chance for them to win. In all other probability it will be a congress victory unless AIUDF cuts into its entire Muslim voter base and BPF decides not to contest at all. If AIUDF combines with Congress, we do not even need an election at all.

KMSS and AAP can enjoy the battle but in case they wish to affect the equations, then they can tweak things a bit in favor of the Congress. They certainly cannot make any strong mark

Every constituency has a story – 2014 Assam Elections, a possible tipping point??


Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay Singh and other congress leaders might want to visit Assam once in a while to regain confidence, relax, feel that there is still some corner left in the country where they can roar like lions and feel like kings. Amongst the arranged army of youth congress, NSUI, mahila congress, x congress & y congress members they also feel a bit secure. Although the people of Assam has no choice but to absorb the stupidity of the Rahuls and Digvijays but 2014 seems set to break the trend. Following that it will be 2 interesting years till 2016.

One can only agree to the fact that the INC since 2001 has only been moving deeper and deeper into the voter bank of Assam. They have miraculously been able to build a strong cadre base of congress supporters in an otherwise regionalism flavored arena. The vigorous inroads made by the Congress has affected society at many nodes and joints. In my recent visits to a few villages of Assam, I witnessed few growing trends; Members of the party being the new aristocrats of the village, crony leaders in each possible circle (his/her maximum credentials being that of a youth/mahila congress ward committee president/secretary) & most painstakingly villages getting divided on party lines after the panchayat elections. Nowhere did I see politics empowering the last person of the democracy, but politics dirtying the last possible emblems of society. It was saddening. I saw young unemployed boys in motorbikes with attitudes of British lords having interest only in knowing which government contract will yield what margin as commission/corruption/collection or whatever you wish to call it. What was interesting a to some degree comforting to note were signs of a tipping point arriving in the near future.

Voices against the congress tactics of misleading public and particularly youths by showering nothing else but crispy notes were very much there in the air. To quote one man here, “the recent youth congress elections seemed larger than any state or national elections; it will decide who will get what syndicates, it is mockery in the name of inner party democracy”. One afternoon while walking to the marketplace of our ancestral village I met a group of school teachers interacting amongst themselves, and I who can hardly stop from joining any “leksar” (Assamese colloquial pronunciation for lecture) joined the ones double my age. It was one of those pleasant afternoons of October in Assam when you don’t wish to move away from the sun, and a few words from that discussion by one gentleman was hinting me that the tipping point is somewhere there.  “.. we know that communalism is bad, but we don’t fear BJP of communalism, we fear Congress of being anti-secular. In 2 of our neighboring districts of Baksa and Chirang we very well know who was playing the communal card and also realize that the congress can go to any extent to appease them… In Barpeta we are already a minority, if BJP doesn’t comes to power we will be shield less… ”. He made it sound simple. Ground level insecurity, anti-incumbency and burning decide the tilt of votes and not studio discussions of left and right. He was clear that BJP could do no more harm to the society of Assam than what Congress and AIUDF had already done. So it was better to have that party that would bring development rather than the ones which have left a bitter taste behind. His logic to me seemed sound. We in our coffee tables call it pseudo-secularism, polarism and favorism of Congress in our jargon. Qualitatively things seemed a little against the congress, but what works are the quantitative figures. Who won what ? Who won how many ?

In 2009 the Congress won 7 seats, the BJP won 4 & the AGP, BPF & AIUDF shared one each in the LS general elections. Since then till now a lot of water has flown by, with an extremely weakened AGP and split in traditional Congress votes things have slowly shifted in towards the BJP. Although a high profile drama just got ended but split within congress is still visible on many occasions and fresh in people’s minds. More importantly for the people of Assam the 2014 elections is a penultimate mandate before the future of the state is decided in 2016. With signs of BJP coming to power in the centre becoming distinctly visible many people have decided or will decide to give BJP a chance. With that if the mandate 2014 is even slightly tilted against the congress I will call 2014 the tipping point. From there on a hardworking BJP & emotionally driven AGP combination or BJP alone will show strong signs of being an alternative. With BPF & Gana Shakti cutting away tribal votes, the AIUDF cutting away the Muslim vote bank of Congress, and BJP making inroads into the urban voters and tea gardens of Assam anything will seem possible in 2016 unlike the previous 2 elections where no choice other than congress looked visible.

