Politicans playing dirty over displaced Bodos in BTAD: Promising Land Patta inside Forest

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This is election time in Assam and political parties are not leaving any stone unturned to get as much vote as possible. If someone is promising to create 2.5 million jobs in next five years, other one is promising to protect civil and human rights of the persecuted minorities. In reality, all these hollow promises will be going to the cold storage of politicians’ conscience without a second thought. However, one such hollow promise and great deal of hypocrisy paining me since 29th of March, 2016. Deputy Chief of Bodoland Territorial Council Khampha Borgayari conducted an election meeting at a newly encroached forest village called Laimuti on 19th of March, 2016. Mr. Borgoyari promised to provide land patta along with other services to the forest dwellers who settled in the forest most recently. But to know more about his hypocrisy and political gimmick, let me take you through the village.

Three of my colleagues along with our local resource person Dan Narzary, we crossed the bamboo bridge over river Chapma a beautiful place around 10 kilometers from Runikhata under Chirang district of BTAD in Assam. River Champa is a narrow but powerful river as its water follows fast and during monsoon it becomes ferocious. A middle age man was hurling his fishing net near the bamboo bridge. The big trees in the upstream of the river made the scenario picturesque. Laimuti 1

Soon after crossing the bridge, we found a small hut on the bank of river Champa. I talked to Dhaneswar Basumatary – the owner of the hut. His family members were busy in planting tapioca tree. His son was cutting the tapioca tree into equal pieces to plants. The plant was new to me; our local resource person Dan Narzary who did his masters in Ecology, Environment and Sustainable Development from Tata Institute of Social Sciences introduced the tapioca plant as a “poverty resilient food”. The hut itself was enough to correspond to the level of poverty faced by the family. But the story of tapioca escalated the brutality of poverty and hunger. Dhaneswar Basumatary’s family was forced to move into the forest in 2005 to live such a miserable life when his 8 bighas (over a hector) of agricultural land was eroded by river Champa. Dhaneswar Basumatary is not the only victims of river erosion, many of the forest dwellers of the area were uprooted by river erosion.DSC_0073[1]

It is worthy to give a glimpse of the larger picture of erosion affected people of Assam. Study revealed that in 50 years (1950 to 2000) river Brahmaputra alone had eroded 7 percent of Assam’s total land and tens of thousands people have been displaced. Till 2015 Assam Government didn’t have any rehabilitation programme for the erosion induced IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) of the state. In March last year, Assam Government came up with a scheme called “Chief Minister Special Scheme for the Erosion Affected People”. The scheme talks about providing land as compensation for both homestead and agricultural purpose, if government land is not available cash compensation is to be offered. But the scheme remained defunct for almost a year. No effort was made by the government to disseminate the information regarding the scheme among the displaced people. We tried our best to make the affected people aware about the scheme and encouraged them to apply for compensation. But nothing happened till January 2016 and finally I filed a RTI petition seeking some crucial information like how many applications received and processed etc. Assam State Disaster Management Authority which is the nodal agency for implementation of the scheme; scandalously replied my RTI petition saying that the agency had not received any application! Later on one of my journalist friends investigated the matter and revealed that despite no promotion and advertisement, ASDMA had received a large number of applications and as the agency couldn’t deal with such huge number application. Before replying my RTI government changed the scheme through another circular. The modified scheme is equal to nothing! The government has modified it in such a way that almost no erosion induced IDP can avail any benefit under the scheme. This kind of government indifference and apathy have been pushing the erosion induced IDPs to settle generally in forest areas and to migrate into urban areas for livelihood.

We continued walking through the path recently cleared by chopping down the trees in Laimuti. Though the roots of big trees were burnt down to decompose early but are still visible thorough out the fields. Dan Narzary lamented that, being a professionally trained environmentalist he felt like crying after seeing the destruction of the forest just 10 kms away from his house. He feels that tribal people are losing their belongingness towards forest and overlooking the importance of forest conservation. He pointed out a number of factors which attributed towards this change in attitude. At one hand poor people are being uprooted by river erosion, violent conflict and they are not compensated by the state. On the other hand the government forest department is destroying the forest by partnering with smugglers. How the poor people can think about conservation of forest? Dan questions. Laimuti 2

By the time we reached the village market in Laimuti it was late afternoon. The village headman Sukur Basumatary took us to an open school. Few fixed desk benches and a pair of wooden chair-table and a tinned roof hold up by not many concrete pillars were the only infrastructure in the school. However, name of the school Rwdwmkang which means ‘uprising’ in Bodo language actually points towards the aspiration of the villagers. More than 50 students are getting educated without any government support. The villagers collect money and other resources among themselves to pay the monthly salary of Rs. 1000/- to the teacher. Around 8000 people are living in 25 forest villages in Laimuti area without a single government school, no Anganwadi centre, no health facility, no source of drinking water or any other government services. In other words, they are still living right inside the forest, where there is no presence of government.

Three out of the 25 villages faced retaliatory attack from Adivasis on 25th of December, 2014 i.e. two days after the massacre of over 70 innocent Adivasi people by suspected NDFB (S) militant in Sonitpur district of Assam. At least 23 houses in those three villages were burnt down to ashes by the miscreants. The Bodo inhabitants were forced to set up shelter camp in Laimuti market. Hundreds of terrified Bodo men, women and children had continued to live in the camp for over two months without any support from government. Chakra Basumatary one of the victim said “forget about relief, rehabilitation or compensation, no government departments including police department didn’t visited the affected villages”. When one of the civil society organizations took the victims to government office in Kokrajhar, the victims were abused by the officials and their request for compensation was out-rightly rejected.DSC_0113[1]

Mr. Khampha Borgayari who served as Deputy Chief of BTC in the previous term also never did anything to minimize their suffering, even during the toughest time of arson and forced displacement. The villagers at Laimuti said that Mr. Borgayari is now campaigning for his colleague Chandan Brahma and he has promised to provide land pattas along with other services like education, health, water etc.

If this is the fate of displaced Bodos – to protect whose right the territorial privilege was granted, then anyone can easily imagine the condition of displaced non-Bodos living in the model BTC!


Jaitley’s budget and the story of an Adivasi Youth

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Som Murmu (27) doesn’t know what is happening in JNU or what is in the mind of HRD Minister Smriti Irani. He is also indifferent to Jaitley’s so called pro-poor, pro rural budget, 9000 cr for Swach Bharat Mission or ‘worst ever’ budget allocation for education or 7000 cr slash in food security doesn’t make any difference to Som Mormu and his villagers. Rather he is concerned about the basic education of 37 traumatized Adivasi children of Fulbari in newly formed Biswanath Chariali district of Assam near Arunachal Pradesh border. Som Murmu is convinced that our great nation and its budget allocation has nothing to do with the education of Adivasi children of his village, hence, he has taken the responsibility on his tiny but strong shoulder.

Adivasi Women Fetching Drinking Water
                                                    Adivasi Women Fetching Drinking Water from an Earthen-Well

The Adivasis of Fulbari witnessed one of the most brutal forms of violence on the eve of Christmas in 2014. A group of terrorists belonging to outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland came to their village on the fateful day. They asked for water from the villagers, killed as many as 31 children, women and men and then laughed, sang, danced and disappeared in the nearby jungle. The attacked was not only committed on that particular village, rather a series of attacks were executed in Adivasi villages in Sonitpur, Chirang and Kokrajhar district as well. The violence claimed nearly hundred lives including 4 innocent Bodos who were killed in retaliatory attacks.

More than a year has been passed since the incident happened. But the pain and suffering of the villagers are still on. The worst sufferer of the violence has been the children. Many of the children had lost their parents, siblings, family members and friends. Many of them survived the bullet narrowly. The horrifying experience has traumatized the young minds. Many of them, who once travelled two to three kilometers to attend school, discontinued their study after the violence. The education scenario among Adivasi children is already alarming. Study revealed that the average number of ‘out of school children’ among Adivasis is more than double than that of the state average.

Coming back to the story of Som Murmu, the incident of 23rd December, 2014 changed his life completely. Though the Adivasis of Fulbari living a appalling live but he has never seen so much of pain and agony among his fellow villagers. Starting from recovering the dead-bodies after the massacre to taking the villagers to safe distance and then managing the day to day affairs of the relief camp, Som continued to serve his villagers to get the ex-gratia and rehabilitation grant. When he realized that the children were not going to school, he took initiative to discuss the matter with the villagers and decided to start a school in the villager itself and became the first teacher. Under matriculate Sim understands his limitation; Som himself couldn’t complete his schooling. The nearest high school is 5 kilometers away from the village and there is no provision of roads. Som found out a qualified teacher from outside and convinced the villagers to pay the teacher 40 mound of rice for a year as wage. It was astonishing to observe that the poor people who are battling every day for two square of meals are investing their hard earn rice to educate the children, whereas the our great country even though made law to make primary education a ‘right’ for the children but seems reluctant to implement it.

Actually, we couldn’t find anything in the village to feel the presence of government except the SSB camp, which was set up after the massacre. Basic government services like access to health care, access to pure drinking water, access to social security schemes are distant dream for the villagers. The entire village having over 500 families doesn’t have a single source of pure drinking water; all the households are using the water from ponds and earthen wells for drinking and cooking. When our Prime Minister, in fact the entire government is running campaign for Swach Bharat, 100% villagers go for open defecation. The consequence of open defecation and non-hygiene source of water is affecting the overall wellbeing of the villagers. Two and half years old Manjil Hembrom, who lost his parents in the massacre is suffering from severe skin diseases and he is suffering without basic health care.

Poor road communication is the root of many problems including health emergencies, education, livelihoods etc. Som Murmu took another daring decision to give tight slap on the face of our government. He gave a call to all his villagers to build a five kilometers long village road without any support from the government. 77 villagers have been giving shramdhan since 2nd February, 2015 to address their long standing need. Som is expecting that more people will join his troop and they will complete the task by end of March. Sonil Murmu (25), one of the villagers who are building the village road says that his wife having labour pain and he couldn’t take her to hospital on time. He carried her pregnant wife on a traditional carrier and feels that caused more pain to her. Though his wife Rupai Hembrom survived but their newborn baby died soon after the delivery. And Sonil was not the only one who finds a reason to work without wage to build the road. They hope once the road is built, they will get access to market, school, hospital and many more! This is worthy to mention that many of the Adivasis villagers of Fulbari got their job card under MGNREGA two years back but they are not getting work. Some of the job card holders worked for few days but didn’t get their wage.

Adivasis giving shramdhan to build their village road
                                      Adivasis giving shramdhan to build their 5 kms long village road

Adivasis are one of most marginalized as well as persecuted communities of Assam. Often they have been the soft target terrorists, chauvinists groups as well as government. Socio-economic condition of the Adivasis of Assam is abysmally poor. Adivasis who are working in tea gardens of Assam are still kept as bonded labour and starvation is reality in many of the tea gardens of Assam. Those who have come out from the slavery of garden management and tried to settle outside the garden are facing more cruelty from the state. It is important to remember that Adivasis of Assam are denied the constitutional provision of Scheduled Tribe envisaged in the constitution of India whereas their counter parts in Jharkhand and other states are getting the benefit of ST status.

I sincerely hope, if not our consciences, Adivasi youths like Som Murmu will one day change the destiny of their community.

Assam Flood: How ‘Development’ is leading the march towards catastrophe

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Assam is one of the most flood prone states in North-Eastern states of India. Flood has almost become an annual event in Assam creating mayhem among the masses. Except two the hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills, all the plain districts of both Brahmaputra and Barak Valley of Assam are vulnerable to floods in every monsoon starting from May/June to September/October. The flood water causes huge damage to crops, lives and properties (Mandal, 2010). As far as scale is concerned, the annual flood water from river Brahmaputra and its 28 northern and 18 southern tributaries and river Barak affects ¾ of the total number of districts (Phukan, 2005). In 2012, Indian Space Research Organization carried out a study through satellite and remote sensing for extraction of flood disaster food print and assessing the disaster impact in Assam. The study shows that about 4.65 lakh ha area was submerged, 23 of the 27 districts in Assam had more than 5% of the total geographical area submerged, about 3829 villages marooned and 23.08 lakh people were affected (C. M. Bhatt, G. Srinivasa Rao, Asiya Begum, P. Manjusree, S. V. S. P. Sharma,L. Prasanna and V. Bhanumurthy, 2013).

Flood: What History says?
However, history says that flood was not so cruel in Assam just half a century ago. Prior to the great earthquake of Assam in 1950, the magnitude of flood was much lesser and people used to welcome the flood (Phukan, 2005). Furthermore, travellers and soldiers who visited Assam in the medieval period wrote about the amazing rivers and awe-inspiring seasonal rains. Assam’s native people used these factors to their advantage in their battles against other armies” (Barbora, 2015). But the things didn’t go well as the time passed. Prof. Sanjay Barbora argues that the advent of British colonial role and tea plantation as well as other cash crops changed the landscape of Assam in 19th century. The colonial government built railway track and embankment to protect the tea gardens to protect from water-logging. Independent government also followed much of the British path and built embankments and dykes with very short-term economic logic in mind, which radically changed the social structure of the place. Thus, construction of embankment for one village creates waterlogged condition in the fields of another (Barbora, 2015).

Causes behind the increasing number of flood
Prof. Phukan says flood occurs in Assam as a result of multiple factors like a) natural, b) ecological, and c) anthropomorphic. These factors combined with other climatic factors like depression of Bay of Bengal, high sediment transport, deforestation, shifting cultivation, earthquake, landslide etc are influencing the flood situation in Assam (Phukan, 2005). Apart from short-sighted flood control and development policies, destruction of wetlands is another factor which worsening the flood situation in Assam; the ‘Bils’ in Brahmaputra Valley and ‘Haors’ in Barak Valley, which work as natural reservoirs are shrinking drastically. In 1988, total wetland covered area was 49000 ha which has shrunken to here 35630 ha in 2005 (ibid). Within a period of just 17 years, more than 27% of wetland has been destructed. There is no doubt that the rate of this destruction has been increasing. There were large number of natural water reservoir in and around Guwahati city; the human greed has destroyed almost all of them. At one hand wetlands and natural water reservoir are being destroyed and high rise buildings are being constructed, including international chain hotels. One the other, the hills and forest are not spared of, experts say that one of the most important factors behind the flash flood in Guwahati is the mindless human encroachment in the hills, wetlands and water canals (Deka, 2018). Off late administration is working on to evict the illegal encroachment in those natural resources and so far the result is quite encouraging.

Another significant matter is the growing number of flash flood due to excess water released by dams.

Is Development Responsible?
The instances of flash flood have been increasing in Assam. Last year’s flash flood due to cloud burst in Meghalaya’s Garo Hills district caused devastation in Goalpara and Kamrup (Rural) districts of Assam. The affected community thinks that the magnitude of devastation has increased manifolds due to the construction of railway track which blocks the natural flow of rain water from uplands of Garo Hills. The newly constructed railway track to Mendipathar from Goalpara has added more hazard to the existing vulnerability . During monsoon, NEEPCO releases excess water and that creates flood situation in North Lakhimpur district of upper Assam almost every year. Local media reported that, at least one person lost his life while trying to rescue his two brothers in flood water caused by the NEEPCO’s water during last June flood . There are similar instances of flood in lower Assam caused by the excess water released by Kurichu dam of Bhutan . It is a matter of great grief our Prime Minister Modi inaugurated another dam in Bhutan which has potentiality to cause devastating flood in western Assam.

What next – Catastrophe?
Despite all these risks and vulnerabilities, our government is adamant to established 167 dams including mega structures in upper Assam and Arunachal Pradesh which may cause catastrophe to entire downstream civilization. There has been a strong movement in Assam against these dams. The protesters and the experts believe that these dams will affect the flow of water of river Brahmaputra, which will impact on irrigation downstream, and increase the danger of sudden floods in an area that is already highly flood-prone (Rehman, undated). If these sorts of unabated and short-sighted development interventions are continued, no doubt it will definitely lead us towards a deadly future.

Barbora, S. (2015, June 22). Where a state drowns each year: Assam floods and what needs to be done. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from Catch News: http://www.catchnews.com/environment-news/where-a-state-drowns-each-year-assam-floods-and-what-needs-to-be-done-1434943767.html
C. M. Bhatt, G. Srinivasa Rao, Asiya Begum, P. Manjusree, S. V. S. P. Sharma,L. Prasanna and V. Bhanumurthy. (2013). Satellite images for extraction of flood disaster footprints and assessing the disaster impact: Brahmaputra floods of June–July 2012, Assam, India. Current Science , 104 (12), 1692-1700.
Chakraborty, G. (2014). The Demographic Question in the Char Areas of Assam. Social Change and Development , 113-117.
Deka, D. P. (2018, 07 28). Geographical Perspective of Artificial Flood in Guwahati. Retrieved 07 10, 2015, from The Sentinel: http://www.sentinelassam.com/op_ed/story.php?sec=33&subsec=0&id=199066&dtP=2014-07-28&ppr=1
Mandal, R. (2010). Cropping Patterns and Risk Management in the Flood Plains of Assam. Economic and Political Weekly , XLV (33), 78-81.
Phukan, S. D. (2005). Flood – The Annual Mayhem in Assam A Technocrat’s Viewpoint. Ishani , 1 (6).
Rehman, T. (undated). Dialogue of the deaf. In Brahmaputra: Towards unity. thethirdpole.net.

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Assam Flood: Who Cares?

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An apprehension is mounting among the people of north-eastern region that the mainstream media is ignoring the flight of its people and has been working like a PR agency of the government to justify the imposition of AFSPA. Recently, it has been observed that the media was flooded with chest-thumping news and views on cross border operation on NE militants in Myanmar. All of sudden one IPS officer is being marketed as ‘face that militants fear’ even with factual errors. However, at the same time a huge portion of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh was witnessing devastating flood. No media was running ‘hastag’ race for the flood victims of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

As per the official release of Assam State Disaster Management Authority dated 13th June 2015, more than six hundred villages were submersed and over three lakh people affected in the recent flood. Though officially not reported, at least three persons have died so far in this devastating flood. This is harvesting season in Assam and the flood has destroyed a huge area of ready to harvest corps, the official figure is 11041.53 hectors.


I was getting disturbing updates from my home district Barpeta since 11th of June, 2015. Subsequently, I communicated with the district administration and got a quit relaxing response “we are monitoring the development and ready to act if any necessity arises” The concerned Circle Officer categorically informed me that the flood situation is still manageable and no need of taking rescue and relief operations. However, I was still getting SOS calls from my native district and finally decided to visit the area next day morning to have stock of the situation. While travelling from Guwahati to Barpeta, as I entered Nalbari district, I could easily see the devastation in the nearby agri-fields. The farmers has abandoned ready to harvest rice cultivation due to flood water. They have occupied half of the road for drying up the partially damaged harvested crops.

Situation in Barpeta district is more depressing; officially it is worst affected district in recent flood. Innas Ali, a marginal farmer who cultivated high yielding rice on his one hector agri-land and invested nearly sixty thousand rupees has been able to harvest only half of his total cultivation. Ali says that one fourth of the harvested crops have been damaged as it germinated due to heavy rain. Since last two/three decades, the peasants have started cultivating high yielding variety of rice replacing traditional one. They have been irrigating their paddy fields by diesel run power-pump machine incurring higher cost comparing to government provided irrigation facility. In lower Assam, irrigation facility is mostly managed by the farmers, which forces them to incur more costs and forces them to knock the door of money lenders for credit to meet the costs. A study conducted by Gorky Chakravarty of Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata revealed that nearly 67% of his respondents in Mandia, Chenga and Ruposhi block of Barpeta district are indebted and only 2.43% of them got credit from organized financial institutions. A huge chunk of people who get their credit from moneylenders often agree to repay crops instead of money. His study says that those ill-fated people are forced to pay an annual rate of interest ranging from 72% to 360%. In such a situation, any one can imagine how this flood is going to affect the lives of people like Innas Ali.

Bringing the left over rice on raft

A group of young people helped me to reach riverine areas like Islampur, Rasulpur, Kadong Char, Kaimari Char under Baghbar Revenue Circle in Barpeta district. When, we crossed one stream of river Beki and entered to Islampur char (River Island) under Baghbar Revenue Circle – the scenario is heart-wrenching. It was no less than a river, it seems small huts are floating in the water, some people are crossing high current river Beki on their raft to fetch drinking water. Human being, frogs, earth-worm all are coexisting. Some of them have left their houses and took shelter in other’s place, but most of them are hazardously experiencing the flood along with their domesticated animals.

                                                              Human Life, frogs, earthworm and other insects coexisting 

There is no presence of government machinery in all the places we visited. There is no arrangement of basic humanitarian assistance like food, drinking water, medicine etc. Even, the administration has not been in those places for any kind of assessment. It was appalling to observe that the affected people also don’t feel that government will support them in any way or other. Seeing the helplessness of the flood victims and the indifferent attitude of state machinery, as a civil society group we decided to support the victims within limited our capacity. We have started distributing general relief materials since 14th of June, 2015 and continued to update the concerned Circle Officer over telephone and keep on sending photographs to his mobile phone though WhatsApp.


