Assam hogs limelight for wrong reasons in 2012
Guwahati: The worst-ever violence between ethnic Bodos and migrant minorities, a molestation case that made national headlines, devastating floods and a boat tragedy that claimed over 100 lives marked 2012 for Assam.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi faced the worst crisis in office during the second year of his third term with the outbreak of violence in four Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD) and Dhubri since the last week of July.
Clashes between Bodos and minority migrants claimed 110 lives and displaced several hundreds of people with more than 4.85 lakh people taking shelter in relief camps during the height of the violence in July-August.
The clashes have been attributed to land-related issues with the Bodos claiming they were the original inhabitants of the area and the illegal migrants from Bangladesh have encroached and settled on their land. The minorities claim the cadres of the disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers were behind the clashes and they used illegal arms in their possession against the migrants to intimidate them.
Another major incident that rocked the state was the molestation of a girl by a mob outside a bar in the busy GS Road in July which was filmed by a television journalist and subsequently uploaded on YouTube triggering outrage. The incident led to the arrest of 16 people, including prime accused Amarjyoti Kalita and journalist Gauravjyoti Neog. While Kalita and 10 others were convicted by a local court, Neog and three others were acquitted.
The incident led to the transfer of several senior police officers while the Editor-in-Chief of the television channel as well as Neog had to resign from the organisation. It also created problems within the Gogoi ministry as a senior Cabinet minister, whose wife owns the channel, allegedly submitted his resignation but the matter was finally resolved.
As these controversies raged, the state faced one of the worst floods in recent years which claimed the lives of over 150 people and affected a population of nearly 50 lakhs in 25 of the 27 districts.
The Brahmaputra along with its tributaries created havoc across the state submerging vast tracts of land affecting human settlements and croplands during the three waves of floods this year.
The world's largest inhabited river island Majuli was also devastated by the floods with the entire island under water while erosion of vast tracts of land by the Brahmaputra added to the people's woes.
Besides affecting humans, flood waters created havoc in Kaziranga National Park with nearly 90 per cent of its area submerged and a record 631 animals, including rhinos, hog deer, swamp deer, wild boar, sambars, wild buffalo, hig badgers, elephant, porcupine and python, perished this year.
Kaziranga, famed for its one-horned rhinoceros, faced another major crisis when poachers killed over 20 of the pachyderm species during the year, mainly for its horns which fetches between Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1 crore in the street market.
The state forest department faced a lot of flak over the rhino killings following which Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain announced a slew of measures including the appointment of a chief conservator of forest for the park and providing AK-47 rifles to the forest guards.
Tragedy struck Assam on April 30 when a ferry carrying nearly 300 passengers got caught in a cyclonic storm and capsized in the Brahmaputra in Dhubri bordering Bangladesh. Search operations continued for weeks but only 42 bodies were recovered with nearly 200 people reported missing.
The Bangladesh government was approached for help in search operations as it was feared that many bodies could have been swept away by the current to that country.
Insurgency problem by the ULFA and NDFB, which plagued the state for three decades, took a backseat with the talks process initiated with both the groups though it did not make any significant progress during the year.