Coming to a case by case analysis of all 14 constituencies of Assam, one can surely sense that Dhubri will go to AIUDF. Kaliabor, Autonomous Hills District & Tezpur seems set for Congress. With old congress stalwart Ripun Bora returning into picture and Joseph Toppo under performing in his previous term over and above local leader Padma Hazarika’s rift with central leaders Tezpur is almost out of hands of the AGP. While Nagaon and Silchar seems too good a bet for BJP and Kokrajhar for BPF , the remaining 7 is where tough contest looks likely. In Karimganj it is the AIUDF and the Congress that will battle it out for the seat, Jorhat and Dibrugarh likewise seems to be a tough fight between the BJP and Congress. In Lakhimpur, anti incumbency against Rani Narah is appearing from the surface but a lot depends on the candidates the opposition pits against her. Nail biting finishes are set to occur in Guwahati, Barpeta and Mangaldai. With equal probability to all scenarios the ending figure will come close to AIUDF (2-3), BJP (3-5), BPF (1), AGP (0-2) & INC (4-6).  Qualitatively rise of AIUDF & fall of Congress with marginal rise of BJP seems evident. Although circles would want to dismiss a Modi wave, but it is certainly there as I felt across various regions of Assam. In addition, the new face of BJP in Assam through Sarbananda Sonowal and consolidation of urban and change hungry voting base is set to deliver something incremental for the BJP. The biggest worry of the state BJP unit was the absence of a leader people see as their own and wish to see as the CM. That is why traditionally even with power and numbers falling down AGP was placed above BJP in the race to be the people’s choice. With a back broken AGP and ex-AGP MP and ex-AASU leader Sarbananda Sonowal as the BJP state leader, Assam looks all set to make space for the other national party.

If all of this converges in BJP equalizing with Congress in 2014 then the road to 2016 will be much more fiercely fought, much more democratic with choice. More so because as long as AASU wants to play safe being the non-political whistle blower without making their own hands dirty more and more will regionalism loose in terms of political votes. AGP without a youth wing has already become grey. More and more the AASU tries to distance itself from politics trying to win the good share of everything and the bad share of nothing, more and more will the people of Assam distance itself from regionalism. Right wing nationalism might not be the end of the road for Assam, but through that people would want to see the non-congress side of affairs. It is important as well, for with each passing day one liners by Tarun Gogoi are becoming more and more unbearable.

(Begining the series of each constituency has a story. This will be follwed by 14 detailed articles on the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies of Assam. With my limited knowledge of highend affairs I hope to be able to present a close to real picture from ground. Your support and feedback is most welcomed)

Sankardeva cannot save Assam…


(Thanks to online magazine Ami Asomiya for giving space to my thoughts: http://amiasomiya.org/the-reverberation-english-section/article/can-sankardeva-still-save-assam/)

Sankardeva envisaged a society that would be liberal towards an individual’s idea and choice of practicing religion. That is how I have seen him  In addition, like most of the other preachers and philosophers of his time, he was opposed to the practices of animal sacrifice for the satisfaction of Gods and Goddesses. During his pilgrimage throughout India Sankardeva came in touch with Sufism and Neo-Vaishnavism. On his return to his homeland he tried to enlighten the society about the new kind of wave that was sweeping the Indian mainland. If his life and works are closely monitored, it can be seen that Sankardeva was devoted towards making religion simpler for the common man, so that the latter could easily understand and each could stand to represent. His texts, translations, paintings and innovative form of dance drama or Bhaona are all directed towards this philosophy. Sankardeva was a connoisseur; much more of a social reformer and a cultural genius than a religious guru, a genius almost unparallel in the known history of Kamrupa.