On 17th of June, he informed me that as per the information he got from his official sources there is no need of providing any relief or rehabilitation grant in those chars! So, was my observation was wrong? The photographs with GPS location were fake? The heart touching narratives of the victims about their damaged crops and belonging were false and plotted stories to drain money from government treasury?

Damaged crops does picture tells lie
                                                                 Damaged crops: Does picture tell lie?

While talking to the Circle Officer over phone, I was sitting in a boat carrying relief materials with few elderly people from Tapajuli char. The elderly people were reading my body language and conversation with the Circle Officer. They completely understood what the Circle Officer was telling me! One of the elderly people’s reaction was somewhat like consoling me “Don’t feel sorry, this is happening to us for ages.

This is what written on our forehead” Citing the example of their 411 No. Alipur (Tapajuli Pathar) Lower Primary school, Abdur Razzak said that, the head teacher of the school is not attending her duty for the last two years. The assistant teacher appointed through TET (Teacher Eligibility Test) occasionally comes to school and since the arrival of monsoon; the assistant teacher has also stopped attending his duty. The char people have even brought the issue to the notice of Deputy Commissioner and other officials of education department of Barpeta district. But nothing has changed so far and the school which was established by British government in 1945 has become just a structure with four walls and a roof.

Picture was taken on a working day
                                                                    Picture was taken on a working day

The media, the civil society, the political class or the administration, no one is bothered about the suffering of these ill-fated people. I remember the shameful incident of last year’s flood in Goalpara. The flood victims who demanded relief and rehabilitation were brutally beaten up by the police and slapped deadly criminal charges on them. Perhaps, the flood affected people of these chars have realised – it is better to be silent and suffer rather than getting beaten up!

অসমৰ শ্বাহবাগ কেতিয়া?

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আমাৰ বাংলাদেশ ভ্ৰমণৰ প্ৰায় অন্তিম পৰ্যায়ৰ কাৰ্যসূচীত উপস্থিত হৈছোহি৷ আমি জামালপুৰৰ ‘চৰ জীৱিকায়ন কৰ্মসূচীৰ’ কাম শেষ কৰি দেশখনৰ ৰাজধানী চহৰ ঢাকালৈ ৰাওনা হ’লো৷ ঢাকাত আমাৰ পৃষ্ঠপোষক প্ৰতিষ্টান Eco Social Development Organization–এ বিশ্ব খাদ্য কৰ্মসূচীৰ সহযোগত চৰকাৰী বিদ্যালয়ত School Feeding আঁচনি বাস্তবায়িত কৰি আছে৷ আমি সেয়া অধ্যয়ন কৰি প্ৰতিবেদন যুগুত কৰিব লাগে৷ School Feeding আঁচনিৰ আমাৰ চৰকাৰী বিদ্যালয়সমূহৰ Mid Day Meal আঁচনিৰ সৈতে বহু পৰিমাণে সমঞ্জস্য আছে যদিও কিছু মৌলিক পাৰ্থক্যও আছে৷ এই আঁচনি আমাৰ Mid Day Meal আঁচনিৰ দৰে সাৰ্বজনীন নহয়; বৰঞ্চ দৰিদ্ৰ এলেকাসমূহ যেনে— চহৰৰ বস্তি এলেকা তথা মঙ্গাপীড়িত গ্ৰামীণ এলেকাতহে বাস্তবায়িত কৰা হৈ আছে৷ আনহাতে, আমাৰ বিদ্যালয়ত খিচাৰি খুওৱাৰ নামত শৈক্ষিক পৰিৱেশ বিনষ্ট কৰাৰ লগতে সীমাহীন দূৰ্নীতিৰ যি বজাৰ খুলি ৰাখিছে বাংলাদেশে তাক ৰোধ কৰাৰ বাবেই হয়তো খিচাৰিৰ পৰিবৰ্তে পুষ্টিকাৰক বিস্কুট বিতৰণ কৰাৰ ব্যৱস্থা কৰিছে৷

আমি ঢাকা ভ্ৰমণ কৰাৰ বাবে আটায়ে প্ৰায় উদগ্ৰীৱ হৈ আছিলোঁ৷ মোৰ বাংলাদেশী ফেচবুক-বন্ধু এস এম মাসৰুল হাসানে লণ্ডনৰ পৰা কেইবাবাৰো ফোন কৰি তেওঁলোকৰ ঢাকাৰ বাসগৃহলৈ নিমন্ত্ৰণ কৰিলে৷ মাসৰুলে ভাৰতৰ পৰা আইনৰ ডিগ্ৰী অৰ্জন কৰি বৰ্তমান লণ্ডনত আইনৰ স্নাতকোত্তৰ ডিগ্ৰী গ্ৰহন কৰি আছে৷ তাৰ ককায়েকেও ফোন কৰি যাৱতীয় ঠিকনা, কোন গাড়ীত যাব লাগিব, ক’ত নামিব লাগিব আদি আতিগুৰি বুজাই দিলে৷ ইপিনে, জিয়া খান নামৰ বয়োজ্যৈষ্ঠ ব্যক্তি এজনেও ঢাকাৰ বনানীত থকা তেওঁৰ ঘৰত এসাজ খাবলৈ আমাৰ আটাইকে নিমন্ত্ৰণ কৰিছিল৷ জিয়া খানৰ জন্মস্থান অসমৰ কৰিমগঞ্জত৷ কলেজীয়া শিক্ষা কৰিমগঞ্জৰ পৰা গ্ৰহণ কৰি গুৱাহাটী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ৰ পৰা ১৯৬৭ চনত অৰ্থনীতিৰ স্নাতকোত্তৰ ডিগ্ৰী অৰ্জন কৰে৷ কালৰ সোঁতত পৰি তেওঁ বাংলাদশেৰ বাসিন্দা হ’লেওঁ আজিও অসমৰ সৈতে তেওঁৰ এক বিশেষ আন্তৰিক সম্পৰ্ক আছে৷

মোৰ সহকৰ্মীসকল মোতকৈ এদিন আগতে গৈ ঢাকা পাইছিল৷ অক্টোবৰ মাহৰ শেষৰ দিনটোত মই ইএচডিঅ’ৰ ঢাকাস্থিত কৰ্প’ৰেট কাৰ্যালয়ত উপস্থিত হৈছিলো৷ মোৰ দুই পুৰুষ সহকৰ্মীক কাৰ্যালয়ৰ অতিথিশালাত থকাৰ বন্ধোবস্ত কৰাৰ বিপৰিতে মহিলা সহকৰ্মীৰ বাবে ইএচডিঅ’ৰ জ্যেষ্ঠ বিষয়া এজনৰ ঘৰত কৰা হৈছিল৷ মোৰ থকাৰ বন্ধোবস্ত মই নিজে কৰি লৈছিলো৷ ঢাকাৰ সংলগ্ন গাজীপুৰ জিলাৰ যিটো পৰিয়ালে মোক আলহী কৰি মাতি নিছিল, তেওঁলোকৰ আমাৰ অসমৰ বৰপেটা জিলাৰ লগত এক বিশেষ সম্পৰ্ক আছে৷ সম্পৰ্ক মানে বিচ্ছেদৰ এক জলন্ত কাহিনী৷ এই ধাৰাবাহিকৰ শেষৰ পৰ্যায়ত সেই কাহিনী পাঠকৰ আগত দাঙি ধৰাৰ চেষ্টা কৰিম৷

মই নিতৌ পুৱা সাত বজাত গাজীপুৰৰ পৰা ঢাকাৰ আদাবৰ নামৰ ঠাইত থকা ইএচডিঅ’ৰ কাৰ্যালয়লৈ অহাযোৱা কৰো৷ প্ৰায় পঞ্চাশ কিলোমিটাৰ বাট, বাছত সময় প্ৰায় ডেৰ ঘন্টা লাগি যায়৷ গাজীপুৰৰ বাছ আস্থানত অলপ দেৰি অপেক্ষা কৰি হ’লেওঁ মই দুমহলীয়া বাছৰ ওপৰ মহলাত বহো৷ কোনোবাদিন বাঁও কাষৰ আসনত আৰু কোনোবাদিন সোঁকাষৰ৷ ৰাস্তাৰ দুয়োপাৰে থকা মানুহৰ ঘৰ, কাৰখানা— মূলতঃ কাপোৰৰ কাৰখানা, বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় তথা শিক্ষা প্ৰতিষ্ঠানসমূহ মোৰ আকৰ্ষণৰ বিষয়৷ গাজীপুৰ আৰু ঢাকাৰ মাজ বাটত টুঙ্গী নামৰ এটি মফচলীয়া চহৰ৷ টুঙ্গী মোৰ বাবে এটা চিনাকী নাম৷ টুঙ্গীত অনুষ্ঠিত বিশ্ব ইস্তেমাত অসম তথা উত্তৰ-পূৰ্বাঞ্চলৰ বহু ইছলাম ধৰ্মাৱলম্বী লোক অংশগ্ৰহণ কৰে৷ আমাৰ গাঁৱৰ পৰাও বহু লোকে এই অনুষ্ঠানত অংশগ্ৰহণ কৰা মোৰ মনত পৰে৷

পিছে মোৰ আকৰ্ষণৰ কেন্দ্ৰবিন্দু আছিল ঢাকাৰ বিখ্যাত ‘শ্বাহবাগ স্কোৱাৰ’— যাক ‘প্ৰজন্ম চত্বৰ’ বা প্ৰজন্ম চোতাল বুলিও কোৱা হয়৷ ঢাকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় চৌহদৰ নাতি দূৰৈত থকা শ্বাহবাগ স্কোৱাৰ বাঙালী জাতীয়তাবাদৰ প্ৰাণকেন্দ্ৰস্বৰূপ৷ ২০১৩ চনত ইজিপ্তৰ ‘তাহৰিৰ স্কোৱাৰ’ অভ্যুত্থানৰ সমসাময়িক কালত বাংলাদেশত ধৰ্ম নিৰপেক্ষ বাঙালী জাতীয়তাবাদী চিন্তা তথা আদৰ্শেৰে উদ্ভুদ্ধ গণজাগৰণ মঞ্চ নামৰ সংগঠনৰ আহ্বানত এক ঐতিহাসিক গণ আন্দোলন গঢ়ি উঠে৷ বাংলাদেশৰ স্বাধীনতা আন্দোলনৰ সময়ত পাকিস্তানী সৈন্য-বাহিনীৰ হৈ কাম কৰা ৰাজাকাৰ, আল-বদৰ আদি সংগঠনৰ নেতা-কৰ্মীক যুদ্ধ অপৰাধৰ অভিযোগত বিচাৰৰ কাঠগড়াত অনাৰ বাবে এই গণ আন্দোলনৰ সূচনা হৈছিল৷ ২০১৩ চনৰ ছয় ফেব্ৰুৱাৰীত আৰম্ভ হোৱা এই আন্দোলনত খুব কম দিনৰ ভিতৰতে লোকে লোকাৰণ্য হৈ পৰিছিল প্ৰজন্ম চত্বৰ৷ বিপ্লৱী গীত-মাত, কবিতা, শ্লোগানেৰ দীৰ্ঘদিন মুখৰিত হৈ আছিল ঢাকাৰ মাজমজিয়াৰ এই এলেকা৷ বাংলাদেশৰ ধৰ্মনিৰপেক্ষতাক পুনৰোদ্ধাৰ কৰাৰ লগতে যুদ্ধাপৰাধীক ফাঁচীৰ দাবীত শ্বাহবাগ স্কোৱাৰৰ পৰা গোটেই বাংলাদেশত এই আন্দোলন বনজুইৰ দৰে বিয়পি পৰিছিল৷ গোটেই বিশ্বৰ সংবাদ মাধ্যম তথা সমাজ বিজ্ঞানীৰ দৃষ্টি নিবদ্ধ হৈ আছিল ঢাকাৰ শ্বাহবাগ স্কোৱাৰত৷ সম্পূৰ্ণ অহিংসা এই আন্দোলনে সংবাদ মাধ্যমৰ আলোচনা আৰু সমালোচনা দুয়োটাই লাভ কৰিছিল৷ আন্দোলনৰ পন্থা যদিও অংহিসা আছিল তথাপি যুদ্ধাপৰাধীৰ ফাঁচীৰ দাবীক বিভিন্নজনে ‘ৰক্ত পিপাসু’ অহিংস আন্দোলন বুলি সমালোচনা কৰিছিল৷ কোনো কোনোজনে এই আন্দোলনক ‘আৱামী লীগ’ৰ ৰাজনৈতিক ছত্ৰছায়াত গঢ়ি উঠা আন্দোলন বুলিও মতামত আগবঢ়াইছিল৷ কিন্তু শ্বাহবাগ আন্দোলনে ইতিমধ্যে নিজৰ ৰাজনৈতিক নিৰপেক্ষতা জনমানসত প্ৰতিপন্ন কৰিবলৈ সক্ষম হৈছিল৷
সেয়া আছিল ২০১৪ চনৰ নবেম্ভৰ মাহৰ ৩ তাৰিখ৷ আগ দিনাখন জামাত নেতা তথা যুদ্ধ অপৰাধৰ অভিযোগত অভিযোক্ত মীৰ কাছিমক বাংলাদেশৰ আান্তৰ্জাতিক অপৰাধ ট্ৰাইব্যুনাল এ মৃত্যুদন্ডৰ ৰায় দিছিল আৰু আন এজন জামাত নেতা কামৰুজ্জামানৰ মৃত্যুদন্ডৰ আপিল শুনানী আছিল দেশখনৰ সৰ্বউচ্চ আদালতত৷
Protesters Shouting Slogan

যথাৰীতি, জামাত শিবিৰে ইয়াৰ প্ৰতিবাদত দেশব্যাপী হৰতালৰ আহ্বান কৰিছিল৷ হয়তো বাংলাদেশৰ জনসাধাৰণ এই বন্ধ তথা হৰতালত ইতিমধ্যে অতিষ্ঠ হৈ পৰিছে৷ ৰাস্তাত গাড়ী মটাৰ ঠিকে চলি আছিল ৷ মনত কিছু শংকা থাকিলেও শ্বাহবাগ স্কোৱাৰ লৈ যাম বুলি ঠিৰাং কৰিছিলোঁ৷ শ্বাহবাগ স্কোৱাৰ ভ্ৰমন কৰাৰ বাবে এইটো আটাইতকৈ ভাল সময় হ’ব বুলি মনতে ভাবিলো৷ কথা মতেই গাজীপুৰGraffiti on T Shirtৰ পৰা যাত্ৰা আৰম্ভ কৰিলো৷ ঢাকাৰ বনানি পাওঁমানে আমাৰ দুমহলীয়া বাছ বিৰাট যান জটত আৱদ্ধ হৈ পৰিল৷ অলপ পলম কৈ হ’লেও, মই গৈ শ্বাহবাগ স্কোৱাৰত উপস্থিত হ’লো ৷ আহল-বহল চাৰিআলিৰ ডাঙৰ এখন চোতালহেন ঠাই৷ চৌদিশে ডাঙৰ ডাঙৰ অট্টালিকা, এদল যুৱক-যুৱতী হাতত প্লেকাৰ্ড, ফেষ্টুন আদি লৈ কামৰুজ্জামানৰ ফাচী ৰায় বাহাল ৰখা, মীৰ কাছিমৰ ফাচীৰ ৰায় কাৰ্যকৰী কৰা, জামাত শিবিৰ নিষিদ্ধ কৰা আদি দাবীৰে আকাশ বতাহ কপাই ৰাখিছে৷ ৰাস্তাৰ কাষত কোনোবা এদল প্ৰতিবাদকাৰীয়ে আকৌ বিপ্লৱী গীত পৰিৱেশন কৰিছে, কোনোবা এজনে উত্তেজিত ভাষন দিছে বা আন কিছুমানে সংবাদ মাধ্যমৰ আগত তেওঁলোকৰ দাবী সযোৰে উত্থাপন কৰিছে৷ প্ৰথম দৃষ্টিত এক বিশৃঙ্খল পৰিৱেশ যেন লাগিলেও আচলতে, এয়া এক সুপৰিকল্পিত আয়েজনহে ৷ হয়তো এইবোৰ চৰিত্ৰৰ বাবেই এই আন্দোলনক ‘ৰক্ত পিপাসু’ অহিংস আন্দোলন বুলি সমালোচনা কৰা হৈছিল ৷

কিন্তু এই কথা উল্লেখনীয় যে, বাংলাদেশৰ স্বাধীনতা আন্দোলনত পাকিস্তানৰ ভুমিকা আছিল কল্পনাতীত ভাৱে ভয়ংকৰ আৰু মানৱ ইতিহাসৰ এক অন্যতম ক’লা অধ্যায়৷ ৯ মহীয়া বাংলাদেশৰ স্বাধীনতা আন্দোলত আনুমানিক ৩০ লাখ বঙালীক নিৰ্মমভাৱে হত্যা কৰা হৈছিল, ২৫ হেজাৰ বঙালী নাৰীয়ে পাকিস্তানী সেনা বাহিনী তথা পাকিস্তানৰ মদদ পুষ্ট ৰাজাকৰ, আল বদৰ আদি সংগঠনৰ সদস্যৰ কামনাৰ বলি হৈ অবৈধ মাতৃত্বৰ বোজা বহন কৰিব লগা হৈছিল!

বাংলাদেশ স্বাধীন হোৱাৰ চাৰি দশকৰ পিছত, শ্বাহবাগ আন্দোলনে সেই অগণন নৰ-নাৰীক ন্যায় প্ৰদান কৰাৰ বাবে চৰকাৰক বাধ্য কৰাব পৰাটো ইতিহাসত কেৱল এক বিৰল ঘটনাই নহয় আমাৰ দৰে অসমীয়াৰ বাবে অনুপ্ৰেৰণাৰ উৎসও ৷ বাংলাদেশৰ স্বাধীনতা আন্দোলনত আটাইতকৈ বেছি ক্ষতিগ্ৰস্থ হৈছিল হিন্দু সম্প্ৰদায়ৰ লোক, ইমান বছৰ পিছত বাংলাদেশৰ ধৰ্ম নিৰপেক্ষ জনসাধাৰণে নিৰ্যাতিত, নীড়িপিত সংখ্যালঘু হিন্দুক ন্যায় প্ৰদান কৰাৰ বাবে যৎপৰোনাস্তি চেষ্টা চলাই আছে আৰু বহু পৰিমানে সফলো হৈছে৷ আনহাতে, অসমৰ ছবৰীয়া অসম আন্দোলনৰ সময়ত উগ্ৰজাতীয়তাবাদীৰ হাতত প্ৰাণ আহুতি দিয়া অসমৰ হাজাৰ হাজাৰ সংখ্যালঘু মুছলমান আজিও ন্যায় নাপালে, এনেকি পাব বুলিও আশা কৰিব পৰাটোও আজিৰ তাৰিখত অলীক কল্পনা৷ কিন্তু পৃথিৱীৰ সৰ্ববৃহৎ গনতান্ত্ৰিক দেশৰ নাগৰিক হৈ যিসময়ত ন্যায় আমাৰ বাবে অলীক কল্পনা; সেই সময়ত বাংলাদেশৰ ধৰ্মনিৰপেক্ষ জনসাধাৰণে সেই সপোন বাস্তৱায়িত কৰিবলৈ সক্ষম হৈছে ৷

অসমৰ ধৰ্মনিৰপেক্ষ যুৱ সমাজে, হত্যা, হিংসা, সাম্প্ৰদায়িকতা, উগ্ৰ জাতীয়তাবাদৰ বিৰোদ্ধে আন এক শ্বাহবাগ আন্দোলন কৰিবলৈ সক্ষম হ’ব নে?

NRC Updation and recent Political Development in Assam

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I am following the ongoing NRC (National Register of Citizen) updation process not only because of its long term political implications in the state; but also, it is emotionally very close to me. On July 21, 2010 my nephew Mydul Mullah (25) was one among the lakhs of marginalized Muslims of Barpeta district who were demonstrating in front of Deputy Commissioner’s office at district headquarter demanding error free fresh NRC. Eventually, police brutally cracked down on the picketers, police fired upon the democratically demonstrating people without any provocation. Mydul Mullah along with his three comrades Khandakar Matleb (20), Siraj Ali (27) and Majam Ali (55) were killed in police firing. Tarun Gogoi government was forced to suspend the faulty NRC pilot project due unprecedented public outrage.

