TIMES OF ASSAM
TRUTH BOLD FEARLESS

Independence Day of India – Through eyes of North East India

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As the country celebrates the 66th Independence Day, I recollect some memories of myself as a kid growing up in Assam, India’s troubled North East during the nineties. Independence Day to us was just an ULFAi diya Asom Bondho for me and every other kid in town. As a kid, it meant a day when we could not be out of our homes. No, not for fear of bombs or militants, but fear of the Army personnel and the policeman who were entrusted to keep the militants at bay. As I grew up to teen age and shifted to Guwahati, It became a day when we could play cricket on the road. Oh and we played all day and returned home with soiled clothes. The evenings were filled with news of shootouts and bomb blasts either through the Doordarshan news or through the Ancholik Batori of radio. Being the little ones at home, we hardly cared then. The elders always kept us out of that discussion for the fear that we might be inspired to become militants ourselves! But the elders seemed to be troubled. I remember them engaging in long and lively discussions of how our state was being looted, on why Independence Day holds no meaning for the North Eastern region, etc. Every year, I could hear the same story of how right our Assamese Legendary hero Bishnu Rabha was, when he had hosted a Black flag on 15th August, 1947 protesting that it was only fake freedom. It was the decade of nineties after all and the state was still in a state of illusion, – Illusion of distant peace and freedom which was never to materialize.

As we grew up and approached teenage, the meaning of 15th August changed little with our own activities. For us, a part of the MTV culture by then, this day started to mean just Desh Bhakti songs on TV and movies like Border and Roja. Bandhs, Grenade blasts and shoots outs continued. I could notice the concern of the elders waning away and could hear comments like Better to die in a gunfight than becoming a SULFA, All are the same etc. The love for the boys was waning, – it was evident from the fact that words like terrorist(!) had taken over words like ULFAr lora. Being curious, it was our time to take notice. Stories of Parag Kumar Das, Heerak Jyoti Mahanta, etc. were most discussed during at our adda of such days. Oh and we talked about them more than the Gandhis and Nehrus. But being the urban generation, we only discussed and did nothing else.

Some of the youngsters were smart. They did capitalize on Love for motherland; – they joined student groups, youth wings of political parties to protest on the road, demand money from every shop and establishment on the corner calling it Chanda. Today many of them are big contractors owning SUVs and big bungalows. Their love for motherland today remains in just hanging a Gamocha on their vehicle’s rear view glasses.

Time moved on. I moved out of Assam for studies and was introduced to another meaning of Indian Independence Days. First time, in Nagpur I saw people chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jay on roads, sweets being distributed, celebrations and lighting like Diwali and so on. I was happy to see them enjoy and take pride. I thought it was a different India, which was shining with historical pride and developing with passion. Alas! After staying in several states in my last ten years, I realize it is all the same. Why? Read On.

For the last 66 years on this day, our proud Indian rulers have been making promises to an ever-dreamy nation to eradicate each and every problem of the country with the best constitution and the best governing system. Everyone promised to learn and develop. Hopes were really high.

Yes, India did progress and prosper. We are now going to be a Super Power (whatever it means to our 40% population below poverty line), we are now world champions in cricket and corruption, we have won a handful of medals in Olympics (though we don’t remember the name of those who won them for us), we have few of the richest people in the world who can gift airplanes to wives and sons, we have mastered the business of education, we have learnt to convert news into entertainment and most importantly we have learnt to hate each other. Hate each other’s community, language, climate and customs.

After more than six decades of enjoying a democratic environment, India’s trouble with the lack of national integration, languages, caste systems, poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and poor health conditions have only have got worse. Poverty in the country has seen no improvement with more than 40% of the population living below the global poverty line and more than 70% living on an earning of less than 20 rupee per day! The rise of the rich to richer has been phenomenal though, due to the monopoly of the capitalist class of India only whom the democratic government of India seems to supports. Yet most of us, we urban youth says, ‘Wow, India is so developing’ fooled by the glam and glitter of Malls in the Gurgaons and Mumbais. Ever wondered why?

Not because of just politics. Because of us, ignorant, who have killed the fundamental rights of our democracy ourselves and thereby allowing our masters to rule us at will. We continue to discriminate between the different castes, males over females; killing the right to equality. We continue to ignore each other’s problems.

To make matters worse, we have the reservation system and constitutional facilities based on ancient caste and creed system. Yes, it must be agreed that this was done with a purpose. For example, our blood brothers, all the ethnic tribes and communities of Assam have seen injustice and ill treatment somehow or other by some well-to-do chauvinist Assamese, especially from some self-proclaimed “higher caste” liberals. This is why Assam has been broken into so many different parts and there are still growing demands for more pieces called Kamatapur, Boroland, etc. But will creating a new map and few more leaders for each community solve the issues?

The time has come now to think out of the box. At one side we want everyone to be equal, yet we make some of our people feel alienated and handicapped by giving them special privileges. Of course languages, culture, traditions, etc. has to be safeguarded based on ethnicity and community. But education, employment, professional career, administration and every such thing which does not depend on caste or creed must be brought out of this sad box of inequality. Let there be reservations, if necessary, on per capita income. Let the poor be helped, the needy provided need irrespective of the surname or the God he or she believes in. Unless this is done, there can NEVER be any true development of the nation and politics will keep on taking advantage of this weakness of our Constitution.

66 Years is a long time. If there are demands of Kamatapur, Bodoland or Gorkhaland in North East India where 15th August meant only a shut down; there are also demands of Vidarbha, Telengana, Bundelkhand, etc. in states and regions where this day means a grand celebration. The core reason remains in the fact that the plight of the common man is the same everywhere in India, unlike how our Great Constitution empowers and makes us to believe. It is time to break the shackles, time to demand the true change that has differentiated us socially. It’s high time we create a new Constitution or make substantial amendments in the existing and thereby lead to a new beginning. Time to think of an alternate Nation system unlike today’s fake Democracy.

Freedom is after all just, – The Liberty to choose our own chain of slavery, isn’t it?

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Independence Day of India – Through eyes of North East India

By: Priyankan Goswami Read time: 7 min