If I think today of what Sankardeva would have had wanted the society of Assam to be like I am forced to think that he would have had gone much beyond what we today present as his legacy. The Satras or the Vaishnavite monasteries must have been the modern centers of liberal thinking back in 15th century.  Defying traditional notions of religion, religious fundamentalism and caste system it came across as much ahead of its times. Today, these Satras still give us a picture of a 15th century Assam. Sankardeva would have wanted the Satras to keep progressing with time, he would have had wanted it to anchor society towards enlightenment. Who knows, had Sankardeva been alive today he might have had defied god itself. But why I choose to title this article as “Sankardeva cannot save Assam” is because what we see in the society of Assam today is the opposite of this. Sometimes I feel like questioning Sankardeva’s leadership qualities for this state of affairs. But then who could have envisaged so far into the future.

Nam Dharma was not a distinguishable subset of Hinduism during Sankardeva’s lifetime and a few centuries after it. He did not denounce all Hindu religious practices at one go. He was never comparative about Nam Dharma as the only or the most superior form of seeking salvation or realizing the ultimate truth of life. It was in fact an easy access to religion for the poor masses who couldn’t afford the practiced forms of offerings, rigid rules and customs for performing religious rites. With an aim to relieve the poor from the guilt of not being able to provide Mukti to the departed soul, Sankardeva designed a system in which society came forward to offer prayers together to the almighty. The prayers, known as Naam were composed by Sankardeva in a language that was understood and responded by all. Looking back, 550 years ago it was a revolutionary idea to break away the shackles of religious hegemony which until then was the monopoly of a privileged few. However, amidst this new religious revolution, nowhere did Sankardeva suggest a tone that said, “Defy the brahmins”. He never thrashed the system of Vedic rituals as meaningless and baseless. It in fact is rich in folklore that Sankardeva requested Madhavdeva, his foremost disciple, to write the name of his earlier guru on earth and rub it by the tip of his foot. Madhavdeva plainly rejected and cited that he respected his earlier guru as much as he would respect Sankardeva. It was a test and Madhavdeva passed. But today, although many would want to put things differently on diplomatic papers, the divide between Brahmins and Sankaris i.e. the followers of Sankardeva’s Neo-Vaishnavite cult,  Tribals and non-Tribals, etc. is wider than ever before.

Scholars argue that Sankardeva wanted a casteless and classless society. Today a distinct cult called Sankari or Mahapuruxiya exists in our society. If a person who has accepted allegiance to one of the organizations that supposedly follows the ideals of Sankardeva attends a Brahmin function then there stands a chance that he might be ostracized by that society. There are instances where families have been separated or sent out of the village because they performed some practices involving Brahmin or Vedic rituals. Consuming Prasad or holy offerings of vedic customs such a Durga puja, Satyanarayan Puja is considered inappropriate. Things have gone so wide that today in many cases a marriage between a Sankari & non Sankari tend to undergo unthinkable number of hassles. In Majuli, the seat of the neo vaishnavite culture, discrimination towards the local Mishing and Deori tribal populace is often talked of. It is sad that as I write this today Majuli is being swarmed by a number of missionary organizations targeting the conversion of the tribal population leveraging the said discrimination. The Satradhikar or the head of the religious monastery always has to be a high born. Gatherings of Vedic or Sankari followers will snatch a few moments to throw dirt on one another’s practices. The casteless and classless society that Sankardeva once envisaged has become the most caste obsessed of all. The fault doesn’t certainly lie in the initiator; the original idea needn’t necessarily be corrupt. As the power structure builds around any popular base, fault lines are sure to develop. These can be tagged by many as marginal examples but most painstakingly his followers are themselves seen to be dividing into factions, each carrying bitterness for one another.