The illegal migration issue has been one of the most significant topics in the political atmosphere of Assam since 30s of last century. Six years long Assam Movement was claimed to be a secular, nonviolent new social movement to drive out the illegal foreigners. But the analysis of scholars and social scientist reveal that as soon as the Assam movement accommodated right wing RSS workers into its leadership, the whole movement turned against the Bengal origin Muslims of the state. Most brutal massacres like Nellie, Chaolkhuwa, Nagabandha etc were put into action, in broad day light thousands of people were killed. After six years of deadlock, the movement culminated through signing off ‘Assam Accord’ in 1985. The accord says that the immigrants, who came to Assam after 25th of March, 1971 will be detected and deported from Assam. Updating the 1951 National Register of Citizen was one of the mandates of the accord to identify the so called large scale migrants in Assam. Subsequent political history is known to every once, the agitators took over the state power. Newly formed Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) ruled the state for 10 long years but couldn’t identify large scale Bangladeshi, they miserably failed to implement the accord.

After nearly three decades, now the NRC updation process is progressing under direct supervision of honorable Supreme Court of India. The community which is being branded as illegal Bangladeshi cordially welcomed the process. It is really a matter of delight that most of the civil society organizations and community leaders belonging to Bengal origin Muslims are wholeheartedly working to make the NRC the updation process successful. Many of them are working day and night to create awareness among the masses. The community leaders are organizing hundreds of meetings and workshops to educate people about the nuances of NRC updation process even without any support from the government. It seems that the community which has been always branded as illegal Bangladeshi immigrant has pledged to end the shame for once and all at any cost.

But the self proclaimed custodians of Assamese nationalism, who were suffering from so called identity crisis, soon realized that the NRC updation will eventually dry up the prospects of being professional protester. Some of the organization already approached the apex court demanding amendment of Citizenship Act and to stop the ongoing NRC updation process. On the other hand the both print and electronic media have started propagating against the process. On every other day they are publishing opinion and editorials questioning the NRC updation process. The leading English newspaper of Assam ‘The Assam Tribune’ published an article “The migration imbroglio and NE” which directly propagates that the ongoing NRC updation will legitimize the illegal Bangaldeshi as Indian nationals! Veteran journalist Dhirendra Nath Chakravarty, a known right wing admirer, said that Bengal origin Muslims can be Indian but not Assamese. He didn’t even hesitate to suggest seceding of certain Muslim dominated area from Assam. Though historically, Bengal origin Muslims have officially adopted Assamese as their mother tongue way back in 1951 and have been working to promote and preserve Assamese language since 19th century. During language movement and medium movement in Assam, the community fought for Assamese language and succeeded. Without their support, Assamese language would have been a language of minority in Assam.

Secondly, right wing groups continued their effort to polarize the Assamese society in religious line to halt the NRC updation process. Communal hate mongers like Prabin Togaria and Subramanian Swami started spreading venom in Assam. Swami in his consecutive two visits to Assam gave controversial statements which are enough to incite communal tension. Once he asked the Bangladeshi Muslims to accept Hinduism if they want to stay in Assam and on another occasion he suggested to destroy the mosque. But Assamese society outrageously rejected those statements.

When these attempts miserably failed to serve their purpose, they find out another way to create a political storm in the state which is going to poll next year. They found speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly Mr. Pranab Gogoi as messiah of indigenous Assamese people who are facing so called threat of being minority in their own state. It is worthy to mention here that in one of my earlier article I have mentioned his perception about the Muslims of Assam as well as his respect towards democratic values and ethics. When a group of MLAs from main opposition party asked the government to clear its stand on the issues of rehabilitating thousands of conflict induced internally displaced persons of lower Assam, who are living in relief camps for more than two decades, Mr. Gogoi compared the legislators with crow and expelled them from the house. This time also, violating the parliamentary norms he initiated a discussion at his individual capacity with the civil society groups of the state to come up with a definition of ‘Assamese’.

The question arises, why the definition of Assamese is required when NRC updation process is undergoing under direct supervision of honorable Supreme Court of India? The clause six of Assam Accord talks of providing constitutional safeguard to the Assamese people. This is a known fact that Assam as a state has been deprived by the central government throughout the post colonial history. The natural resources of the state have been harshly exploited by the central government. The development data says that in post colonial era Assam is on downward spiral. Hence, Assamese people need extra attention and constitutional safeguard. This safeguard or positive discrimination described in the accord is obviously meant for the Assamese people not for the outsiders for foreigners. And the accord also says that the person, who immigrated to Assam after 25th March, 1971 will be detected and deported. It is important to clarify here that the accord didn’t talk about providing constitutional safeguard to ‘indigenous Assamese people’ but to ‘Assamese people’, which includes all the communities irrespective of caste, creed, language or origin except those who entered the state illegally after 25th of March, 1971. As per the provisions of the accord honorable Supreme Court of India has given directive to the state government to prepare the modalities to update the NRC. It is now clear that this orchestrated debate over definition of Assamese is an attempt to nullify the importance of a fresh updated NRC to solve the long standing illegal migrant issue of Assam. This is also an attempt to vilify the Assam accord which is the result of six years long agitation and at the cost of thousands of innocent lives including the victims of infamous Nellie massacre.

We will conclude our discussion by analyzing the definition provided by speaker Pranab Gogoi and its political implications. Mr. Gogoi said in his report that he has held discussion with civil society organizations including CSOs belong to Bengal origin Muslim community. He defined indigenous Assamese people by taking 1951 as the base year. However, his definition goes against the basic tenets of Assam Accord, as the accord didn’t incorporated the term ‘indigenous’ while prescribing constitutional safeguard for the Assamese People. Secondly, Mr. Gogoi couldn’t address the questions raised by many organizations which strongly oppose his divisive definition of ‘Assamese’. There are some practical problems with this definition – i) Assam government has informed the assembly on record that the 1951 NRC is not available for all the districts of Assam, some of the districts have partially. Census report says that in 1951 census many areas were not included in the census due to poor transportation and connectivity. Moreover, it is almost impossible to retrieve any other supporting documents like school certificate, land records, employment etc considering the socio-economic conditions of that era. ii) As per government record 53000 Muslim families fled to the than East Pakistan in 1950 due to communal violence in Assam, out of which 41000 came back under Nehru-Liyaqat pact. Naturally, those families are not figured in 1951 NRC as well as 1951 census. Hence, speaker Pranab Gogoi’s definition is impractical ab initio.

The pick moment of this orchestrated drama was very interesting to follow. Mr. Gogoi read his report before the house in the state assembly and intended to submit it to the government officially and asked the government to implement his definition to provide constitutional safeguard. The ruling Congress party rejected his definition and the government refused to receive the report at his official capacity, as it doesn’t come under the ambit of speaker’s role, whereas BJP MLAs supported the speaker. Later on Mr. Gogoi submitted the report to the government on his individual capacity. The analysts read the development as a golden opportunity for the speaker to get closure to BJP as he has developed a bad blood with the chief minister Tarun Gogoi as well as other members of the cabinet. One of the minister openly said before the media that a section with vested interest has already started pressurizing the government to halt the NRC updation process.

This time Bengal origin Muslims are really working hard to get rid of the menace called illegal Bangladeshi immigrant. On the other hand, those individuals and organizations which have been shouting for decades demanding NRC updation are now opposing it.  However, role of the state government is also not beyond doubt. Why it didn’t take step to stop this divisive project by speaker? Why chief minister Tarun Gogoi is not taking action against him? Meanwhile, Supreme Court of India has slammed the state government for submitting poor affidavit on the progress of NRC updation work.

