A few years back I happened to visit the northeastern state of Assam. From the moment the train entered the beautiful terrain of Assam, I fell in love with the state. Till my stay in the largest state among the Seven Sisters, my adulation for Assam increased manifold.
The serenity and simplicity of the people of Assam struck a chord with my heart. But then I was perturbed by something very bizarre. Most of the people close to me, who were from there, had already moved to other states or had made up their minds to do so. Their reasoning was simple, that there is no future in the state… not that the state was lacking in anything.
Best of schools, colleges and even an IIT are in the state. Then, what makes young aspirants leave their home and go to far-off cities in search of a better life? Is it the insurgency that has engulfed the state; is it the sheer apathy of the Union government towards the northeastern states; or is it something else entirely? The stat
e has been yearning for peace and prosperity for a long time. But, the events that have come to light this year hint at further deteriorating situation.
To start off, the brutal treatment meted out to MLA Rumi Nath: The thirty-three year old Congress MLA, Rumi Nath was brutally thrashed for alleged bigamy. She is an elected member of the Legislative Assembly from Barkhola constituency in Cachar district of Assam. On 30th June 2012, a hundred-strong mob descended on the hotel in which she was staying at Karimganj. The crowd flogged her inhumanely. The MLA had to bear the wrath of the mob for allegedly leaving her first husband and two-year-old daughter and eloping and marrying her Facebook friend, 28-year-old Zakir Hussain.
After the pitiless flogging, Rumi Nath, who was pregnant, was seen bleeding profusely along with her second husband. The inaction of the police until 12 hours after the dastardly act was even worse. Even Rumi’s security personnel were not spared and had to bear the ire of the mob.
The MLA had already courted enough controversy by converting to Islam before marrying her second husband, Zakir. Since the flood situation in the state had worsened, the MLA had gone to take stock of the situation. Never did she imagine that people would take stock of her situation and turn so wild.
To bring the change: What the poor lady was subjected to was dreadful. Was she a victim of the sinister religious ire or the fact that she had betrayed her two-year old kid? Whatever the reason, a country cannot run by the whims and fancies of mob rule. The state went a few steps back on that black day. Maybe the state could witness a sea change if such kind of collective fury is used for a good cause.
After mob fury, the nature’s fury: Rains have brought only trouble to this northeastern state. More than 125 people lost their lives to angry Brahmaputra and Barak rivers. They ran havoc ruining lives and livelihood. Almost 24 lakh people have been affected in recent years by the floods apart from an estimated 9.35 lakh hectares of land being inundated.
The pride of Assam all over the world, the one horned Rhino, is falling prey to the yearly floods. 14 alone have perished this year. At least 500 wild animals in the Kaziranga natural reserve have lost their lives in the recent flooding.
To bring the change: Floods might be the fury of nature but then, this fury has been a constant element for the last several years. Precious human lives and livestock have been lost to the mighty Brahmaputra. No one can stop the rains or the floods, but safety measures before hand can surely lessen the devastation.
The worst was not over yet, so came the frightening Guwahati molestation: India woke up to a rude shock when the television screens were full of images of a young 17-year-old girl been molested by a group of scornful men in full public view. The state of Assam was shamed and its modesty disrobed for all to see.
The shocking incident took place on the 10th of July in front of a bar on the bustling Guwahati-Shillong Road. A video of the episode landed on YouTube leading to massive hue and cry from the public.
The flip-flops from the police have only added to the sham. The people were in for more shock when the DGP of Assam rubbed salt on the wounds of the victim. He said, “Police is not like an ATM machine which can be present at the crime scene the moment one inserts a card in the machine.”
This statement by the DGP only added to the shame and highlighted the insensitivity of the administration. But, with the event getting highlighted on national TV, the police were forced to take tough action.
Some more glaring revelations further worsened the situation. An off-duty reporter came under the scanner and it was alleged that he orchestrated the entire molestation incident to garner some news footage. This angle brought even more shame to the state of Assam. Though, the reporter has been in complete denial and has resigned on moral grounds. But still, till the air is cleared he will remain a suspect.
To bring the change: What kind of people are we turning into? Molestation in such public glare possibly shows the breaking down of the moral fabric of our society. Women have been held in very high esteem in our country. To degrade their modesty in such a manner is cannibalistic. And if at all the incident was orchestrated, then how could one possibly think of helping the needy. Maybe, if police had acted more promptly and as said by the DGP -- like an ATM, as it was the need of the hour, the poor girl could have been saved from being molested by the 50 plus mob.
Topping it all was the lust of a protector: When people were yet to recover from the rude shock of the Guwahati molestation, another incident came to light on July 15th. A village girl’s modesty was outraged by none other than an Army jawan. The incident took place in Dolopa village in Upper Assam's Sivsagar district.
"While the girl was returning home after collecting firewood, four Army personnel forcefully took her into a forest. When she started shouting, people from the area intervened and caught one of the jawans. They beat him up and handed him over to the police," Sivsagar Superintendent of Police Akhilesh Prasad Singh said.
"The jawan has been arrested and we have registered a case of attempt to rape," he added.
To bring the change: The Army is posted in different parts of the country to protect the people. But if the protector becomes the precursor of crime, then God help us and our female folk. What is it that turns a protector into such a beast? If the excuse is a cut-off social and family life, then they should realize that they have a reputation to safeguard, that of the Indian Army. The nation trusts you to bring about change.
Incidents like these have pushed Assam to the edge. A few more steps back and it will fall to the netherworld. If the picture of ‘Bihar’ can be changed, then why is it so difficult with the northeastern states? Wrongs can be made right only when we work together. For a better and prosperous India, we need Assam and its other sisters to grow equally. The Northeast needs a change badly. The only thing constant is change. One needs to change with time or else, it will be too late.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)