The hypocrisy of the Assamese society has driven this into a crisis like situation.   We all have realized off late that mistakes have had happened. But the sad part is that we shy away from even talking about them, leave aside accepting them. Somehow, we haven’t done much other than beating the drums around his name. We very proudly present what Sankardeva has left for us but have miserably failed to add value to any of his ideals and teachings. He left us an open heart and a liberal mind. We decided to close both and rest within.

Majuli - Johan Gerrits

It is often spoken with great pride that Sankardeva visualized Bor-Axom or a Greater Assam. However one can also but not deny that Bor-Axom wasn’t and cannot be one with the Kirtan as the holy book, Brajawali as the lingua franca and the Namghar as the foundation stone. None of Sattriya Dance, Borgeet and Bhaona has any visible touch and feel of the rich and colorful tribal culture of Assam. Naam Prasanga has no similarity to any of the tribal beliefs and customs. They all fall short of indigenousness. Bor-Axom was a process. It started in his times and stopped shortly thereafter. He introduced Assam to new and more liberal forms of Art and Culture and thinking. He accepted people irrespective of their original religious belief and never requested them to ignore their original belief. He gave us a skeleton and we had 550 years with us to add muscle and blood to it. It was a process of accepting more and more and going deep and wide. But instead, here we are- shallow and narrow. It is proudly announced in every occasion that Assam is a land of Sankar-Ajaan (Ajaan Pir or Ajaan Fakir, who introduced Islam and Sufism in Assam), but Jikir, the soulful verses of Ajaan Fakir is shamelessly neglected to die a natural death. In a way we have done nothing for liberal Islam to live in Assam and escaped from it to become a responsibility that rests only with the Assamese Muslims.  So this brings to mind the question-are we in a way responsible for the religious divide of Assam? Today, everyone is keen on revisiting their past and identify reasons for their glories and failures. The Bodos sense a bit of discrimination, a sense of uncertainty as to what Sankardeva meant by kati mari “mlechaka” koriba bunda maro. Many scholars beleive that Mlechas meant Kiratas or Mongloids as mentioned in many other Hindu texts as well, where as some argue that it meant the evils of society. The Ahoms might in few pages of history see visible friction between themselves and the followers of Sankardeva. The Moamoria rebellion was all about this. These debates suggest that Sankardeva today is no more the undisputed hero of Assam. So, calls of a united Assam as visualized by Sankardeva will create confusion and will bring back unclear responses. Sections will doubt if that version of Assam will be free of discrimination, hegemony and politics of power. Sankardeva was a genius, but we all have failed him. After 550 years it is difficult to realistically visualize an Assam united by the ideals led by him because generations after him have done nothing to develop those ideals. Hence, it is to be understood that if we still believe in his dream, then the jingoistic claims in the name of Sankardeva must be toned down. We must start out a second wave of opening the society of Assam and breaking down its hypocrisy. Sukapha, Chilarai, Ajaan Fakir, Kalicharan Brahma, all must find space and value in mainstream society. We must or else even Sankardeva with his glorious ideals will not be able to save Assam from the crisis it faces today.

Ambubachi Mela: liberal Hinduism, granary of knowledge and a tourists delight


AmbubachiMela_AssamJournalThe Kamakhya Temple dedicated to goddess Kamakhya which stands tall above the Nilachal hills is one of the most sacred destinations of Hindu pilgrimage. Chronicles has it that this was the place where Tantrik Hinduism found its roots. Assam until a few centuries ago i.e before the British opened it to the rest of India was popular as a land of sorcerers and magicians. “Pragjyotishpur” the former name of Guwahati was derived from two words “Prag” & “Jyotishpur”, which meant the eastern city of astrologers.