চৰ : ৰেডক্লিফ ৰেখাৰ ইপাৰে আৰু সিপাৰে

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যোৱা দুটা সংখ্যাত প্ৰব্ৰজন তথা ৰাজনৈতিক পৰ্যালোচনা কৰাৰ পিছত এইবাৰ আমি বাংলাদেশৰ সামাজিক তথা মানৱ-উন্নয়ন বিষয়ক দিশসমূহ আলোচনা কৰাৰ চেষ্টা কৰিম৷ প্ৰথম আলোচনাতে আমি উল্লেখ কৰিছিলো যে, আমাৰ বাংলাদেশ ভ্ৰমণৰ এটা অন্যতম মূল উদ্দেশ্য আছিল দেশখনে সমাজিক তথা মানৱ-উন্নয়নত যি যুগান্তকাৰী সফলতা লাভ কৰিছে তাৰ বিস্তাৰিত অধ্যয়ন কৰা৷ আমাৰ হোষ্ট সংস্থা ইক’ চোচিয়েল ডেভেলপমেন্ট অৰ্গেনাইজেশ্বন বাংলাদেশে আমাৰ এই উদ্দেশ্য সফলকামত কৰাত চেষ্টাৰ ত্ৰুটি কৰা নাছিল৷ চৰ বুলি ক’লে আমি অসমীয়া হিচাপে যি প্ৰতিচ্ছবি আমাৰ চকুৰ আগত চিত্ৰায়িত হয়, বাংলাদেশত ঠিক একে ছবি আমি দেখা নাপালো৷ বাংলাদেশ ভ্ৰমনৰ প্ৰায় ৮ মাহ আগতে ধুবুৰী জিলাৰ বাংলাদেশ সীমান্ত সংলগ্ন কিছু চৰ আমি ভ্ৰমন কৰিছিলোঁ৷ আমাৰ লগত আছিল বিশ্বৰ আগশাৰীৰ সংবাদ পত্ৰ দ্যা নিউয়ৰ্ক টাইমছৰ ‘ইন্ডিয়া ইঙ্ক’ৰ সম্পাদক বাশ্বাৰাত পীৰ৷ আমাৰ চৰজমিন অধ্যয়নত  দেখা পোৱা হৃদয় বিদাৰক  প্ৰতিচ্ছবিয়ে আমাক হতাশ কৰিছিল৷ শিক্ষা, স্বাস্থ্য, যাতায়ত ব্যৱস্থা, নাৰী সাৱলীকৰণ ইত্যাদিৰ বাবে যেন চৰৰ পৰিবেশ তথা পৰিস্তিতি কোনোটোৱে অনুকুল নহয়৷ কিন্তু ধুবুৰীৰ পৰা মাত্ৰ এক-ডেৰ শ কিলোমিটাৰ দূৰৈৰ বাংলাদেশৰ চৰাঞ্চল ভ্ৰমন কৰি আমাৰ সম্পূৰ্ণ এক বিপৰীত অভিজ্ঞতা হৈছিল৷ এই আলোচনাত এইবোৰ কথাকে বিষদভাৱে আলোচনা কৰিবলৈ যত্ন কৰিম৷ প্ৰথমতে লালমনিড়হাট জিলাৰ হাতিবান্ধা উপ-জিলাৰ পশ্চিম হালধিবাৰী নামৰ এক প্ৰত্যন্ত চৰৰ কথালৈ আহো ৷ ইক’ চোচিয়েল ডেভেলপমেন্ট অৰ্গেনাইজেশ্বনৰ জেষ্ঠ প্ৰকল্প বিষয়া আব্দুল মান্নান চাহাবৰ নেতৃত্বত আমি ৰাতিপুৱাতেই পশ্চিম হালধিবাৰীলৈ ৰাওনা হ’লো৷ পাটিকাপাড়া ইউনিয়ন পৰিষদৰ নয়াৰহাটত থকা কাৰ্য্যালয় চৌহদত আমাৰ দুচকীয়া বাহনসমূহ ৰাখি আমি পদযাত্ৰা আৰম্ভ কৰিলোঁ৷ তিনি কিলোমিটাৰ বাট বালিচৰত খোজকাৰি তিস্তা নদীৰ পাৰঘাট পাৰ হ’ব লাগিব৷ তিস্তাৰ পানী শুকাবলৈ আৰম্ভ কৰিছে৷ আব্দুল মান্নান অভিযোগ মানি ল’লে পশ্চিমবংগৰ মমতা দিদিৰ চৰকাৰে প্ৰয়োজনতকৈ বহু কম পৰিমাণৰ পানীহে এৰি দি আছে৷ বাৰিষাত তিস্তাৰ পানীয়ে কিন্তু আজিও সজোৰে তৰ্জন-গৰ্জন কৰি তান্ডৱ চলাবলৈ নেৰে৷ আমি বালি চৰৰ মাজেৰে খোজকাড়ি গৈ থাকিলো৷ কহুৱাবন, গুল্মজাতীয় ঝাওবন, কৰবাত আকৌ উদ্ভাস্তু একো একোজোপা মেটেকা বালি মাটি খামুচি পৰি আছে৷ আমাৰ কেৰেলাৰ সহকৰ্মীয়ে মেটেকা ফুলৰ প্ৰতিচ্ছবি কেমেৰাত বন্ধি কৰিলে৷ সকলোতকৈ চকুতলগা দৃশ্য আছিল, সু-বিস্তাৰিত শংকৰ প্ৰজাতিৰ ধাননী৷ অসমৰ চৰত কাহানিও সেই প্ৰজাতিৰ ধান আমি দেখা মনত নপৰিল৷ কিছু নিলগত ট্ৰেক্টৰ লগাই চৰৰ মাটি চহাই থকা দেখা পাই আব্দুল মান্নান চাহাবক সুধিলোঁ “এতিয়া কিহৰ বতৰ? কি লগাব?” থাইলেন্ডৰ পৰা আমদানিকৃত মাকৈৰ সংকৰ প্ৰজাতিৰ বিজ ৰোপন কৰিব৷ প্ৰতিকুল পৰিস্তিতিতো ভাল ফলন হয়৷ কিন্তু যি সময়ত গোটেই বিশ্বই Sustainable Development ৰ ওপৰত সঘন আলোচনা কৰি আছে সেই সময়ত শংকৰ প্ৰজাতিৰ বিজ আৰু ৰাসায়নিক সাৰ প্ৰয়োগ কিমান সমীচিন সেয়া কোৱা মুস্কিল; কিন্তু বাংলাদেশৰ দৰে দেশ এখনে দৰিদ্ৰতা দূৰিকৰণৰ বাবে হয়তো ইয়াৰ প্ৰয়োগৰ বিকল্পও নাই৷ তিস্তা পাৰ হৈ, পাৰে পাৰে আৰু প্ৰায় দুই কিলোমিটাৰ খোজকাৰি গৈ পশ্চিম হালধিবাৰীত উপস্থিত হ’লো৷ প্ৰায় পাচশ পৰিয়ালৰ বাসস্থান এই অস্থায়ী ভু-খন্ড৷ আমাক ইএচডিও আৰু প্লান বাংলাদেশৰ সংহত সামাজিক উন্নয়ন প্ৰকল্পৰ কাৰ্য্যালয়ত বহিব দিলে৷ আটক ধুনীয়া আচবাব পত্ৰ, সৌৰশক্তি চালিত পাঙ্খা তথা অন্নান্য বিদ্যুতচালিত সা-সৰঞ্জামৰে সেয়া চহৰাঞ্চলৰ কোনোবা আধুনিক কাৰ্য্যালয়তকৈ কোনো গুনে কম নহয়৷ কাৰ্য্যালয়ৰ বিষয়াবৰ্গৰ লগত পৰিচয় হৈ প্ৰকল্পৰ মূল বিষয়সমূহ বুজি লোৱাৰ চেষ্টা কৰিলোঁ ৷ দিনটোৰ কাৰ্য্যসূচী মতে আমি ঠিক বাৰ বজাত পশ্চিম হালধিবাৰী প্ৰাথমিক বিদ্যায়লত উপস্থিত হ’লো৷ বিদ্যালয়ৰ প্ৰধান শিক্ষক শ্বামিম কবিৰ পাটোৱাৰীয়ে আমাক উষ্ম আদৰণি  জনালে৷ বিদ্যালয় পৰিচালনা সমিতিৰ বিষয়ববীয়া সকলো উপস্থিত হ’ল৷ পৰিচয় পৰ্ব শেষ কৰিয়ে আমি মূল কথা লৈ আহিলো৷ বিদ্যালয় পৰিচালনা সমিতিয়ে তেওঁলোকৰ কাৰ্যবিৱৰনী আমাৰ আগত বৰ্ণনা কৰি গ’ল৷ প্ৰত্যন্ত চৰৰ অশিক্ষিত নাম বা মাত্ৰ শিক্ষাৰে শিক্ষিত অবিভাৱক সকলৰ শিক্ষাৰ প্ৰতি থকা আগ্ৰহ আৰু গাম্ভীৰ্যতা প্ৰত্যক্ষ্য কৰি আমি আচৰিত হ’লো৷ বছৰৰ আৰম্ভনিতে পৰিচালনা সমিতিয়ে বছৰটোৰ বাবে বিদ্যালয়ৰ লক্ষ নিৰ্ধাৰন কৰে আৰু আৰু গোটেই বছৰ সেই আাকাংক্ষিত লক্ষত উপনীত হ’বলৈ কাম কৰি যায়৷ প্ৰধান শিক্ষকৰ কাৰ্য্যালয়ৰ দেয়ালত আৰি থোৱা তেনে এটি ‘লক্ষ’ই আমাৰ দৃষ্টি আকৰ্ষন কৰিলে “অঞ্চলৰ এশ শতাংশ শিশু ভৰ্তি হ’ব আৰু পঞ্চম শ্ৰেণীলৈকে সকলো শিক্ষাৰ্থী শ্ৰেণীভিত্তিক নিৰ্ধাৰিত যোগ্যতা অৰ্জন কৰি পৰৱৰ্তী শ্ৰেণীলৈ উত্তীৰ্ণ হ’ব৷” কেৱল লক্ষ নিৰ্ধাৰনেই নহয়, মাহেকিয়া অগ্ৰগতিৰ ক্ষতিয়ানো দেয়ালত আৰি থোৱা আছে৷ প্ৰধান শিক্ষকসহ পৰিচালনা সমিতিৰ বিষয়-ববীয়াসকলে আমাক শ্ৰেনীকোঠা পৰিদৰ্শন কৰিবলৈ লৈ গ’ল৷ তিনি শতাধিক ছাত্ৰ-ছাত্ৰীৰে ঠাহ খাই থকা বিদ্যায়লয়ৰ প্ৰতেকটো শ্ৰেনীকোঠাত পূৰ্ণ গতিত পাঠদান চলি আছিল৷ প্ৰত্যন্ত চৰৰ প্ৰাথমিক বিদ্যালয়ত ছাত্ৰ-ছাত্ৰীৰ চকুত লগা উপস্থিতিৰ আৰত কেৱল পৰিচালনা সমিতিৰ এশ শতাংশ নাম ভৰ্তিৰ বছৰেকীয়া ‘লক্ষ’ই একমাত্ৰ কাৰণ নাছিল৷ পশ্চিম হালধিবাৰী চৰৰ লগতে বাংলাদেশৰ বিভিন্ন পিছপৰা অঞ্চলৰ ছাত্ৰ-ছাত্ৰীৰ বাবে বাংলাদেশ চৰকাৰে সাৰ্বজনীন বৃত্তিৰ ব্যৱস্থা কৰিছে৷ বিভিন্ন এনজিও তথা সামাজিক প্ৰতিষ্ঠানে বিদ্যালয় বহি:ভুত শিশুৰ সংখ্যা হ্ৰাস কৰাৰ বাবে বিশেষ কাৰ্যাৱলী গ্ৰহণ কৰিছে৷ আমাৰ হোষ্ট সংস্থা ইএচডিও ই এই বিদ্যালয়ত দুজনকৈ শিক্ষা সেচ্ছাসেৱক নিয়োগ কৰিছে৷ প্লান ইন্টাৰনেশ্বনেলৰ বাংলাদেশ শাখাই বাৰিষা কালত ছাত্ৰ-ছাত্ৰীৰ যাতায়তৰ বাবে বিশেষ নাওৰ ব্যৱস্থা কৰি দিছে৷ জামালপুৰ জিলাৰ এখন চৰত বিশ্বৰ অন্যতম বৃহত্তম এনজিও ব্যাকৰ ‘শিক্ষাতৰি’ নামৰ এক বিশেষ ভাসমান বিদ্যালয় আমি প্ৰত্যক্ষ কৰিছিলোঁ৷ ২০১৩ চনত দ্যা নিউইয়ৰ্ক টাইমছে বাংলাদেশৰ ‘শ্বিধুলাই স্বনিৰ্ভৰ সংস্থা’ নামৰ এনজিওৰ ভাসমান বিদ্যালয়ৰ প্ৰসংসা কৰি এক বিশেষ প্ৰতিবেদন প্ৰকাশ কৰিছিল৷ প্ৰতিবেদনটোয়ে উল্লেখ কৰিছিল যে, উক্ত এনজিওটোয়ে ২০১৩ চনলৈকে সত্তৰ হেজাৰ ছাত্ৰ-ছাত্ৰীক শিক্ষা প্ৰদান কৰিছে৷ চলিত পাচ বছৰত (২০১৩-২০১৮) সংস্থাটোয়ে আৰু এক লাখ ছাত্ৰ-ছাত্ৰীক শিক্ষা প্ৰদান কৰিবলৈ সক্ষম হ’ব৷ বাংলাদেশৰ চৰাঞ্চলত এনে বহু সমাজিক সংস্থাই শিক্ষাৰ লগতে বিভিন্ন সমাজ উন্নয়নমূলক কাম-কাজেৰে চৰবাসীৰ কষ্ট লাগৱ কৰাৰ বাবে প্ৰচেষ্টা চলাই আছে৷ যিটো আমি ধুবুৰী বা বৰপেটাৰ চৰত দেখা নাপাও৷ ??????????????????????????????? যিকিয়ে নহওক, আমি পশ্চিম হালধিবাৰী প্ৰাথমিক বিদ্যালয়লৈ উভতি আহোঁ৷ চৰত বিদ্যুৎ যোগান নাই বুলি আমি আগতেই উল্লেখ কৰিছো৷ প্ৰতিকুল প্ৰাকৃতিক পৰিস্থিতিৰ বাবে বিদ্যুৎৰ আশাও কৰিব নোৱাৰি৷ কিন্তু চৰৰ বিদ্যালয়ৰ শৌচাগাৰত ফ্লাছ টয়লেট দেখিহে তবৎ মানিবলগীয়া হ’ল৷ উৰ্ধ্বমূখী হেন্ড পাম্পৰ জড়িয়তে পানী টেংকীত জমা ৰখাৰ ব্যৱস্থা কৰিছে৷ যিসময়ত অসমৰ চৰৰ বিদ্যালয় দমকলতো দূৰৰে কথা পায়খানা বিচাৰি পোৱা টান সেই সময়ত বাংলাদেশী চৰৰ বিদ্যালয়ত এই সা-সুবিধা দেখি আচৰিত নহৈ নোৱাৰিলোঁ৷ ছাত্ৰ ছাত্ৰী আৰু শিক্ষক শিক্ষয়িত্ৰীৰ লগতে পৰিচালনা সমিতিৰ সদস্য-সদস্যা সকলৰ সৈতে আমি এক দীৰ্ঘ সময় অতিবাহিত কৰিলোঁ৷ হঠাৎ দেখা পালো প্ৰায় বিছজনীয়া কণ কণ ছাত্ৰ ছাত্ৰীৰ দল এটাই হালধীয়া টি শ্বাৰ্ট পিন্ধি খেলপথাৰৰ এটা চুকত একত্ৰিত হৈ আছে৷ প্ৰধান শিক্ষক পাটোৱাৰী চাহাবে আমাক তালৈকে লৈ গ’ল৷ ইউনিচেফৰ সহযোগত স্থানীয় সংস্থা এটাই বিদ্যালয়ৰ ছাত্ৰ-ছাত্ৰীক নিৰাপদ সাতোৰৰ প্ৰশিক্ষন প্ৰদান কৰি আছে৷ আমাৰ অত্যুৎসাহী সহকৰ্মী নিহাদ, বিজু আৰু মনুজেও ছাত্ৰ ছাত্ৰীৰ লগত জীৱন দক্ষতাৰ প্ৰশিক্ষনৰ ‘ৱাৰ্মআপ ছেশ্বন’ত ভাগ ল’লে৷ বাংলাদেশত গড় হিচাপত প্ৰতিদিনে ৫০ জনকে শিশু পানীত ডুবি মৃত্যুবৰণ কৰে৷ অসমৰ চৰতো যে এই হাৰ কোনো গুনে কম নহ’ব সেয়া ধুৰুপ৷ কিন্তু আমাৰ চৰত সাতোৰ প্ৰশিক্ষন বা সচেতনতা বৃদ্ধিৰ বাবে কোনো কাৰ্য্যকৰী ব্যৱস্থা লোৱাৰ খবৰ কেতিয়াবা সুনিছিলো বুলি মনত নপৰে৷ মাতৃ আৰু শিশু স্বাস্থ্য বিষয়ক ইএচডিওৰ এক প্ৰকল্পৰ অধীনত বাংলাদেশৰ এক বৃহৎ এলেকাত ‘মাতৃ সভা’, ‘চোতাল বৈঠক’, ‘উন্নয়নৰ বাবে নাটক’ আদিৰ জড়িয়তে সজাগতা বৃদ্ধিৰ বাবে অহৰহ প্ৰচেষ্টা চলাই থকা হৈছে৷ ??????????????????????????????? মন কৰিবলগীয়া কথাটো হ’ল যে, অসমৰ চৰ আৰু বাংলাদেশৰ চৰৰ মাজত ভূগৌলিক কোনো অমিল নাই, মানুহৰ জীৱন জীৱিকা, সংস্কৃতি আদিৰো কোনো বিশেষ অমিল নাই, এনেকি সমস্যাৰো কোনো পাৰ্থক্য নাই৷ কিন্তু অমিল এটাই – আজি বাংলাদেশৰ চৰ বিশ্বৰ আগশাৰীৰ উন্নয়ন সংস্থাসমূহৰ বাবে গৱেষনাগাৰত পৰিনত হৈছে আৰু আমাৰ চৰ সমূহ দৰিদ্ৰতা, পুষ্টিহীনতা, নিৰক্ষৰতা, কু-সংস্কাৰ আদিৰ যাদুঘৰত পৰিনত হৈছে৷ কিন্তু কিহৰ বাবে? অসমৰ চৰত “চৰ জীৱিকা কৰ্মসূচী’ৰ দৰে প্ৰকল্পৰ উদ্ভাৱন কিয় নহয়? এই জটিল প্ৰশ্নৰ উত্তৰ বিচৰাৰ আগতে বাংলাদেশৰ জামালপুৰ লাভ কৰা আমাৰ অভিজ্ঞতাৰ কথা বৰ্ণনা কৰি লোৱা যাওঁক ৷ ঠাকুৰগাৱৰ পৰা ৰংপুৰ হৈ গাইবান্ধা জিলাৰ ফেৰীঘাটৰ পৰা যন্ত্ৰচালিত নাওঁত ব্ৰহ্মপুত্ৰৰ বুকুৰে আমি জামালপুৰ জিলাৰ দেৱানগঞ্জ উপজিলা লৈ যাত্ৰ কৰিছিলোঁ৷ দেৱানগঞ্জত এসপ্তাহ থাকি ইএচডিও আৰু Char Livelihood Programmeৰ চৰ উন্নয়নমূলক প্ৰকল্পসমূহ অধ্যয়ন কৰাৰ পৰিকল্পনাৰে এই যাত্ৰা৷ সুবিশাল ব্ৰহ্মপুত্ৰৰ (বাংলাদেশত যমুনা নাম লৈছে ) এটি আলোক চিত্ৰ আমি জনপ্ৰিয় ছ’ছিয়েল মেডিয়া ফেচবুকত আপলোড কৰিছিলোঁ৷ আই আই টি গুৱাহাটীৰ গৱেষক বন্ধু এজনে ‘ধুবুৰীৰ দৰে’ বুলি মন্তব্য কৰাত ধুবুৰীৰ পৰা বেছিদুৰ নহয় বুলি আমি জনালোঁ৷ পিছ মুহুৰ্ত্যত তেওঁ আকৌ মন্তব্য কৰিলে – “Enter India then…. just like so-called ‘bangladeshi ghuspaithi’ hahahaha” ৷নিজকে কিছুসময়ৰ বাবে হলধিবাৰী চৰৰ এজন বাসিন্দা হিচাপে কল্পনা কৰি বৰপেটাৰ সুতিৰ চৰলৈ প্ৰব্ৰজিত হোৱাৰ কথা ভাবিলোঁ৷ সঁচাকৈ বাংলাদেশী হত-দৰিদ্ৰ চৰবাসী এজন অসমৰ চৰত গৈ আশ্ৰয় ল’বনে? আমাৰ মনে সদৰ্থক উত্তৰ বিচাৰি নাপালে৷ প্ৰায় তিনি ঘন্টাৰ যাত্ৰাৰ অন্তত দেৱানগঞ্জৰ পাৰঘাটত আমাৰ নাওঁ উপস্থিত হ’ল৷ আমাক আগুবঢ়াই নিয়াৰ বাবে ESDO-CLP প্ৰকল্পৰ কৰ্মীবৃন্ধ আহি পাৰঘাটত ৰৈ আছিল৷ দেৱানগঞ্জ ব্ৰহ্মপুত্ৰৰ চাপৰিৰ এখন সৰু মফছল এলেকা৷ আধুনিক সা-সুবিধা থকা কাৰ্য্যালয়ৰ লগতে থকা আলহী কক্ষত আমাৰ তিনিজনৰ থকাৰ ব্যৱস্থা কৰি দিলে৷ আমাৰ মহিলা সহকৰ্মী ছৈয়দা নিহাদ ফাৰহিনক মহিলা কৰ্মীৰ ভাৰা ঘৰত থাকিব দিলে৷ সন্ধিয়া প্ৰকল্প বিষয়াৰ লগত আলোচনা কৰি পিছদিনা ৰাতিপুৱাৰ পৰাই কামত লাগি যোৱাৰ সিদ্ধান্ত গ্ৰহণ কৰিলোঁ৷ নিহাদৰ বাবে মহিলা কৰ্মীয়ে ইলিচ মাছ আনি ৰাখিছিল৷ পদ্ধাৰ ইলিচৰ লোভে হয়তো তাইক অকলে থাকিবলগীয়া হোৱাৰ বেজাৰ পাহৰাই ৰাখিছিল । পিছদিনাই ৰাতিপুৱাই আমি বাহাদুৰাবাদৰ মদন চৰৰ ‘সাপ্তাহিক সামাজিক উন্নয়ন’ সভাত উপস্থিত হ’লো৷ ESDO-CLP য়ে চৰৰ দৰিদ্ৰতম পৰিয়ালবোৰক সামৰি লৈ এই প্ৰকল্প বাস্তৱায়িত কৰি আছে৷ চিএলপিয়ে বাংলাদেশৰ ছয়খন চৰ অধ্যুষিত জিলাত দৰিদ্ৰতা দুৰিকৰণৰ লগতে সামাজিক উন্নয়নৰ বাবে কাম কৰি আছে৷ প্ৰতেকটো হিতাধিকাৰী পৰিয়ালক দৰিদ্ৰতাৰ পৰা উদ্ধাৰ কৰিবলৈ বিভিন্ন পৰ্যায়ত সহায় আৰু সহযোগ কৰি ১৮ মাহৰ ভিতৰত স্বাৱলম্ভী কৰি তোলাৰ প্ৰয়াস কৰা হয় আৰু চিএলপিয়ে এতিয়ালৈকে এক বিশাল সাফল্য লাভ কৰিবলৈ সক্ষমো হৈছে৷ আমি অংশ গ্ৰহন কৰা সভাত সেই দিনাৰ কাৰ্যসূচীমতে চৰকাৰী বিভাগ সমূহৰ বিষয়ে চৰৰ মহিলা সকলক শিক্ষা দি থকা হৈছিল৷ ৪৫ সপ্তাহৰ বাবে চিএলপিয়ে এক বিশেষ পাঠ্যক্ৰম সৃষ্টি কৰি প্ৰতেক সপ্তাহত চৰবাসীক বিভিন্ন বিষয় যেনে- চৰকাৰৰ বিভিন্ন বিভাগ আৰু নাগৰিক অধিকাৰ, পঞ্চায়ত, শিক্ষা, স্বাস্থ্য, পৰিয়াল পৰিকল্পনা, পশুপালন ইত্যাদিৰ ওপৰত শিক্ষা প্ৰদান কৰা হয়৷ সভাত উপস্থিত থকা মহিলাসকলে আমাক জনালে যে, তেওঁলোকে প্ৰতেকে এই প্ৰকল্পৰ পৰা এটা ঘৰ (প্ৰয়োজন ঘৰৰ ভেটিত মাটি পেলাই ওখ কৰাও হৈছে)), এটা পাঁচলিৰ বাগিচা, এটা অনাময় পায়খানা, এটা পচন সাৰ সৃষ্টি কৰা গাত তথা চালি আৰু এজনী গাই গৰু লাভ কৰিছে৷ গো-পালনৰ বাবে প্ৰথম ১ বছৰ  ৭৫০ টাকা আৰু পৰবৰ্তী ৬ মাহ ৬০০ টাকা মাহেকীয়া ভাট্টাও লাভ কৰি আছে৷ ১৮ মাহৰ ভিতৰত যিকোনো প্ৰকাৰে পৰিয়ালটোক দৰিদ্ৰতাৰ পঙ্কিল-চক্ৰৰ পৰা যিকোনো প্ৰকাৰে উদ্ধাৰ কৰিবই লাগিব৷ সভা শেষ কৰি আমি চৰৰ আৰু কিছু পৰিয়ালক লগ কৰিব গ’লো৷ এঘৰত আমি কথা পাতি থাকোতে এগৰাকী যুৱতীয়ে হাতত ডাঙৰ বহী এখন লৈ কৰবাৰ আহিল৷ আমাৰ লগত থকা ESDO-CLPৰ কৰ্মকৰ্তাজনে পৰিচয় কৰাই দিলে – এষেত “পুষ্টি বাইদেউ”৷ প্ৰকল্প চলি থকা প্ৰতেকটো চৰত একোজনকৈ পুষ্টি কৰ্মীয়ে প্ৰতেকজন চৰবাসীৰ ঘৰে ঘৰে গৈ পুষ্টিহীনতাৰ লক্ষন, কাৰণ আৰু প্ৰতিকাৰৰ বাবে সচেতনতা বৃদ্ধি কৰি আছে৷ গোটেই দিনটো বিভিন্ন এলেকা পৰিদৰ্শন কৰি এনেকুৱা অনুভৱ হ’ল যেন দৰিদ্ৰতা, পুষ্টিহীনতা, নিৰক্ষৰতা, বাল্য বিবাহ এনেকি নিবনুৱা সমস্যাৰ বিৰোদ্ধে এক বিৰাট যুদ্ধহে চলি আছে আৰু যি যুদ্ধ যিকোনো মূল্যৰ বিনিময়ত জয়ী হ’বই লাগিব৷ ??????????????????????????????? পিছদিনা চাৰুমখাৱাৰ মৌলবীৰ চৰলৈ গ’লো৷ তাতো একে পৰিস্থিতি৷ প্ৰত্যন্ত চৰ৷ প্ৰথমতে আমাক এটা বিশেষ প্ৰশিক্ষন শিবিৰলৈ লৈ যোৱা হ’ল৷ নৱবিবাতিত দম্পতিক পৰিয়াল পৰিকল্পনা, নাৰী সাৱলীকৰণ, নাৰী অধিকাৰ, বৰ্ধিত আয় ইত্যাদিৰ ওপৰত প্ৰশিক্ষন দি থকা হৈছিল৷ ইচলামিক ষ্টাডিচৰ স্নাতোকত্তৰ ডিগ্ৰীধাৰী প্ৰশিক্ষক আবু বাক্কাৰ ছিদ্দিকে সাৱলীলভাৱে ধৰ্মীয় নীতি নিৰ্দেশনাৰ অধীনত কিদৰে সুস্থ আৰু সৰ্বাঙ্গসুন্দৰ দাম্পত্য জীৱন গঢ়িব পাৰি তাৰ ওপৰত গুৰুত্ব দি এক বিশেষ বক্তব্য প্ৰদান কৰিলে৷ ধৰ্মীয় আনুগত্যক কিদৰে উন্নয়নৰ কামত লগাব পাৰি তাৰ এক সুন্দৰ উদাহৰণ আমি প্ৰত্যক্ষ কৰিলোঁ৷ কেৱল সেয়াই নহয় আমি প্ৰত্যক্ষ কৰিছিলো কিদৰে বাংলাদেশ চৰকাৰৰ বিভিন্ন প্ৰচাৰ প্ৰত্ৰ জড়িয়তে ধৰ্মীয় নেতৃত্বক চৰৰ উন্নয়নমুলক কামত ব্যৱহাৰ কৰি আছে৷ যিসময়ত আমাৰ দেশত ‘সচ্চ ভাৰত অভিযান’ৰ নামত ৰাজনৈতিক দলৰ ৰথী-মহাৰথীৰ নাটকৰ অন্ত নাই সেই সময়ত মৌলবীৰ চৰৰ আন এটা সভাত আমি এক ভিন্নধৰ্মী অভিজ্ঞতা লাভ কৰিলোঁ৷ ১০০ শতাংশ অনাময় পায়খানাৰ লক্ষত চৰবাসী কিদৰে উপনীত হ’ল সেয়া জানিবলৈ বৰ ইচ্ছা গ’ল৷ এই সাফল্যৰ আঁৰৰ ৰহস্য জানিব বিচৰাত পঞ্চাশোৰ্ধ মহিলা এজনীয়ে টপৰাই উত্তৰ দিলে “আমাৰ এটা সিদ্ধান্তই এই লক্ষত উপনীত হ’বলৈ সহায় কৰিছে, সেয়া হ’ল – চকিদাৰৰ মলমূত্ৰ সভাপতিক ভক্ষন কৰিব নিদিওঁ”৷ মানুহজনীৰ লেগামহীন কথাত আচৰিত নৈ নোৱাৰিলোঁ৷ তথাপিও সুধিলো “সেয়া কেনকৈ?” আমাৰ প্ৰশ্নৰ উত্তৰ দি ক’লে যে, তেওঁলোকে প্ৰথমতে চৰৰ আটাইতকৈ দুখিয়া পৰিয়ালবোৰক টাৰ্গেট কৰি লৈছিল; যাতে কোনো কাৰনতে এটা পৰিয়ালো সম্পুৰ্ণ অনাময়ৰ বাহিৰত নাথাকে৷এটা খোলা পায়খানাই গোটেই চৰবাসীৰ স্বাস্থ্যৰ প্ৰতি ভাবুকি হ’ব পাৰে৷ খোলা পায়খানাৰ মলমূত্ৰৰ জড়িয়তে বিয়পিব পৰা বেমাৰ আজাৰৰ পৰা আঁতৰত থকাৰ এইটোয়ে আটাইতকৈ ফলপ্ৰসু উপায়৷ ???????????????????????????????কিন্তু অসমৰ কোনোবা চৰত ‘সচ্চ ভাৰত অভিযান’ৰ অধিনত এনে কোনো কাম কৰা হৈছেনে যাৰ দ্ধাৰা চৰবাসীক অনাময়ৰ প্ৰয়োজনীয়াতা উপলব্ধি কৰাব পৰা হৈছে? The Economist নামৰ আলোচনীয়ে বাংলাদেশৰ ওপৰত প্ৰকাশ কৰা এটা বিশেষ প্ৰতিবেদনত উল্লেখ কৰিছিল যে, বাংলাদেশে সমাজৰ নিন্মবৰ্গৰ মানুহৰ জীৱনধাৰণৰ মানদন্ড উন্নত কৰাত এক যুগান্তকাৰী সফলতা লাভ কৰিছে৷ আজিৰ তাৰিখত প্ৰায় আাটাইবোৰ গুৰুত্বপূৰ্ণ মানৱ উন্নয়ন সুচক যেনে, Maternal Mortality Rate, Infant Mortality Rate, Life Expectancy ইত্যাদিত বাংলাদেশ ভাৰততকৈ ভাল ফলাফল প্ৰদৰ্শন কৰি আছে৷অকল অসমৰ পৰিসংখ্যাৰ লগত তুলনা কৰিলে এই ব্যৱধান আৰু বেছি৷ অসমৰ এজন শিশুৰ আকাংশিত আয়ু বাংলাদেশৰ এজন শিশুৰ আকাংশিত আয়ুতকৈ প্ৰায় দহ বছৰ কম! বাংলাদেশৰ এই চমকপ্ৰদ সাফল্যত আমাৰ প্ৰাক্তন কেন্দ্ৰীয় গ্ৰাম উন্নয়ন মন্ত্ৰী জয়ৰাম ৰমেশে কৈছিল যে,  সমাজ পৰিবৰ্তনৰ বাবে উচ্চ অৰ্থনৈতিক বৃদ্ধিলৈ অপেক্ষা কৰাৰ কোনো প্ৰয়োজন নাই আৰু বাংলাদেশে সেয়া কৰি দেখুৱাইছে৷ কিন্তু অসমৰ চৰত আৰ্থ-সামাজিক পৰিবৰ্তনৰ যাত্ৰা আৰম্ভ নোহোৱাৰ কাৰণ কি? বাংলাদেশৰ চৰবাসীৰ বাবে যদি পশ্চিমীয়া দেশ তথা ৰাষ্ট্ৰসংঘৰ উন্নয়নকামী সংস্থাসমূহে অহৰহ প্ৰচেষ্টা কৰি যাব পাৰে, অসমৰ চৰবাসীৰ বাবে কিয় নোৱাৰে? অসমৰ চৰবাসীয়ে কি অপৰাধ কৰিছে? এই খিনিতে  এটা ঘটনা মনত পৰিছে, মোৰ সহকৰ্মী মনুজে দেৱানগঞ্জত ৰাষ্ট্ৰসংঘৰ “World Food Programme”ৰ বিষয়াসকলৰ লগত দুপৰীয়াৰ আহাৰ গ্ৰহণ কৰি WFPৰ Logo অংকিত গাড়ীত আগত থিয় হৈ ফ’টো উঠিলে৷ WFPয়ে, দেয়ানগঞ্জ সমন্নিতে বাংলাদেশৰ এক বৃহৎ এলেকাত কাম কৰি আছে৷ বিশেষকৈ বানপানীত ক্ষতিগ্ৰস্থ লোকসকলক খাদ্য যোগান ধৰি আছে৷ মনত এক বুজাব নোৱাৰা কষ্ট অনুভৱ কৰিলোঁ৷ যি সময়ত এজন অসমীয়াই WFPৰ গাড়ীৰ আগত থিয় হৈ ফ’টো উঠি আত্ম তৃপ্তি লাভ কৰিছে,  ঠিক  প্ৰায় একে সময়তে অসমৰ গোৱালপাৰা জিলাৰ বানপীড়িতৰ ওপৰত অসম আৰক্ষীয়ে বৰ্বৰ বাবে আক্ৰমন চলাইছে ৷ বানপীড়িতৰ অপৰাধ আছিল যে, তেওঁলোকে উপযুক্ত সাহাৰ্য্যৰ দাবী কৰিছিল৷ অসমৰ বানপীড়িতৰ বাবে WFPএ কিয় কাম কৰিব নোৱাৰে? অসমৰ বানপীড়িত বা চৰবাসীৰ দূৰ্দশাক লৈ কোনেও চিন্তা কিয় নকৰে? আচলতে কেৰোণটো ক’ত? আমি আজিৰ আলোচনাৰ আৰম্ভনিতে ধুবুৰীৰ চৰাঞ্চল ভ্ৰমন কৰাৰ কথা উল্লেখ কৰিছিলো৷ বাশ্বাৰাত পীৰ চাহাবৰ লগত ধুবুৰী জিলাৰ বাংলাদেশ সীমান্তৰ চৰসমূহ ভ্ৰমন কৰি আহি গুৱাহাটীত কিছু দল সংগঠনৰ কৰ্মকৰ্তাৰ আলোচনা কৰিছিলোঁ৷ তেনে এটি আলোচনাত, চৰ-চাপৰিৰ এজন যুৱ-নেতাই চৰৰ মানুহৰ দুৰ্দশাৰ কথা পীৰ চাহাবৰ আগত বৰ্ণনা কৰি আছিল৷ তেখেতে কিছুসময় মনযোগ দি শুনি ওলোটাই প্ৰশ্ন কৰিলে “আপুনি সেই দুৰ্গত সকলৰ বাবে কি কৰিছে?” যুৱ নেতাৰ মূখৰ বৰণ পৰিবৰ্তন হৈ গ’ল৷ “আজি পৃথিৱীৰ কেইজন মানুহে অসমৰ চৰবাসীৰ অৱস্থাৰ কথা গম পায়? আপোনাৰ সমস্যাৰ কথা বেলেগে কিয় ক’ব যাব?” কেৱল সেই যুৱ নেতাজনেই নহয়, আচলতে পীৰ চাহাবৰ প্ৰশ্নবোৰৰ উত্তৰ দিবৰ জোখাৰে আমি সমাজ জীৱনৰ লগত জড়িত কেইজন ব্যক্তিয়ে কাম কৰিছোঁ৷ আমাৰ দায়বদ্ধতা কেৱল চৰকাৰ বা শাসক শ্ৰেনীক সমালোচনা কৰোতেই  শেষ হৈ যায় নে? আমি বাংলাদেশৰ চৰচাপৰি ভ্ৰমন কৰি গভীৰ ভাৱে বিশ্বাস কৰিবলৈ আৰম্ভ কৰিছোঁ যে, আচলতে অসমৰ চৰবাসীৰ দূৰ্দশাৰ কাৰন প্ৰতিকুল প্ৰাকৃতিক পৰিবেশ নহয় বৰঞ্চ চৰকাৰ, ৰাজনৈতিক তথা সামাজিক নেতৃত্ব্যৰ অনিহা আৰু পৰিকল্পতিত বৈষম্যমূলক আচৰণহে ইয়াৰ বাবে দায়ী৷ আজিৰ অসমৰ চৰৰ আৰ্থ-সামাজিক পৰিস্থিতিত অকল ৰাজনৈতিক একত্ৰীকৰণে সমস্যাৰ সমাধান কৰিব বুলি আমাৰ মনে নকয়; বাংলাদেশী চৰৰ দৰে ইয়াতো স্থিতাৱস্তাৰ পৰিবৰ্তনৰ বাবে সামাজিক আৰু মানৱ উন্নয়নমূলক এক বিপ্লৱ অপৰিহাৰ্য্য৷