Every year thousands of devotees throng the temple of Kamakhya during the Ambubachi Mela in the month of Ahaar (mid June). It marks the yearly menstruation cycle of the Goddess Kamakhya and is a celebration of fertility of mother earth and nature. For three days (marking the menstruation cycle) all the doors and gates of the main temple premises are closed for visitors. After this the temple premises are open for devotees from across the world. Finally after a total of 7 days the festival comes to an end. If one is lucky enough to visit the glorious Ambubachi Mela there are certain things that will definitely catch the eye and attention.

images (3)There is no form of idol worship that is performed during the Kamakhya temple. You will hardly find any ritual being performed day in and day out. Devotees who are encamped near the temple perform various songs and dances devoted to the goddess of Shakti. Saadhus perform various tricks that portray determination, concentration and will power. You will find one person standing by his head for hours after hours; another will stand on one leg for the entire duration of the festival. Puffs of white smoke keep blowing in the air all throughout. Another important thing to note is that Ambubachi Mela holds no discrimination in the name of caste or creed. There is no one waiting at the entrance to identify which caste you belong to. If you are a devotee of the goddess you are free to enter the temple and offer your prayers. Many of us have often heard that pre-historic Assam was a land of Shakti Hinduism where no traces of a caste system could be found. I think Kamakhya still holds the tradition till today.

Hinduism as many suggests exists in various folds and forms in the local folklore of people spread across the sub-continent. The Ambubachi Mela at Kamakhya is a place where an inquisitive mind can find the largest collection of such stories. Through the beating of drums and blowing of horns the devotees perform various dramas that talk of the local folklore of various Hindu gods and goddesses. It was at this very Ambubachi Mela itself that a Sadhu Baba narrated to me a Ramayana which I had never heard before. In his version Sita was the daughter of Ravana and Ram was definitely not a god but a certain human with all human imperfections. After nearly 4 years I found his version of the story vividly described in the book “Asura” by Anand Neelkanthan. There will definitely be hundreds and thousands of such stories. It is a good fortune that all of them come together in these days of the year.

Overall the Ambubachi Mela with its deep rooted liberal outlook of Hinduism and the mutual respect for the various ways in which a person might understand the Hindu religion gives it a distinct identity.  To popularize this facet of the festival and the festival itself which is an asset of the people of Assam is the foremost duty of the administration. Ambubachi Mela holds great prospect for religious tourism and learning. The Ambubachi Mela at Kamakhya Temple which is held in supreme regards by many must be beautifully promoted to draw people from all over. The surging energy levels, the never ending beats and tunes, they will all leave every visitor mesmerized and spellbound.

When the waters of the Brahmaputra flows with its full strength, when Mother Nature caresses Assam into her loving arms and when the goddess herself comes to bless us all, it is time to visit the Nilachal hills to feel her presence amongst us all. May the Goddess Kamakhya’s blessing be with you all.

Tarun Gogoi: this post is also an important matter


Shri Digvijay Singh referred to him as Gaon Bura (village chief). What an apt comment he made on this man who being the chief minister of the state has kept such a simple image of his. No big words, no deep logic and just no sense, but yet how humorous. But now these mindless comments by a man entrusted with such a position of responsibility is becoming too irritating (just like PJs are) for the public. More so because by using this cheap tool of his he has been playing a politics of denial to fool the people of Assam. The skillful use of this tool of oratory of his has also entered the domain of personal attacks on fellow congress MLA’s, ridiculing the opposition. And the most recent remarks takes into granted that the people of Assam are plain and simple irrational fools without a logical brain sound enough to reason and understand.

Firstly on his ever increasing tussle with Himanta Biswa Sharma and his bunch of MLA’s. In a recent comment he said “rocky (referring to Rockybul Hussain, Forest Minister of Assam) was there during Rajiv Gandhi also and during Indira Gandhi also, his father was also known to me, they were in our bad days as well”. If Tarun Gogoi is so interested in political history will he clear it to the people of Assam that Rockybul Hussain’s grandfather was in the fold of Syed Sadullah who tried their best to get Assam into East Pakistan? And to achieve that introduced rampant migration from present day Bangladesh. In terms of logic will he tell us why a minister who has failed to ensure the protection of forest lands from encroachment, one who has failed to prevent poaching of one horned rhinos, failed completely in halting rampant deforestation deserves to be endorsed by him. In 2009 and 2011 elections it was Himanta Biswa Sarma and his policies which the entire congress party flaunted to win a majority. Himanta Biswa Sarma who was until few months back one of his closest aides became his enemy.  But as per Mr Gogoi’s judgment credibility has no weightage, nor does proven record of good work hold and weightage. All that matters is family lineage and a good track record of “chamchagiri” of congress party.