প্ৰব্ৰজন অপৰাধ নে অধিকাৰ?

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[যোৱা সংখ্যাৰ লিখনিত আমি প্ৰতিশ্ৰুতি দিছিলো যে, বাংলাদেশত বসবাস কৰা হিন্দু তথা অন্ন্যান্য সংখ্যালঘু ধৰ্মালম্বী ব্যক্তি সকলৰ সাম্প্ৰতিক আৰ্থ-সামাজিক তথা ৰাজনৈতিক অৱস্থাৰ বিষয়ে আমাৰ ভ্ৰমনকালত লাভকৰা অভিজ্ঞতাৰ ওপৰত ভিত্তি কৰি এটি আলোচনা আগবঢ়াম৷ “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”ৰ লিখক মহচিন হামিদে তেওঁৰ শেহতীয়া The Guardian কাকতৰ কলামত লিখিছে “মই প্ৰব্ৰজনক এক মানৱাধিকাৰ হিচাপে বিশ্বাস কৰোঁ, মত প্ৰকাশৰ অধিকাৰ বা জাতি, ধৰ্ম, লিংগ বা যৌন বৈষম্য বিৰোধী অধিকাৰৰ দৰেই মৌলিক এই অধিকাৰ”৷ তেওঁ আৰু লিখিছে যে, আমি সকলোয়ে ঐতিহাসিকভাৱে প্ৰব্ৰজনকাৰী আমাৰ পূৰ্বপুৰুষ বেলেগ কোনোবা ঠাইৰ পৰাই প্ৰব্ৰজিত হৈছিল৷ আগন্তক দিনত, জলবায়ু পৰিবর্তন, ৰোগ, ৰাষ্ট্রৰ ব্যর্থতা, যুদ্ধ আদিৰ ফলশ্ৰুতিত লাখ লাখ হয়তো কোটি কোটি মানুহ এটা দেশ এৰি বেলেগ দেশত আশ্ৰয় ল’বলৈ বাধ্য হ’ব, প্ৰব্ৰজনৰ পূৰ্বৰ সকলো পৰিসংখ্যাই এই প্ৰব্ৰজনৰ আগত ম্লান পৰি ৰ’ব৷ যদি আমি তেওঁলোকৰ প্ৰব্ৰজিত হোৱাৰ অধিকাৰক স্বীকৃতি নিদিওঁ, তেতিয়াহলে আমি এনে এক বৈষম্যমূলক পৃথিৱী সৃষ্ট্ৰি কৰিব গৈ আছো য’ত পাৰপত্ৰবোৰে আমাৰ ‘জাতি’ আৰু সদাবৃদ্ধিপ্ৰাপ্ত বল প্ৰয়োগেৰে আমাৰ পৰা আনুগত্য আদায় কৰাৰ চেষ্টা কৰা হ’ব৷ মহচিন হামিদৰ এই আশাংকা আমাৰ অসম মুলুকত আলোচনা কৰাটো কিমান সমিচিন হ’ব সেয়া যথেষ্ঠ সন্দেহজনক; কিন্তু আজিৰ তাৰিখত আমি এই সত্যক অগ্ৰাহ্যও কৰিব নোৱাৰো৷ অসমত আশীৰ দশকৰ পৰা প্ৰব্ৰজনৰ ওপৰত যিমান আলোচনা-পৰ্যালোচনা হৈছে, সকলোতে বাংলাদেশৰ পৰা আগত মুছলামান প্ৰব্ৰজনকাৰীৰ ওপৰতে মূলত দৃষ্টি নিবন্ধিত হৈ আছে৷ প্ৰব্ৰজনৰ মানৱিক দিশটো যেনেকৈ দৃষ্টিকটুভাৱে উপেক্ষা কৰা হৈছে, ঠিক তেনেকৈ কৌশলপূৰ্ণভাৱে হিন্দু প্ৰব্ৰজনকাৰীৰ দিশটোও এৰাই চলা হৈছে৷ বুৰঞ্জীবিধ অমলেন্দু গুহ ডাঙৰিয়াই লিখিছে যে, দেশ বিভাজনৰ পিছৰ পৰা অসমলৈ তেতিয়াৰ পূব-পাকিস্তানৰ পৰা মুছলমান প্ৰব্ৰজনকাৰীৰ আগমন প্ৰায় স্থবিৰ হৈ পৰিছিল আৰু তাৰ ঠাই দখল কৰিছিল হিন্দু প্ৰব্ৰজনকাৰীয়ে৷ কিন্তু অসমত প্ৰব্ৰজন সম্বন্ধীয় বাগধাৰাত এই দিশটো বিচাৰি পোৱা খুবেই মুস্কিল৷ আমাৰ বাংলাদেশ ভ্ৰমনকালত হিন্দু প্ৰব্ৰজনৰ কিছু ঐতিহাসিক তথা সাম্প্ৰতিক কাৰণ বিচাৰি উলিওয়াৰ চেষ্টা কৰিছিলোঁ৷]
চ্যাংৰাবান্ধা-বুড়িমাৰী সিমান্ত চেকপ’ষ্ট হৈ মই অকলে বাংলাদেশত প্ৰৱেশ কৰিছিলোঁ৷ মোৰ সহকৰ্মী তিনিজন আগদিনাই হাতীবান্ধাত উপস্থিত হৈছিল৷ বুড়িমাৰীৰ বাংলাদেশী চেকপ’ষ্টৰ পৰা যাৱতীয় আানুষ্ঠানিকতা সম্পূৰ্ণ কৰি ৰাতিপুৱা প্ৰায় ১১ বজাত মানৱচালিত ভ্যান এখনত উঠি ৰেল ষ্টেচন অভিমুখে যাত্ৰা কৰিলোঁ৷ আকাশ, বতাহ, মানুহৰ অৱয়ভ, এনেকি বুড়িমাৰী স্থলবন্দৰৰ ঘোচষোৰ বিষয়াজনৰ লোলোপ দৃষ্টি; ক’তো একো অমিল প্ৰত্যক্ষ্য নকৰিলো৷ অজানিতে ভূপেনদাৰ কালজয়ী গীতৰ কলি মনত পৰি গ’ল “গংগা মোৰ মা, পদ্মাও মা…………. মোৰ চকুলোৰে দুটি ধাৰা মেঘনা যমুনা” ভ্যানখনত মোৰ লগত এজনী আধা-বয়সীয়া ভদ্ৰ মহিলা৷ আমি একেলগে সিমান্ত পাৰ হৈ আহিছিলো৷ গুৱাহাটীৰ শ্বহিদুল ককাইক জৰুৰী ফোন এটি কৰিবলগা আছিল; সহযাত্ৰীৰ লগত পৰিচয় হোৱাতকৈ বেছি জৰুৰী৷ সিমান্ত পাৰহৈ প্ৰায় এক কিলোমিটাৰলৈকে ভাৰতীয় ম’বাইলৰ সেৱা উপলব্ধ হয়৷ ফোনৰ বাৰ্তালাপ শেষ কৰি মহিলাজনীৰ লগত সৌজন্যমূলক দৃষ্টি বিনিময় কৰিলো৷ মোক সুধিলে “অসমৰ পৰা আহিলে?” বিশেষ একো কথা পতাৰ আগতেই ভ্যান চালকে জনালে যে, নিৰ্ধাৰিত ৰেল-গাড়ীখন ইতিমধ্যে এৰি দিলে৷ আমাক বেলেগ গাড়ীৰে পাটগ্ৰামলৈ গৈ বাছ ধৰিব পৰামৰ্শ দিলে৷ কোনো দিনে ভ্যানগাড়ীত যাত্ৰা কৰাৰ অভিজ্ঞতা মোৰ নাছিল৷ ভ্যানৰ পৰা নামিব গৈ অঘটনে ঘটি গ’ল৷ হাতত থকা গধুৰ মোনাটোলৈ মহিলাজনীৰ লগত একেলগে নামিব যাওঁতে ভ্যানৰ ভাৰসাম্যত বিচ্যুতি ঘটিল৷ পিছফালে সমস্থ ওজন একেলগে পৰাত বেচেৰা ক্ষীনকায় ভ্যানচালক দাং খাই শূন্যত উলমি থাকিল! অগত্যা ক্ষমা খুজাৰ বাহিৰে মোৰ গতন্তৰ নাছিল৷
বিকট হুইছেল বজাই এটা ই-ৰিক্সা আমাৰ ওচৰতে আহি ৰখিল৷ ভাৰা বন্ধোবস্থ কৰি আমি এই বাৰ বেটাৰীচালিত ই-ৰিক্সাত উঠিলোঁ৷ কিছুদিন আগতে আমাৰ দেশৰ উচ্চতম ন্যায়ালয়ে এক নিৰ্দেশযোগে দিল্লীত ই-ৰিক্সাৰ চলাচল নিষিদ্ধ কৰিছিল৷ বাংলাদেশী ই-ৰিক্সা চাকলেও চৰকাৰী পঞ্জীয়নৰ বাবে সংগ্ৰাম কৰিব লগা হৈছে৷ বুড়িমাৰীৰ পৰা পাটগ্ৰামলৈ যোৱা ৰাস্তাত ই-ৰিক্সাচালক সন্থাৰ পোষ্টাৰবোৰে তাকে সূচাইছিল৷ সেয়া যিকিয়ে নহওক৷ আমি মূল আলোচনালৈ আহো৷ আমাৰ লগত এইবাৰ আৰু এজন সহযাত্ৰী যোগ দিলে৷ মহিলাজনীতকৈ মানুহজন বয়সত হয়তো দুই এবছৰৰ বেছি হ’ব৷ মানুহজন মোৰ মুখমুখিকৈ বহিছে আৰু মহিলাজনী মোৰ কাষত৷ মসৃন পকী ৰাস্তা, ই-ৰিক্সাৰ ইঞ্জিনৰো কোনো বিষেশ শব্দ নাই, বতাহৰ ফিৰফিৰনি আৰু মাজে মাজে বিকট হুইছেলটো৷ আমি পৰিচয় হ’লো৷ আমি তিনিও ভাৰতৰ পৰা আহি বাংলাদেশত প্ৰৱেশ কৰিছিলোঁ৷ বাংলাদেশ তেওঁলোকৰ জন্মভুমি৷ কিন্তু ভাৰতো তেওঁলোকৰ বাবে কোনোগুনে কম গুৰুত্বৰ নহয়৷ আধা-বয়সীয়া অধিকাৰী উপাধীদাৰী ভদ্ৰমহিলাৰ ভাৰতৰ সৈতে এক নিভিড় সম্পৰ্ক আছে৷ নিজৰ বৰকন্যাৰ স্বামীগৃহ ভাৰতৰ পশ্চিমবঙ্গৰ জলপাইগুৰি জিলাত৷ উচ্চমাধ্যমিকৰ পৰিক্ষা দি উঠি ছোৱালীজনী ভাৰতত থকা আত্মীয়ৰ ঘৰত ফুৰিব গৈছিল৷ তাতে ভাৰতীয় যুৱকৰ লগত প্ৰেম ৷ এৰা প্ৰেমে নিচিনে ঋষি-চন্ডাল; ছোৱালীজনীয়ে মনৰ মানুহজন সিমান্তৰ সিপাৰেহে বিচাৰি পালে৷ অধিকাৰী পৰিয়ালে বাধা নিদিলে বৰঞ্চ ধুম-ধামৰে ছোৱালীৰ বিয়া পাতি দিলে৷ ভাৰতীয় জোৱাই বা বিয়ৈ-বিয়নি লৈ তেখেত ক্ষান্ত থকা নাই৷ নিজৰ বৰপুত্ৰ পশ্চিমবঙ্গৰ কল্যানী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ৰ গৱেষনাৰ ছাত্ৰ৷ আচলতে, ভাৰতৰ স’তে তেওঁলোকৰ সম্পৰ্ক দীৰ্ঘদিনিয়া৷ ভাইশশুৰ নৰেন্দ্ৰ দুলাল অধিকাৰী নামনি অসমৰ এটি ঐতিহ্যমন্ডিত মহাবিদ্যালয়ৰ গণিত বিভাগৰ মূৰব্বী অধ্যাপকৰ গুৰু দায়িত্ব পালন কৰি অৱসৰ গ্ৰহণ কৰিছে৷ কিন্তু ভাৰতৰ স’তে থকা তেখেতৰ সকলো সম্পৰ্কই মধুৰ নহয়৷ নিজৰ সম্পৰ্কীয় দেওঁৰেকে চিকিৎসা বিজ্ঞানৰ ডিগ্ৰী লাভ কৰাৰ পিছত বাংলাদেশ অসামৰিক সেৱাৰ পৰিক্ষাত স্থান লাভ কৰিও ধৰ্মীয় বৈষম্যতাৰ বাবে মৌখিক পৰিক্ষাত উত্তীৰ্ণ হ’ব পৰা নাছিল৷ আজি তেওঁ ক’লকাতাত চিকিৎসা সেৱা আগবঢ়াই টকা আৰু সন্মান দোয়োটাই ঘটি আছে৷ ই-ৰিক্সাত আমাৰ মুখামুখিকৈ বহি থকা মানুহজনে বিনা আমন্ত্ৰনে আলোচনাত ভাগ ল’লে৷ তেখেত পশ্চিমবঙ্গৰ কোচবিহাৰ জিলাৰ দিনহাটাৰ পৰা আহিল৷ তেওঁৰ দ্বিতীয় গৃহ দিনহাটাত৷ সিপাৰত থকা পৰিয়ালৰ সদস্যৰ লগত এমাহ কাল থাকি আহিল৷
বাংলাদেশৰ ভূমিত ভৰি ৰাখি প্ৰথম যি দুগৰাকী মানুহ লগ পালো, দুয়োগৰাকীৰ ভাৰতৰ লগত থকা এই অদ্ভুত সম্পৰ্কই মোক আচৰিত কৰি তুলিছিল৷ আচৰিত হোৱাৰ অন্যতম কাৰণ আছিল তেওঁলোকৰ সৰলতা৷ যিবোৰ কথা তেওঁলোকে মোক কৈ আছিল বা সঁচা অৰ্থত কৰি আছিল সেইবোৰ ভাৰত বা বাংলাদেশৰ কোনো চৰকাৰেই কেতিয়াওঁ স্বীকৃতি দিয়া নাই৷প্ৰকৃতপক্ষে সেইবোৰ শাস্তিযোগ্য আইন গৰ্হিত অপৰাধ৷ হয়, তেওঁলোকে জানে যে ভাৰতৰ লগত তেওঁলোকৰ সম্পৰ্ক বে-আইনী৷ কিন্তু তেওঁলোকে আজিওঁ বিশ্বাস কৰে যে, বাংলাদেশ হিন্দুৰ বাবে সুৰক্ষিত ঠাই নহয়৷ ৰাজনীতি নামৰ পাখাখেলত যিকোনো সময়ত তেওঁলোকক ব্যৱহাৰ কৰা হ’ব পাৰে৷ মোৰ মুখা-মুখি বহি মানুহজনে ৰাস্তাৰ কাষত থকা সু-বিস্তাৰিত সেউজীয়া ধাননী পথাৰলৈ আঙুলিয়াই কৈ গ’ল – “আজিৰ বাংলাদেশ দুখিয়াৰ দেশ নহয়৷ আমি ভাতৰ অভাৱত ভাৰতত ঘৰ সঁজা নাই৷ আজি শাঁক-পাঁচলিৰ পৰা আৰম্ভ কৰি মাছ, মাংস, গাখীৰ সকলো আমি নিজে উৎপাদন কৰো৷” মানুহজনে হঠাৎ মোক সুধিলে “আলু কিমানত কিনে আপোনালোকে?” মই বাংলাদেশলৈ যোৱাৰ আগতে হয়তো ৪০ টকাত কিনিছিলো৷ বাংলাদেশত সেই সময়ত প্ৰতি কিলোগ্ৰাম আলুৰ দাম ২৫ টাকা৷ ভাৰতীয় মুদ্ৰাত সেয়া আৰু কম হ’ব৷
নিজ মাতৃভূমিৰ গুন বখানি মানুহজনৰ চকু উজ্জল হৈ পৰিছিল৷ “ইয়াৰ পিছতো আপোনালোকে দেশ এৰি ভাৰতত কিয় ঘৰ সাঁজি আছে?” মোৰ প্ৰত্যক্ষ প্ৰশ্নত কিছু সচকিত হৈ মানুহজনে আকৌ কৈ গ’ল – এইটো সঁচা কথা যে, বাংলাদেশৰ দৰে নদন-বদন দেশ এখন এৰি বেলেগত গৈ থাকিব মন নেযায় কিন্তু ইয়াত হিন্দু সকলৰ নিৰাপত্তা নাই৷ এটা নিৰ্বাচন পাৰ কৰা মানে যেন এটা জটিল পৰিক্ষাৰ দেউনা পাৰ কৰা৷ এক বিৰাট আশাংকা ভৰা সময়৷ কোনেওঁ পূৰ্বানুমান কৰিব নোৱাৰে যে, বাংলাদেশৰ নিৰ্বাচনীৰ পৰিক্ৰমাৰ মাজেৰ হিন্দসলকৰ জীৱন আৰু সম্পতি সুকলমে পাৰ হৈ যাব পৰিবনে নাই৷ সহযাত্ৰী অধিকাৰী বাইদেউৰ মতে – উত্তৰ বংগৰ হিন্দুৰ অৱস্থা তুলনামূলক ভাৱে যথেষ্ঠ ভাল৷ যমুনাৰ সিপাৰে থকা হিন্দুৰ অৱস্থা আৰু তথৈবচ!
আমি ইতিমধ্যে পাটগ্ৰামৰ বাছ আস্থানত উপস্থিত হৈছিলো৷ ই-ৰিক্সাটো আৰু এবাৰ বিকট হুইছেল বজাই ৰখি গ’ল৷ দুয়োজনকে ধন্যবাদ জনাই বাছ আস্থানৰ টিকট ঘৰৰ পৰা হাতীবান্ধাৰ টিকট কাটি বাছত বহিলোঁ৷ যথা সময়ত বাছে যাত্ৰা আৰম্ভ কৰিলে৷ ঠেক ৰাস্তা৷ দেয়োকাষে সেউজীয়া ধাননী পথাৰ৷ পথাৰৰ মাজে মাজে শাৰী শাৰী ইউকেলিপ্টাছ গছ৷ আৰু অসংখ্য কাঠ ফলা কাৰখানা৷ কৃষি প্ৰধান দেশত ইউকেলিপ্টাছ গছ নিশ্চয় শুভ লক্ষণ নহয়৷ লগতে জলবায়ু পৰিবৰ্তনৰ প্ৰত্যাহ্বান মুকাবিলা কৰিবলৈ বাংলাদেশে যথেষ্ঠ কঠোৰ স্থিতি গ্ৰহণ কৰা উচিত ৷ যিকিয়ে নহওক, এইবাৰৰ বাছ যাত্ৰাত মোৰ সহযাত্ৰী এজন ওখ পাখ সুঠাম পঞ্চাচোৰ্ধ ব্যাক্তি৷ বাংলাদেশ যান-বাহন আৰক্ষীৰ বিষয়া৷ পিন্ধনত শুধ বগা কামিজ, মূৰত নামাজী টুপী আৰু আঁতৰৰ সুন্দৰ সুৱাসত এজন ধাৰ্মিক মুছলমান বুলি অনুমান কৰাত মোৰ অসুবিধা নহ’ল৷ এজন বাংলাদেশী হিচাপে তেওঁ যথেষ্ঠ গৰ্বিত ৷ লগতে ভাৰতৰ প্ৰতি এক বিৰাট শ্ৰদ্ধা আছে তেওঁৰ৷ ত্ৰিছ লাখ শ্বহীদ আৰু দুই লাখ নাৰীৰ সম্ভ্ৰমৰ বিনিয়মত জন্ম লাভ কৰা স্বাধীন বাংলাদেশৰ প্ৰতিজন নাগৰিকে ভাৰতৰ প্ৰতি কৃতজ্ঞ হোৱাটো তেওঁ বিচাৰে ৷ ভাৰত-বাংলাদেশ মৈত্ৰী বাহিনীৰ যৌথ কমান্ডাৰ লেফটেন্যান্ট জেনেৰেল জগজিৎ সিং অৰোৰা বীৰত্বৰ কথা অনৰ্গল কৈ গ’ল৷ বিদেশত গৈ নিজ দেশৰ সেনাবাহিনীৰ সাহসিকতাৰ কাহিনী শুনি বুকু সাতখন-আঠখন হৈ পৰিল৷
কিন্তু মোৰ এইবাৰৰ সহযাত্ৰীয়ে বাংলাদেশত কোনো সাম্প্ৰদায়িক বৈষম্য থকাৰ কথা মানি ল’ব নিবিচাৰে৷ “বাংলাদেশৰ সংবিধানে সকলোকে স্বাধীনভাৱে নিজৰ ধৰ্ম পালন কৰিবলৈ অনুমতি দিছে৷ বৰঞ্চ ভাৰততহে মুছলমানক গো-মাংস ভক্ষণ কৰাত বাধা আৰোপ কৰিছে” মই তেওঁৰ অভিযোগ খন্ডন কৰিলোঁ যদিওঁ আশ্বস্থ কৰিব নোৱাৰিলোঁ৷ তেওঁৰ মতে, বাংলাদেশৰ কিছু হিন্দুয়ে দেশখনৰ প্ৰতি আনুগত্যশীল নহয় আৰু বহুতে সময় আৰু সুযোগ লৈ চৰা দামত নিজৰ ঘৰ সম্পতি বিক্ৰী কৰি ভাৰতলৈ গৈ বাংলাদেশৰ বদনাম কৰে৷ তেওঁৰ লগত তৰ্ক কৰাৰ অভিপ্ৰায় মোৰ নাছিল৷
ইতিহাসৰ পাত লুটিয়ালে আমি দেখা পাওঁযে, দেশ বিভাজনৰ পিছত তেতিয়াৰ পূৰ্ব-পাকিস্তানৰ পৰা বৃহৎ সংখ্যক হিন্দু ভাৰতলৈ ঢাৱলি মেলিছিল৷ সাম্প্ৰদায়িক সংঘৰ্ষ আৰু ভয়-ভীতি, ভূমি বেদখল, বৈষম্য আদি আছিল কাৰণ৷ মুক্তিযুদ্ধৰ সময়ত প্ৰায় এক কোটি বঙালী ভাৰতত আশ্ৰয় লৈছিল৷ চৰকাৰী তথ্যমতে স্বাধীন বাংলাদেশৰ জন্মৰ পিছত তেওঁলোক স্ব-গৃহলৈ উভতি যায়৷ কিন্তু স্বাধীন বাংলাদেশৰ পৰাওঁ হিন্দু সকলৰ প্ৰব্ৰজন গতি অব্যাহত থাকে৷ বঙালী জাতীয়তাবাদী চেতনাৰ কোষত জন্ম লাভ কৰা বাংলাদেশৰ সংবিধানে দেশখনক ধৰ্ম-নিৰেপক্ষ ৰাষ্ট্ৰ হিচাপে প্ৰতিষ্ঠা কৰিছিল যদিওঁ দেশ স্বাধীন হোৱাৰ মাত্ৰ কেইবছৰমানৰ পিছতে ১৯৭৫ চনৰ আগষ্ঠ মাহৰ ১৫ তাৰিখত জাতিৰজনক তথা তেতিয়াৰ ৰাষ্ট্ৰপ্ৰধান বঙ্গ-বন্ধু শ্বেখ মুজিবৰ ৰহমান সমন্নিতে তেওঁৰ পৰিয়ালৰ ১৮ জনকৈ সদস্য-সদস্যাক হত্যা কৰি সামৰিক বাহিনীয়ে ৰাজপাট দখল কৰিছিল৷ নিজৰ গাধী ৰক্ষাৰ বাবে জিয়া-উৰ-ৰহমানে ধৰ্মীয় মৌলবাদক তুষ্ঠ কৰিবলৈ ১৯৭৭ চনত সংবিধানৰ ‘ধৰ্ম নিৰপেক্ষতা’ৰ সলনি “সৰ্ব্ব শক্তিমান আল্লাহৰ ওপৰত পৰম আস্থা আৰু বিশ্বাস” সন্নিবিষ্ট কৰিছিল৷ জিয়াৰ পিছত, একনায়কত্ববাদী এৰশ্বাদে ‘ইচলাম’ক বাংলাদেশৰ ৰাষ্ট্ৰধৰ্ম হিচাপে ঘোষনা কৰিছিল৷
ভাৰতক বাংলাদেশৰ শত্ৰু আৰু হিন্দুক ভাৰতৰ দালাল হিচাপে প্ৰতিপন্ন কৰিবলৈ এৰশ্বাদ চৰকাৰ উঠি-পৰি লাগিছিল৷ বহুতৰ বাবে এয়া বাংলাদেশৰ মুক্তিযুদ্ধৰ চেতনাৰ পৰিপন্থী আছিল৷ পৰবৰ্তী সময়ত এৰশ্বাদ বিৰোধী জন-আন্দোলনে তাকেই প্ৰমাণিত কৰিছিল৷ সাম্প্ৰদায়িক মেৰুকৰণৰ লগতে কিছু স্ট্ৰাকচাৰেল অপচেষ্টায় বাংলাদেশী হিন্দু সমন্নিতে অন্ন্যান্য সংখ্যালঘুসকলক বেছি যথেষ্ঠ ক্ষতি কৰিছিল৷ তাৰ ভিতৰত শত্ৰু সম্পত্তি আইন ১৯৬৫ (পিছত অৰ্পিত সম্পত্তি অধ্যাদেশ ১৯৭৪ নামেৰে নামাকৰণ কৰা হৈছিল)৷ ১৯৬৫ চনৰ ভাৰত-পাকিস্তান যুদ্ধৰ পিছত পাকিস্তান চৰকাৰে হিন্দুৰ সম্পতি দখল কৰিবলৈ এই কুখ্যাত আইন প্ৰণয়ন কৰিছিল৷ বাংলাদেশৰ জনপ্ৰিয় বাতৰি কাকত ডেইলি স্টাৰৰ ২০০২ চনৰ ৬ জানুৱাৰীত প্ৰকাশিত এক বাতৰি মতে ১৯৬৪ চনৰ পৰা ১৯৯১ চনৰ ভিতৰত উক্ত আইনৰ বাবে আনুমানিক ৫৩ লাখ মানুহ বা প্ৰতিদিনে ৫৩৮জনকৈ মানুহ বাংলাদেশৰ পৰা প্ৰব্ৰজিত হৈছিল৷
পঞ্চগড় জিলাৰ বোদা উপজিলাৰ কাৰ্যবাহী বিষয়াৰ কাৰ্যালয়ত আমাৰ বাবে এক বিশেষ সভাৰ আয়োজন কৰিছিল৷ সভাত বাংলাদেশ অসমাৰিক সেৱা বিষয়াৰ লগত হোৱা আলোচনা কালত বৰ্তমান বাংলাদেশত বসবাস কৰা সংখ্যালঘু সকলৰ অৱস্থাৰ বিষয়ে জানিব বিচৰাত তেওঁ কয় যে, বাংলাদেশৰ আভ্যন্তৰীণ পৰিস্থিতি যথেষ্ঠ পৰিবৰ্তন হৈছে৷ সংখ্যালঘু-সংখ্যাগুৰু সকলোৰে অৱস্থাৰ আগতকৈ ভাল হৈছে৷ তেওঁৰ আমোলাতান্ত্ৰিক জবাবত আমি সন্তোষ্ঠ হ’ব পৰা নাছিলোঁ৷ আমাৰ follow up প্ৰশ্নৰ উত্তৰত তেওঁ ক’লে যে, চৰকাৰৰ গুৰুত্বপূৰ্ণ আসনত বহি যদিওঁ সকলো প্ৰশ্নৰ উত্তৰ দিয়া সহজ নহয়, কিন্তু এইটো সঁচা যে, আজি দেশত এক পৰিবৰ্তন আহিছে৷ আজি কোনো হিন্দু নিৰ্যাতিত হৈ দেশান্তৰিত হ’ব লগা পৰিৱেশ বাংলাদেশত নাই৷তেওঁ অলপ আক্ষেপেৰেই ক’লে যে, এনে বহু মানুহ আছে, যিসকলে বাংলাদেশত অপৰাধ সংগঠিত কৰি ভাৰতত আশ্ৰয় লয় আৰু চল-চাই বাংলাদেশৰ বদনাম কৰে৷ আমি যি প্ৰতিষ্ঠানৰ আমন্ত্ৰণত বাংলাদেশলৈ গৈছিলোঁ, সেই প্ৰতিষ্ঠানে আদিবাসী আৰু পিছপৰা জনজাতিৰ অধিকাৰ ৰক্ষাৰ বাবে এক বিশেষ প্ৰকল্প ৰূপায়ত কৰি আছে৷ “ইএছডিও-প্ৰেমদ্ধীপ” নামৰ উক্ত প্ৰকল্পৰ আইনী উপদেষ্টা ইমৰান হুছেইনৰ লগত হোৱা এক দীঘলীয়া সাক্ষাতকাৰত অৰ্পিত সম্পতি আইনৰ নামত কিদৰে অশিক্ষিত আদিবাসী সকলৰ ভূমি ‘বঙালী’সকলে হস্থগত কৰিছিল সেই কথা আমাক ধৈৰ্য্যসহকাৰে কৈ গৈছিল৷ ‘বঙালী’ বুলি কওঁতে তেওঁ ‘বঙালী মুছলমান’ আৰু ‘বঙালী হিন্দু’ দুয়োকে সাঙুৰি লৈছিল৷ বৰ্তমানৰ চৰকাৰে সেই ক’লা আইন বাতিল কৰি “অৰ্পিত সম্পত্তি প্ৰত্যাবৰ্তন আইন ২০১০” প্ৰণয়ণ কৰিছে৷ অধিবক্তা ইমৰানৰ নেতৃত্বত ইতিমধ্যে বহুতে হেৰুৱা সম্পত্তি উভতাই পাবলৈ সক্ষমো হৈছে৷ ইক’ ছছিয়েল ডেভেলপমেন্ট অৰ্গেনাইজেশ্বনত ব্যবস্থাপনা প্রশিক্ষণার্থী হিচাপে নিয়োজিত বিভুতি ভুষন সিনহাৰ মতে, হিন্দুসকল ভাৰতলৈ প্ৰব্ৰজিত হোৱাৰ কাৰণ কিছু পৰিমানে মনস্তাত্বিক৷ বাংলাদেশ জাতীয় বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ৰ ইংৰাজীৰ স্নাতোকত্তৰ ডিগ্ৰীদাৰী সিনহাৰ মতে এজন হিন্দু হিচাপে ভাৰতৰ নাগৰিক হ’ব পৰাটো এটা মৰ্য্যাদাৰ কথা৷ সিনহাৰ কথাবোৰ কিছু খহঠা অনুভৱ হলেওঁ কিছুমান খন্ডিব নোৱাৰা উদাহৰণেৰে এটা গোটেই আবেলি মোক কাবু কৰি ৰাখিছিল৷ তেওঁৰ পৰা পোৱা Clueৰ ভিত্তিত বিভিন্ন উৎসৰ পৰা আমি গম পাইছিলোঁ যে, এনেকি হিন্দু ধৰ্মালম্বী এজন সন্মানীয় সংসদ সদস্যেওঁ ভাৰতত মাটি কিনি ঘৰ সাজি ৰাখিছে!
২০০৯ চনৰ জানুৱাৰী মাহৰ পৰা বাংলাদেশত শ্বেইখ হাছিনাৰ নেতৃত্বাধীন আওয়ামী লীগ চৰকাৰে বাহ্যিক দিশত যথেষ্ঠ পৰিবৰ্তন কৰা ইতিমধ্যে আন্ত:ৰাষ্ট্ৰীয় মহলত চৰ্চা লাভ কৰিছে৷ বিশেষকৈ ধৰ্মীয় মৌলবাদ নিৰ্মূল আৰু যুদ্ধ-অপৰাধীৰ বিচাৰ প্ৰক্তিয়াই গোটেই বিশ্বত একপ্ৰকাৰ খলকনিৰ সৃষ্টি কৰিছে৷দিলৱাৰ হুছেইন ছাইদীৰ দৰে আন্তৰ্জাতিকভাৱে স্বীকৃত ইচলামিক পন্ডিতক যাৱৎজীৱন কাৰাদন্ডৰে দন্ডিত কৰাৰ সাহস কৰিছে৷বহুতে আকৌ বাংলাদেশৰ আন্ত:ৰাষ্ট্ৰীয় অপৰাধ ট্ৰাইবুন্যালক পক্ষপাতদুষ্ঠ বুলি সমালোচনাওঁ কৰিছে৷ কিন্তু এটা কথা অনস্বীকাৰ্য্য যে, হাছিনা চৰকাৰে দেশখনত বসবাস কৰা সংখ্যালঘুসকলৰ নিৰাপত্তাৰ এক স্থায়ী পৰিবেশ ঘুৰাই আনিবলৈ সক্ষম হৈছে৷ ১৯৭৭ চনত অবলুপ্তি ঘটা ‘ধৰ্ম-নিৰপেক্ষতা’ক সংবিধান সংশোধনৰ জড়িয়তে আকৌ সন্নিবিষ্ট কৰি উদাৰতা প্ৰকাশ কৰাৰ লগতে দেশখনত গণতন্ত্ৰক মজবুত কৰাৰ প্ৰয়াস কৰিছে৷ এই খিনিতে উল্লেখ কৰা বাঞ্ছনীয়যে, ‘ইচলাম’ এতিয়াওঁ বাংলাদেশৰ ৰাষ্ট্ৰধৰ্ম হিচাপে স্বীকৃত হৈ আছে৷ বাংলাদেশী সংবিধানৰ এই অদ্ভুত পৰস্পৰ-বিৰোধী স্থীতিৰ বিষয়ে দেশখনৰ আগশাৰীৰ সাংবাদিক তথা লিখক হাৰুণ হাবিব চাহাবৰ প্ৰতিক্ৰিয়া জানিব বিচাৰিছিলোঁ৷ হাবিব চাহাবৰ মতে, বাংলাদেশৰ সংবিধান সম্পূৰ্ণ ধৰ্ম-নিৰপেক্ষ কৰিবলৈ এতিয়াও বাকী আছে তথাপিও সংশোধনবোৰ (১৫তম) যথেষ্ঠ বৈপ্লৱিক আৰু মুক্তিযুদ্ধৰ চেতনাৰে উদ্ভোব্ধ আছিল৷
United Nations Human Rights Council ৰ ২০১৩ চনৰ বাংলাদেশৰ Periodic Reviewৰ প্ৰতিবেদনত প্ৰকাশিত তথ্যমতে, বাংলাদেশ চৰকাৰে পঞ্চদশ সংবিধান সংশোধনীৰ জড়িয়তে কেৱল ধৰ্ম-নিৰপেক্ষতাক এটি মূলনীতি হিচাপে ঘুৰাই অনা নাই বৰঞ্চ প্ৰতেক সংখ্যালঘু ধৰ্মালম্বীৰ বাবে পুজিৰো আৱন্টন দিছে৷ উক্ত পতিবেদনত চৰকাৰৰ উদৃতি দি কোৱা হৈছে যে, “প্ৰতেক নাগৰিকে নিজ নিজ ধৰ্ম পালন কৰাৰ অধিকাৰ আছে, কিন্তু উৎসৱ সলকোৰে বাবে”৷ যিসময়ত পৃথিৱীৰ বৃহত্তম গণতন্ত্ৰত সুশাসনৰ নামত খ্ৰীষ্ট্ৰীয়ান ধৰ্মালম্বীৰ বৰদিনৰ ছুটি বাতিল কৰা হ’ল সেই সময়ত বাংলাদেশৰ এই প্ৰতিবেদন পঢ়ি লজ্জা অনুভৱ কৰাৰ বাহিৰে আমি আমি আৰু কি কৰিব পাৰো?
প্ৰতিবেদনটোয়ে আৰু উল্লেখ কৰে যে, কক্সবাজাৰ জিলাৰ ৰামু আৰু তাৰ পাৰ্শৱৰ্তী এলেকাৰ বৌদ্ধ ধৰ্মালম্বীসকলৰ ওপৰত হোৱা আক্ৰমণৰ বিৰোদ্ধে চৰকাৰে কঠোৰত ব্যৱস্থা গ্ৰহন কৰিছে৷ অপৰাধীক কৰায়ত্ত্ব কৰাৰ লগতে, কৰ্তব্যত অৱহেলা কৰা নিৰাপত্তাৰক্ষীৰ ওপৰতো ব্যৱস্থা লোৱা হৈছে৷ ক্ষতিগ্ৰস্ত হোৱা ধৰ্মীয় স্থানসমূহ চৰকাৰী ব্যয়ত পুনৰ্নিৰ্মানৰ ব্যৱস্থা কৰিছে৷ আমি আমাৰ দেশৰ সংখ্যালঘুৰ নিৰাপত্তাৰ খাতিৰত ইয়াৰ কিঞ্চিতো আশা কৰিব পাৰিম নে? ১৯৮৩ চনৰ এই ফেব্ৰুৱাৰী মাহতে, গুৱাহাটীৰ পৰা এঘন্টাৰ দূৰৈত দিন-দুপৰত তিনি সহস্ৰাধিক মুছলমানক হত্যা কৰা হৈছিল কিন্তু আমাৰ তথাকথিত ধৰ্মনিৰপেক্ষ বৃহত্তম গণতন্ত্ৰই এজন অপৰাধীকো শাস্তি দিব নোৱাৰিলে৷ যিসময়ত অসমৰ বিটিএডিৰ পৰা উদ্ভাস্তু হোৱা সংখ্যালঘু নাগৰিক সকলক পুনৰবাসনৰ বাবে চৰকাৰে একো ব্যাৱস্থা গ্ৰহন নকৰিলে; সেই সময় বাংলাদেশৰ পৰা ত্ৰিপুৰাত আশ্ৰয় লৈ থকা চাকমা শৰনাৰ্থীসকলক ঘুৰাই নিবলৈ বাংলাদেশ চৰকাৰে প্ৰচেষ্টা চলাই আছে৷ ইতিমধ্যে ১২,২২২ জন জনজাতীয়লোকক উভতাই নিয়াৰ যাৱতীয় আনুষ্ঠানিকতা সম্পূৰ্ণ হৈছে৷
আজিৰ সংখ্যাত আৰু বিশেষ লিখিব বিচৰা নাই৷ পৰবৰ্ত্তী সংখ্যাত বাংলাদেশৰ আৰ্থ-সামাজিক তথা মানৱ উন্নয়নৰ ওপৰত আলোকপাত কৰি আমাৰ অভিজ্ঞতা আলোচনা কৰাৰ চেষ্টা কৰিম৷ বাংলাদেশৰ সংখ্যালঘু জাতি-উপজাতিৰ উন্নতি কামনা কৰি সামৰিছোঁ৷

Choudhury, I. U. (2009). Caste-based Discrimination in South Asia: A Study of Bangladesh. New Delhi: Indian Institute of Dalit Studies.
Council, U. N. (2013). UPR Bangladesh 2013. Dhaka: Human Rights Forum, Bangladesh.
De, S. (2005). Illegal Migrations and the North East. Kolkata: Maula Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, Kolkata.
Hamid, M. (2014, November 21). why migration is a fundamental human right. Retrieved January 18, 2015, from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/21/mohsin-hamid-why-migration-is-a-fundamental-human-right
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (2006). Policy Focus, Bangladesh. Washington: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The Daily Star. (2014, August 15). BANGABANDHU AND LAPSES IN HIS SECURITY. Retrieved January 20, 2015, from The Daily Star: http://www.thedailystar.net/the-star/bangabandhu-and-lapses-in-his-security-36973
গুহ, অ. (2011, January). ব্ৰহ্মপু্ৰ উপত্যকাৰ অসমীয়া সমাজত বহিৰাগত: এক দৃষ্টিপাত. জাগৰণ, চৰ-চাপৰি সাহিত্য পৰিষদ, অসম .


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By Delhi Solidarity Group

On December 23, the Bodoland autonomous region of Assam and some adjoining areas suffered an eruption of ethnic violence, particularly in the two districts of Kokrajhar and Sonitpur. These outbreaks of violence have been a disturbingly recurrent feature of the quarter-century long campaign for autonomy in the districts north of the Brahmaputra. Between January 10 and 12, a fact finding team constituted by the Delhi Solidarity Group comprising senior journalists Seema Mustafa and Sukumar Muralidharan, and human rights worker Harsh Mander, visited the villages ravaged by the killings as well as relief camps where terrified residents had fled.  The team was assisted by Shefali from the Delhi Solidarity Group and Mangla Verma from the Centre for Equity Studies. In Guwahati, Kokrajhar and Sonitpur, the team was rendered invaluable support, assistance and guidance by Raju Narzary of North East Research & Social Work Networking (NERSWN) and Abdul Kalam Azad from Aman Biradari.


  1. Findings

As the sun was setting over the low forested hills and farmlands of the northern districts of Assam on December 23, armed militants in military fatigues, their faces masked, walked into small and remote adivasi hamlets to carry out a chilling series of coordinated attacks. Residents in these hamlets, at five locations in Kokrajhar, Chirang and Sonitpur districts were mowed down by indiscriminate firing from what were reportedly automatic weapons. More than 70 people, including at least 18 children and 21 women, were killed in a matter of minutes.

The armed intruders burned down and ransacked several of the mud hutments in these hamlets before retreating into the jungles. In retaliatory attacks the following day, at least 5 Bodos were murdered and several homes gutted. In Sonitpur district, a protest demonstration taken out by adivasi political groups in Dhekiajuli was fired on by the police with three deaths and several injuries. In Udalguri, a protest demonstration taken out by adivasi youth was set upon, resulting in injuries on both sides and an atmosphere of tension.

Initial reports about the number of the displaced were wildly contradictory. Kokrajhar was clearly the district worst affected in this respect. News reports datelined December 25 and attributed to the Deputy Commissioner, Kokrajhar, put the number of the displaced at 25,000 in that district alone. On December 28, the figure was scaled up to 100,000 in all four Bodoland districts, Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang. The following day a very precise figure of 176,440 was put out as the total number of the displaced, of which 101,272 were identified as adivasi and 61,000 as Bodo. The greatest incidence of displacement was in Kokrajhar, where an estimated 100,000 had fled their homes. On January 1, the number was revised upwards yet again to 236,349 in all four districts, of which again the largest part by far was in Kokrajhar, where 197,189 persons were sheltering in 81 camps for the displaced.

It seems finally from the inquiries of this team, that roughly 300,000 left their homes in the aftermath of the first attacks and the retaliation. A large number may have gone back soon afterwards, but as the harsh winter days and nights passed, the district administration did have to reckon with human displacement on a major scale. At the time that this fact-finding team met the Kokrajhar Deputy Commissioner on January 10, the numbers had begun to shrink. Of the initial displacement of close to 200,000 he said, fewer than 71,000 remained in camps within his jurisdiction.

This team visited camps for the displaced in Kokrajhar district and villages that had been targeted in Sonitpur. We found the inmates deeply traumatised and profoundly insecure. Desperately impoverished and defenceless to begin with, the targeted and displaced adivasi communities in particular stand in dire need of security assurances they can rely on.

Testimonies from victim survivors:

Sonitpur district: The armed attackers chose hamlets of adivasi settlers which were deep in the forests and close to the borders of Bhutan and Arunachal, where they hid after the attacks. Team members visited both the hamlets in Sonitpur district in which six and thirty villagers had been slaughtered respectively, Dhekiajuli and Biswanath Chariali. To reach the hamlet in Biswanath Chariali, in which the largest number of killings occurred, we had to walk around five kilometres further into the forests after the motorable road reached its end. We found residents camping there under thin plastic sheets just in front of a camp of paramilitary soldiers who had been rushed to extend them protection.

The villages we visited, we were told, were settled some 15 to 20 years earlier. Elders among the villagers had laboured hard to fashion paddy fields after clearing the thick forest cover. Some settlers came because there was no work for them in the tea gardens of the area, others reported fleeing earlier settlements in Kokrajhar because they were fed up with the extortion by armed militants. Sonitpur district falls outside the boundaries of the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC), which is why the adivasi communities expected to find relative safety there. But many Bodo families also settled in the same forests around the same time. The adivasi and Bodo settlers maintained mutually cordial ties prior to the attack, and invited each other for weddings and funerals. However in recent years, some local militants had begun to extort informal “taxes” from them, even for every headload or bicycle-load of firewood gathered from the forests. There was no violence though: the December 23 attacks were the first time they suffered physical violence, which is why they have been left more shaken and frightened.

In both villages, the accounts of the raids were similar. Armed young men, their faces covered and with only eyes showing, arrived at their homes and first asked for water to drink. After they were served, suddenly and without any warning they opened fire with their automatic weapons, killing whoever they saw – children, women and men. They chased villagers down as they fled in terror. The survivors hid behind trees, and watched as many of their homes were set on fire and their meagre belongings vandalised. Eye-witnesses reported that the intruders danced in celebration as they left after the slaughter, unhurried and unafraid that the police would catch up before their escape.

Leaders of the adivasi student unions came in after nightfall, and it was they who offered solace, called in the police, helped with the last rites, and took the traumatised survivors to the safety of the roadside. Here the local administration later established makeshift camps, as thousands of adivasi settlers, and often their Bodo neighbours, fled separately in panic to the security of camps. At the peak, there were 200,000 people in makeshift camps in the affected districts, battling trauma, fear and the winter cold. They felt safe only when trucks with large deployments of paramilitary soldiers drove into these forest interiors. In some places, the student leaders and volunteers marched with the villagers to local police outposts, shouting anguished slogans and parading the corpses of the dead. Police personnel in some of these outposts panicked and fired at the peacefully protesting crowds. It is officially learnt that three adivasi protestors were killed during police firings.

A few houses in Dhekiajuli under Sonitpur district were burned down in retaliatory attacks. Agitators also vandalised the local office of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) in Dhekiajuli.

The prospect of violence spiralling out of control was defused. In Sonitpur, the student leaders and village elders took care to reassure their Bodo neighbours that they had nothing to fear from them. Despite similar precautions by adivasi student leaders and elders, at least three Bodos in Kokrajhar district were killed in revenge for the Adivasi slaughter. Bodo student leaders joined the protests against the firing, and tried to assist with relief for the affected adivasi people.

In our discussions with the adivasi villagers, we encountered extreme fear about their security once the forces deployed to guard them were withdrawn. Though the state administration is committed to a deployment of the men in uniform for as long as they are required, the targeted communities are not quite reassured.

There was virtually no outreach of the development state in these villages. Even the nearest primary school was more than seven kilometres distant, through the jungles; not surprisingly most children never went to school. There were no ICDS centres for young children, no health worker, and no MG-NREGA public works. Almost none of the households had ration cards, and the PDS shop was again seven kilometres distant. We spoke to the local development officers, and it was clear that the first time most had visited the village was after the slaughter.

We met in these villages an extremely impoverished people. They owned almost nothing, and had no titles to the small paddy plots which they had cleared and cultivated. Among the families we spoke to, we met a young teenage girl who had been sent to Gurgaon near Delhi to work as a domestic help. We met many male migrants who worked brief stints in factories and construction sites as distant as Gujarat and Chennai.

Korakjhar: The team visited a camp for the displaced people in Saralpara in the Ulta Pani reserve forest area. There were an estimated 9,011 inmates there, all of them from local adivasi villages. In all 51 villages from the far and near environs had evacuated into this camp, which was set up in the immediate vicinity of a Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) base on the Bhutan border. We met with inhabitants of the Shantipur village, some ten kilometres from the Saralpara camp, which had suffered a lethal attack in which an estimated twelve were killed. Most of the 32 houses in the village were gutted and large parts of the 15 bighas of agricultural land, freshly sown with sesame, mustard and ginger, were laid waste. A number of inmates of the Saralpara camp had also sought refuge from Pipargaon village, located again at a distance of about ten kilometres. This village had also been attacked at the same time, though without loss of life.

Terrified villagers ran into the forests where they cowered in fear until the militants left. A young girl Munni Hembram, told us how her mother and elder brother were killed. Clearly not comprehending the magnitude of what has happened, she said she was on her own, with no surviving member except a cousin. A young man said that the militants dressed in black had their faces covered, were heavily armed, and ruthless. He said he ran into the forest until the firing stopped and he was sure they had left.

The forest hamlets belong in a different age. Very little is perceptible in terms of what could be called the markers of “development” despite the creation of Bodoland with its own administrative council. The people have small tracts of agricultural land, and supplement meagre incomes with manual labour as and when they can find it. There are no schools, no roads, no health centres, just utter, unrelieved penury where man has forsaken man and there is no sign of governance.

Dense forests connect this part of India to Bhutan. Recent years have seen alternating attacks by the militant groups—with new factions emerging every now and again—on Muslims and Adivasis. The reasons vary but have largely to do with land and political differences which typically become fierce in electoral contexts. Muslims were brutally targeted last year soon after polling in the Lok Sabha elections just because they were believed to be wavering in their support for a Bodo candidate. And speeches had been made by top BJP leaders stirring the communal cauldron as it were.

Locally the displaced villagers have no idea of why they were targeted. Everybody that this team spoke to in the relief camps confessed to a sense of bewilderment: “no we have had no problem, no confrontation, we don’t know why they just came and attacked us.” There were no threats or prior warnings although the local police chief said that they had intelligence information of a possible attack without specific knowledge of the precise location. With or without the information the administration was ill prepared for the attack, with no effort made to strengthen security in the area at all.

Nearly 300,000 people ran for their lives as news of the attack swept through the remote villages. On December 24 some adivasis grouped together to launch a counterattack on Bodo villages in the area. Thousands of Bodos fled as well and today Kokrajhar’s jungles are full of relief camps for both communities, the adivasis of course being the worse hit. Of the 300,000 now about 90,000 villagers remain and are looking for concrete assurances that they will be secure in their homes before venturing back. The district authorities are making arrangements for police pickets in the more sensitive villages, but even they know that these cannot be permanent arrangements. Neither is there the faintest pretence that they will be able to provide security in all parts of the area, where villagers are widely spaced and dispersed.

The camp for displaced adivasi people that this team visited was a dismal place. Most hutments were built on short bamboo poles no more than three feet high. They had typically single sheets of plastic or tarpaulin as roofs. Supplies were not reliably available. A young man that this group met had a modest sized bundle of potatoes, onions and spinach with him, for which he had paid a hundred rupees. Medical units were not in evidence. Despite the environment of fear, inmates were keen to return home given reliable security assurances. The squalor of the camp they were in was undoubtedly a powerful push factor.

Much of the relief material has been provided by local civil society organisations and unions. The district administration has been involved in mobilising and distributing relief material, but not to the extent required, according to most of the inmates of the camps for the displaced.

We observed a decided difference in the camp for the Bodos we visited, some ten kilometres off the main highway between Guwahati and Kokrajhar. Most dwelling units here had two layers of plastic or tarpaulin for their roofs, were closed on at least three sides and were built sufficiently high for an adult to enter standing up. A butcher seemed to have set up shop in the camp. A medical van fully equipped under the National Rural Health Mission arrived while this team was at the site. The adivasis seemingly had to seek safety in the vicinity of an SSB base to ensure that they would be secure. But the Bodo camp had a full contingent of the Assam Police under a sub-inspector rank officer and some fifteen personnel, assigned to guard it.

The inmates of the Bodo camp that this team spoke to said that they were not over-anxious about returning to their villages. Kokrajhar Deputy Commissioner Thaneswar Malakar told us that except for those whose huts had been burnt, all others were in the process of returning to their villages.

Causes for the current upsurge of violence

The reasons for the attack on the Adivasis are unclear. The state administration believes that recent operations have cut the Songbijit militant faction of the National Democratic Front of BOdoland (NDFB) very close to the bone. The terror strikes may have been an effort to terrorise villagers in areas they routinely move through, to pre-empt any possible information being passed on to the security agencies. They could also have been a way of taking the pressure off their more vulnerable flanks by diverting the attention of the security forces elsewhere.

Media reports have suggested that communications intercepts by the intelligence agencies revealed an intent to cause a wave of violence after a number of cadre of the I.K. Songbijit faction – referred to as the NDFB(S) – were captured or eliminated in recent encounters. The group was under pressure and may have carried out the massacres to divert security forces to protective patrolling. Kokrajhar’s Police Superintendent Sunil Kumar confirmed that intelligence inputs were available suggesting an imminent attack. But with an overstretched force and a vast territory to guard, it was impossible to prepare adequately.

Other local observers suggest that the attacks may have been in retaliation for the cancellation of the captured Bodo militant leader Ranjan Daimary’s bail. Since being taken into custody in Bangladesh and transferred to India in 2010, Daimary’s faction of the NDFB has entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Indian authorities. However, he still faces trial for a string of bomb blasts in Assam in October 2008, carried out with ostensible intent to wreck the peace talks then underway between another faction of the NDFB and the government. Sonbijit is a former military commander of the Daimary faction who opposed the ceasefire deal. Though ostensibly operating autonomously of Daimary, there are several who believe that Songbijit could still be working covertly on an operational agenda that is coordinated with his former leader.

Still another possibility is the intent of the underground groups to wreck the imminent elections to the Bodoland Territorial Council. The BTC is currently under the control of Hagrama Mohilary, whose Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT) ceased hostile actions in 1999 and concluded a disarmament agreement in 2003. First by nomination and then through elections, Mohilary’s group has been in control of the BTC ever since. Mohilary has emerged as an important powerbroker in the Bodo regions, whose patronage is courted by mainstream regional parties like the Asom Gana Parishad, and national parties such as the Congress and BJP. Rivalries with other Bodo militant groups, notably the numerous factions of the NDFB, remain intense. And there are several players who would be keen to ensure that the election process is derailed.

Glimmers of hope are evident in the manner that student bodies and civil society organisations have stood up to condemn the wave of terror and extend all possible sustenance to the victims and survivors. The All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) and the All Assam Adivasi Students Association (AAASA) have coordinated their efforts and forcefully asserted a message of peace and communal amity. They are also working in concert to persuade the displaced persons to return to their villages and set up cooperative mechanisms of self-defence.

The major security operations launched by the Assam Police and local army units have the full support of Bodo political groups and civil society. They tend to share a view of the NDFB(S) as a group wedded to terror without a larger political or ideological goal.

Youth leaders and civil society organisations point out that the violence of the 1990s when the Bodo identity movement was at its peak, could be described as ethnic clashes, given the competition for scarce land and resources that was particularly acute then. The recent violence though, could possibly be called “terror strikes” since they have been carried out with the intent to shock and awe the authorities and the civilian populations that are seen as threats to militants’ freedom of manoeuvre. Further, unlike the earlier episodes when militant groups seemingly had some support outside their ranks, now there are very few people in the wider population who are willing to speak even the slightest in their support.

These are some of the positives of the current situation. Yet the situation of the adivasi communities in Assam remains precarious. This is poor testament for India’s commitment to the principles of equality and fair opportunity, since these are people who have been calling the state their home for several generations. The story of the adivasis of Assam is one of forced displacement and tremendous resilience against formidable odds. Well over a hundred years since they were settled in Assam and other parts of the north-east, it is time they were assured a fair deal.

  1. The Adivasis of Assam: a Brief History

The murderous attacks carried out on December 23 on adivasi communities in Assam’s northern districts were in themselves a deep human tragedy. Still greater as tragedy is the fact that the assault targeted one of the most oppressed and dispossessed communities in the entire north-eastern region, and indeed, all of India. This was not the first such attack which the community has endured, and it is unlikely to be the last. It is a measure of political and social disempowerment that their slaughter has not caused even a blip on the collective conscience of the country, let alone the rest of the world.

A meticulously researched paper by the University of Toronto scholar Jayeeta Sharma, recounts the grim history of the adivasi settlement as indentured labour in Assam since the mid-nineteenth century, which it characterises as an element of the great colonial capitalist enterprise.[1] The discovery that Chinese tea could flourish in the hills and plains of Assam led to the clearance of vast forest tracts for tea plantations. Whereas land for these plantations was available in abundance, the tea planters confronted the continuing challenge of finding hardy, submissive and industrious labour. Originally they relied briefly on labour imported from China, which was found unequal to the hard work required for clearing the thick jungle undergrowth. This gave way to the employment of workers from indigenous tribal communities like the Nagas, who they found sturdy and hard-working, and often willing to work in return for as little as some rice, shells and beads. But they worked when they chose, and refused to be regimented and controlled. The colonial tea planters experimented with other local tribes, but resistance to the iron discipline of tea gardens led them to search for other workers.

Around that time, tribal communities from the Chotanagpur plateau of Central India were recruited in large numbers to labour at dirt wages in burgeoning colonial enterprises such as sugar factories, indigo plantations and railway construction. These workers were resilient and acquiescent, quite able to meet the tough standards of labour the plantation owners sought. They were called coolies, and the colonial government assisted the planters with coolie indenture contracts, strengthened further by ruthless penal legislation. Sharma recounts that “Men, women, and children were sent from Central India, a long, difficult journey by steamers, roads, and later railways, into the jungles and gardens of Upper Assam. By the end of the nineteenth century, Chotanagpur labourers acquired the highest rank among Assam coolies. They became known as ‘Class I junglies’ in the planter’s lexicon”.