Who cannot see that all Tarun Gogoi is worried about is to bring his son into the centre of Assam politics? Earlier all was fine with Himanta Biswa Sarma, but just when he started becoming a scare to his son’s political career hell broke loose. Gaurav Gogoi’s prospect of standing tall in the politics of Assam will clearly be hindered if Himanta Biswa Sarma becomes the CM after the next assembly elections. In presence of Himanta Biswa Sarma an alliance with AIUDF to ensure a safe seat for his son in 2014 elections also seemed impossible. So throwing cheap personal attacks of who is closer to him and whose family has been in congress since generations he is trying to break the popularity of the other leader. May be the following pictures will clear things better of what is in Mr Gogoi’s mind:

Few years ago:

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Now and from now onwards

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 Finally some argue that it is Tarun Gogoi’s own choice as individual to regard someone as close and someone as not. But here is where the biggest problem is. His individual opinion is coming in between his official responsibilities. He is making public (as chief minister) comments based on his personal choices. If one agrees to him all is well or else you are kicked out. If this is democracy than what is anarchy? Is anarchy desirable …..

Let me not go on to his comments on the opposition which went like “AGP and BJP are just like chit funds, they promise and then runs away” for maybe even the public isn’t much concerned about the opposition. But then he does the unthinkable when he considers the general public to be a fool. “Increasing waste is a sign of development”, “what is so peculiar about Guwahati being water logged; even Delhi and Mumbai are affected by floods”. I feel like laughing, crying and banging my head at the same time. This is what I referred to initially as the politics of denial. If the CM of a state throws such bullshit logic upfront why will the authorities and the rest of the system be even minutely interested in pushing for any development? Increasing waste and such frequent water logging is a problem of bad urban planning, of growing population such that a city can’t absorb. It signals of Bad roads and bad drainage system. Without acknowledging and acting on them he uses his “brilliant” oratory to fool us. Such defunct leadership is the root of all problems today.

Finally I will add just a few lines of comment about why this kind of mindless things elevates the problem of leadership paralysis in Assam. Mr Gogoi has been in the chair since 12 years. Few days ago he boasted that in 2016 as well he plans to come back. On one hand he is leaving behind a bad example that leader can say whatever they wish, whenever they feel like to fool the public because at the end of the day the public forgets everything. On the other if some other faction is willing to come and replace old guns and take charge he feels attacked and retaliates. The same problem exists in Asom Gana Parishad as well where the old guns are hanging on the main seats as if there is still some meat left in the skeleton for them to suck out. For nearly 3 to 4 decades if a state is devoid of a good leader whom others can look up to and who can train the subordinates where will new ones come from? Mr Tarun Gogoi certainly believes that good leaders will come through heredity. Truly Diggi Raja is correct for once. Tarun Gogoi with his words seem more like a gaonbura and he has definitely turned Assam politics into one such arena of village level panchayat politics.

When I think of his comments like “There is not a single Bangladeshi in Assam” to be followed few days later by “there are a few lakh Bangladeshi in Assam” I am angered and at the same time saddened by the state of “Orajokota” (a kingless kingdom) going on in Assam where Mr CM is making others dance to his stupid gimmick remarks. But when better ones come up, like “Muslims are large in number in Assam because they are illiterate”, I run so much out of my mind that I can’t regroup myself to find some logic in it and rebut it. He has crossed an age when others could rectify him. It is only for him to realize that if he wants to retire from politics (which is close by) with a respectable name he must refrain from such drama and leave a few good deeds behind him. May be few will then remember him. I think someone should go and whisper in his ears “Sir, speak well and speak sense for that is also an important matter”