These indentured workers and their families were housed in cramped and poorly serviced workers’ lines. As Sharma records: “They were virtually imprisoned in the squalor of the housing lines and locked in at night. These migrants found themselves living in the middle of remote, forested terrain. They were allowed little or no contact with local villagers. Flight was almost impossible since ignorance of the terrain, coupled with bounties offered to hill people to track runaways with dogs ensured that the plantation existence had to be borne against all provocation”. To make matters worse, British planters were armed with penal powers of arrest of workers who tried to leave before their indenture contracts were completed. Plantations worked with their own system of legality.

The availability of large tracts of forest land attracted workers to Assam and induced them to remain even after their contracts ended. They cleared the forests to carve out paddy fields, and were also available as contract labour, called “faltus”, (or extras), during the peak plantation seasons. Settlements grew gradually in erstwhile forests in which indigenous tribal communities like the Bodos, former coolie adivasis, caste Hindu Assamese, and Nepali and new East Bengali settlers lived side by side. Their links with original homelands gradually snapped, although they spoke their native adivasi tongues, and learnt Assamese and often Hindi.

Conditions of virtual slave labour persisted right up to the 1920s, when a nationalist agitation led by Gandhi and C.F. Andrews finally put an end to the indenture system. But even though they were now nominally free, these workers remained submissive and severely exploited, and continued to work under near-colonial conditions of employment and housing even long after Independence.

It is estimated that the so-called “tea-tribes” today constitute between 15 and 20 percent of the population of Assam, but they survive with the poorest human development indicators in the state. The tea-tribes are not notified as Scheduled Tribes (ST) in Assam, though counterparts in Jharkhand and the central Indian tribal region enjoy this benefit. Adivasis in Assam are deprived of the benefits of reservations. Labour economist B. Saikia reported in 2008 that tea-garden labourers are typically paid wages lower than the minimum and even paid partly in kind.[2] Tea garden labour lines have been always kept under-developed and dependent for their basic survival needs on tea-garden managements. The underlying design is simple: even if nominally free, they are to be always on call to meet requirements of cheap labour.

Compared to the state average of out-of-school children in the 6-14 age group of 22 percent in 2002, the proportion in tea gardens was 43 percent. Teachers are employed by management and are often “part-time teachers” who work on the gardens for the remainder of the day. Child labour is highly prevalent, with children leaving school to work for a nominal wage. A 1990 government report estimated that children working in tea gardens constituted about 14 percent of the total labour force. Children were subjected to strenuous tasks such as carrying heavy loads, plucking, fertilisation and even working at the factories.

A 2007 study by the central government revealed a high incidence of under-nutrition among the Assamese adivasi communities. Among children, 59.9 percent were found to be underweight and 72 percent to be suffering from deficiency disorders like anaemia. Hypertension affected 45.9 percent of the population. This is caused in part by the high intake of salt by the community. To save costs, British plantation owners got workers used to drinking tea with salt, a practice which continues to the present day. Infectious diseases such as worm-infestation (65.4 percent) and pulmonary tuberculosis (11.7 percent) – both linked with poor hygiene and nutrition – are prevalent to a much higher degree than any control group. Over 40 percent of workers, in a survey, reported that they had no access to medical facilities.

A 2012 case study by Hazarika in the Jorhat tea gardens found that average daily earning per labourer was about Rs 84; over 64 percent women workers and 40 percent male workers were illiterate; 80 percent of married women had 5 children or more; and 40 percent did not have pucca houses. Although tap water was available, facilities for filtration were not. The study showed that living conditions of tea garden labour were extremely poor, highlighting their dependence on garden managements who were apathetic as a rule. Levels of literacy, awareness of contraception, quality of housing and availability of water were some of the indicators evaluated.[3]

The misfortunes of this oppressed and deprived people were compounded following the creation of the Bodoland Autonomous Council in 1993. In this region, indigenous tribal Bodos, Bengali Muslims and adivasi communities all constituted roughly equal proportions of the population. Waves of violence successively targeting Bengali Muslims and adivasis were unleashed by armed militants in a bid to establish an original ownership title over the land. Some of the most brutal attacks on adivasis were mounted between 1996 and 1998, at the peak of which 300,000 among them sought refuge in relief camps. Some of these camps have not been dismantled despite the passage of two decades, as adivasis live in an official state of limbo and have never managed to secure any kind of assistance from the state government or the local authorities, or the newly created territorial council, in seeking a life of dignity and security.

Custodians of the forests are against rehabilitating adivasis since this would in their estimation amount to a legalisation of encroachments. Without a formal notification as ST’s, they do not have the protection of the Forest Rights Act (FRA). In situations of displacement, resettlement procedures are determined by revenue status. Typically, the inhabitants of revenue villages and forest revenue villages are entitled to resettlement rights. Those deemed inhabitants of forest encroachments however, are cast into an official limbo.

Official policy at both the state government and the territorial council levels, mean that schools will not be built in areas deemed forest encroachments. In a land where living space is constricted by tea plantations on one side and protected forests on another, large numbers of people are finding themselves without a place where they can say they belong. With people of the Muslim faith, the same argument works in a different way: since the entire land is deemed to be under a “schedule”, they cannot claim any title over it.[4]

Indentured labour from the central Indian regions who were transported to countries like Fiji and Mauritius have today acquired education, economic strength and substantial political influence. As Sanjib Baruah, a scholar of the history and ethnic politics of the north-east reminds us, indentured workers from the central Indian plains were transported to Mauritius and Fiji at the same time as they were brought into the north-east of India. In many instances, the contractors who undertook the tasks of recruitment were the same.[5] In Mauritius and Fiji, the descendants of those indentured workers have now achieved power in a substantive sense: several have risen to the rank of Prime Minister. And in a standing reproach to the quality of India’s democracy, the gentle and industrious adivasis settled in Assam remain to this day exiles condemned to inhabit the outer margins of survival: exploited, malnourished, uneducated, and powerless pawns subject to wave after wave of targeted violence.

  1. The Bodo autonomy movement: a brief historical sketch

There is much that is unique in the political evolution of Bodoland and much that is shared with other parts of Assam and the wider north-east, where the typical response to the competing pulls of ethnicity has been to create a proliferating number of zones of supposed tribal autonomy.

Bodoland has been a reality on the political map since 1993, taking on a fresh definition in 2003. It is a reality that continues to be defined by various forces, both overt and covert, pushing their particular visions. Some of these groups have earned their credentials as dialogue partners of the state and central governments through acts of violence. And once these dialogues have begun, they have progressed under a shroud of secrecy and opacity.

The most recent spurt in violence is attributed to the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) led by I.K. Songbijit, a shadowy figure commonly believed to be from the Karbi ethnic community. The NDFB(S) as it is called, is itself a breakaway from the Ranjan Daimary faction, or the NDFB(R), which in turn emerged out of a 2005 schism.

The background to this last-named split is a story of how both concord and coercion have been elements in the history of Bodoland autonomy. An accord concluded in 2003 empowered one among several militant groups, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) which soon afterwards secured control — through nominations at first and then through elections — over the newly created Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). While bringing some militants into the tent of political legitimacy, this alienated others and sharpened rivalries based in part on religious differences.

Recalcitrant elements were dealt with rather roughly when the Indian army soon afterwards in coordination with Bhutan, launched “Operation All Clear”, to confront and eliminate armed groups from the forests north of the Brahmaputra. A faction of the underground groups – which has since adopted the “progressive” appellation and is now known as the NDFB(P) – then accepted an offer of talks and entered into a truce with the central government. This faction was, even as large-scale violence erupted in Bodoland and the neighbouring district of Sonitpur on December 23 last year, engaged in talks with central interlocutors in Delhi, though with an agenda that remains unclear.

Ranjan Daimary’s faction in 2005 remained resolutely opposed to any manner of engagement with the state or central governments, underlining its resolve in October 2008 with a serial bombing in Guwahati and nearby urban areas which claimed close to a hundred lives. Following his 2010 capture in Bangladesh and subsequent transfer to India, the NDFB(R) declared a unilateral ceasefire in April 2011. Daimary in April 2013 was granted conditional bail. His militant group, the NDFB(R), in November 2013 entered into a “suspension of operations” agreement with the state and central governments. In all, 579 NDFB(R) cadre surrendered their firearms, which curiously, numbered no more than 40 pieces.[6]

Daimary’s bail was cancelled in September 2014 and he has since been in prison. His group remains in a state of suspension of operations, though doubts remain about the true extent of its separation from the Songbijit faction in operational decisions. By way of background, Songbijit was the military commander of the Ranjan Daimary faction till the 2011 ceasefire, when he declared he would go his separate way. The military logic by then had seemingly acquired its own momentum.

Bodoland’s political history is part of a story of militarised ethnicities that persists to this day. The movement began in peace but soon acquired a military dimension which has been in continuous mutation. On January 12, 1967, just a few weeks after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s visit to Shillong, then the capital of Assam, an official government statement announced that Assam and the wider north-east would be reorganised in accordance with the “federal principle”. Within a month, the Plains Tribes Council of Assam (PTCA) and the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) were formed to campaign for a state on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. The name they chose for the campaign was “Udayachal”, geographically specific, but ethnically neutral.[7]

Always consigned to official neglect, the north-east receded further in national attentions in the years of turbulence that followed – the Congress split, the 1971 war, the Emergency and the Janata interlude. Important territorial rearrangements were nonetheless effected through this period, all seemingly in conformity with the “federal principle”. Of the five autonomous districts created in Assam in 1952, the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills were consolidated into Meghalaya state in 1972. The Lushai hills and North-East Frontier Agency were similarly redesignated as the union territories of Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, a preliminary to both being conferred full statehood in 1987. Two other autonomous districts were given explicitly ethnic appellations to replace geographically referential names: the Mikir Hills became the Karbi Anglong district in 1976. A demand for redesignating North Cachar Hills district after the Dimasa tribal grouping was concurrently emerging, though this was not formally conceded till 2010.

The PTCA joined the Janata government in 1978 and the Udayachal demand, subdued for a while, was soon engulfed in the Assamese identity movement of the 1980s. In a familiar action-reaction sequence, the Bodo identity emerged with greater political salience from this turbulence. In the assessment of some scholars, this was partly on account of active political encouragement from the centre, which saw the Bodo homeland demand as a way of undermining the aggressive assertion of Assamese identity.

The central government sued for peace in 1985, following which the leadership that had spearheaded the Assam movement came to power through a newly constituted political vehicle, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). The Bodo leadership was insistent in its opposition to Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, which spoke of safeguards for the cultural identity of the Assamese people. Among other irritants was the AGP government decision, soon after it assumed office, to declare all forest settlements made after January 1, 1980 as illegal encroachments, which were to be reversed.[8] In 1987, the ABSU with Upendra Brahma as leader, launched its agitation on the basis of a 92-point charter of demands. PTCA stayed away from this agitation, holding the Congress responsible for “inciting ethnic passions and having a direct hand in the ABSU-led movement”. Targeted attacks on PTCA supporters were a feature of this phase of the ABSU agitation. These clashes, as Udayon Misra, a scholar of ethnicity and politics in Assam and the wider North-East put it in a 1989 article, “lent a fratricidal element to the Bodo agitation and… placed the two major Bodo organisations in an irreconcilable position…. Attacks on school buildings, bazaars and public buildings… had a negative effect even in the ABSU strongholds, not to speak of areas where the PTCA or other tribal organisations (held) sway”.[9]

Among the other plains tribes, substantial elements such as the Rabha, came out in opposition to the Bodo autonomy demand. Though often considered a part of the larger Bodo identity, the Rabha had apparently been alienated by the violent turn in the movement. The 1981 census had bypassed Assam because of the violent conditions in the state. Best figures available for the debate on Bodo autonomy were from the earlier census. Figures recorded in 1971 put the number of Bodo-speaking people at 530,000, i.e. 3.65 percent of Assam’s total population. And in Kokrajhar district, which was really their area of densest settlement, they numbered just about 28 per cent of total population, while all the plains tribes numbered 35 per cent. The organisational spearheads of the movement then – the Upendra Brahma faction of the ABSU and the United Tribal National Liberation Front (UTNLF) – refused to accept the census figures as anywhere near authentic, putting forward their own figure of 4.2 million as the plains tribal population, out of a total of 6.1 million in the districts north of the Brahmaputra.[10]

In a letter of October 1984, the Union Home Ministry placed on record its scepticism about these claims: “It (had) not been established that the plains tribal population constitutes a majority in (areas designated as the autonomous region). It has also not been possible to substantiate the inaccuracies pointed out in the 1971 census as regards alleged miscounting of tribal population. The demand, therefore, for a separate political unit does not appear to be in the larger interest of the plains tribals of the north eastern region as a whole”.[11]

There were other events in the wider north-east that did not attest to great consistency of principle on the part of the central government. Apart from the grant of full statehood to Mizoram in 1986, a sub-regional autonomy arrangement was finalised with the Gorkhaland movement in West Bengal. A ceasefire agreement with the Tripura National Volunteers was concluded at the same time, allowing them the opportunity to integrate into the mainstream political process.[12]

As the Bodo agitation gained force, the best the AGP government could offer was greater devolution under existing district administration and panchayati raj laws. In 1990, following an upsurge of violent attacks by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the AGP state government was dismissed and central rule imposed.

With the Congress winning Assam’s state assembly elections in 1991, the environment turned more favourable for the Bodo autonomy demand. Negotiations picked up momentum through 1992, but dragged on with no seeming prospect of decision, ostensibly on account of an absence of relevant demographic data. In October 1992, another wave of violence swept through the Bodo region, with a new force, the Bodo Security Force appearing on the scene as an actor. The Autonomous States Demand Committee (ASDC), which was then campaigning for statehood for the two southern Assam districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar, lent support to this demand, multiplying the pressures for a settlement.

An agreement signed in 1993 involving the Upendra Brahma faction of the ABSU and the wider coalition of the Bodo Peoples Action Committee (BPAC), came apart over details. The accord opened the way to a Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC), but left the territorial question undecided. Despite state assembly ratification of the accord, the territorial deadlock proved more difficult to dissolve. Faced with an impossible situation, the state government unilaterally imposed a decision covering 2,570 villages against the BPAC demand of 3,085, which was itself a radical rollback of ambition from an initial figure of 4,453. As political agitation and violence resumed, two new forces – the BLT and the NDFB — emerged on the scene.[13]

The issue boiled over soon after the AGP returned to power in state assembly elections in May 1996. Within days, Bodo militants began a series of attacks against adivasi villages. The trigger was the alleged killing of three Bodo women by adivasi militants, though later investigations revealed that the three were in fact Bhutanese sex workers whose bodies were dumped near an adivasi village to instigate revenge attacks.[14] Over 200 adivasi villagers were killed in this wave of violence, and 200,000 forced into camps for the internally displaced. Some continue to languish in these camps. As recounted by one such camp inmate to a researcher in 2007, the attacks happened without warning:

“This was around two o’clock in the afternoon… Suddenly we saw plumes of smoke and heard shooting from nearby villages. Before we even realised what was going on, a group of masked men dressed in black, came out of the jungle behind us. At first we thought we could handle them, but they had guns… We had no other option but to run and leave everything behind… Nothing could be saved.. they burnt and demolished our houses, looted our cattle and chopped down our trees. It was as if they wanted to erase every sign of us ever been there.”[15]

Other ethnic groups acquired their own armed vigilantes in this time. The Adivasi Cobra Militants of Assam, the Adivasi National Liberation Army, the Birsa Commando Force and the Santhal Tiger Force appeared on the scene, though without the lethal firepower that the NDFB and BLT seemed to have accumulated.[16] After a period of mounting violence, the BLT in 1999 declared a ceasefire in response to an offer of talks from the central government. Again, the negotiations acquired a fresh momentum after the AGP was voted out and the Congress assumed power in state assembly elections in 2001. In February 2003, a memorandum of settlement was agreed at a tripartite meeting involving the state and central governments and the BLT. Hagrama Mohilary, the BLT supremo, on December 6, 2003, led 2,641 armed cadre in a mass ceremony of laying down arms. The following day, an interim Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) was formed with Mohilary as chief.[17]

A federation of 18 non-Bodo organisations in the designated area of the BTC united under the umbrella of the Sanmilita Janagosthiya Sangram Samiti (SJSS) to register their vehement opposition to the accord. It seemed that in conformity with an older pattern, a political accord designed to heal an older divide ended up creating new schisms. At the other end of the spectrum, the NDFB denounced the agreement as “an insult to the Bodo nation”. It was purportedly a “faulty pact that had the backing of a handful of opportunists and Bodo people with leanings towards Delhi”.[18] Under subsequent military pressure and the stresses generated by the Bangladesh government’s new attitude of cooperation with Indian security agencies, the recalcitrants in turn fissured, though the remnant bits retained sufficient capacity to inflict pain.

Among the grounds for the NDFB’s opposition were the supposed concessions made to the security of the region’s numerous ethnic groups, which in their perception, seemed a higher priority than Bodo welfare. One of the issues that called for immediate attention after the conclusion of the deal was that of rehabilitation and resettlement of the internally displaced. An estimate made at the time, quite contrary to the NDFB narrative, put the number of those displaced through the years of the Bodo agitation at 179,872, comprising 6,089 Bodo and 33,255 non-Bodo families.[19]

In clause 13, the BTC Accord explicitly made provision for a “Special Rehabilitation Programme” for persons displaced in the ethnic violence. The clause reads as follows:

“The Special Rehabilitation Programme (SRP) for the people affected by ethnic disturbances in Assam, who are at present living at relief camps in Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon etc. shall be completed by the Government of Assam with active support of BTC. Necessary funds for their rehabilitation shall be provided by the Government of India and lands which are free from all encumbrances required for such rehabilitation shall be made available by the BTC.”

Yet the problem of internal displacement through the decade-and-a-half of the Bodo autonomy movement and the sporadic incidents of insurgent violence it involved, has remained almost entirely unaddressed.

As it was finally agreed, the BTC embraced four districts – Kokrajhar, Udalguri, Baksa and Chirang. These were carved out of seven existing districts to aggregate villages of perceived Bodo concentration within a contiguous administrative area. Constituted as a 46-member body, the council reserved 30 seats for scheduled tribe (ST) communities and left ten seats open. The remaining six seats were to be filled by nomination from unrepresented communities.

Basic demographic data from the Bodoland districts would show that this representational arithmetic ran the risk of being less than fair to certain communities. ST communities as a percentage of the total population in Bodoland, number 37.1 percent in Chirang, 34.8 percent in Baksa, 31.4 percent in Kokrajhar and 32.1 percent in Udalguri. The predominant share within this demographic group is of the Bodo. Yet, a 65 percent reservation in representative institutions for communities whose cumulative share would not be more than 35 percent, may be perceived by others as a gross injustice. Statistics on the adivasi population in the Bodoland districts are not available since this is a community that inhabits a limbo in the official classification. But through the entire state of Assam, adivasis number an estimated 17 percent of the total population. In the Bodoland districts, they may well number about 20 percent of the population, as also in the upper Assam districts.

A breakdown of population in terms of religion is not available at the district level from the 2011 census. And the reorganisation of districts since the 2003 accord makes the figures from 2001 less than representative. But to consider the seven districts from which the Bodoland territory was carved out, the Muslim population ranges from a low of 15.9 percent in Sonitput district, to median figures of 35.4 in Darrang and 38.5 percent in Bongaigaon, to a high of 59.4 percent in Barpeta.

In whatever manner considered, the quantum of reservation for the STs, which is a category that the Assam adivasi community has for long been seeking to break into, but to no avail, represents a less than fair outcome for them and for the Muslims.

The Bodo cause is a just one but signs are abundant of the territorial autonomy experiment failing generating fresh fissures while failing to deliver substantive benefits. Yet the autonomous councils process remains the favoured policy, as attested by the number of such bodies created between 1993 and 2005 in Assam: Mishing, Rabha Hasong, Tiwa, Deori, Thengal Kachari and Sonowal Kachari.

A further democratic deficit arises from sub-clause 4.8 of BTC Accord, which abolishes the panchayati raj system within the council area and virtually bars the non-Bodo population from participating in the grassroots development process and decision making. When panchayati raj was brought into the scheduled areas through the Panchayat Extension in Scheduled Areas Act (PESA), it was abolished in the BTC jurisdiction. The relevant clause of the BTC accord reads as follows:

“In the event, panchayati raj system ceases to be in force in the council area, the powers of the panchayati raj Institutions in such matters shall be vested with the council”.

In 1960, a committee appointed by the Assam Governor had inquired into the functioning of the councils as they existed then. The final assessment was far from positive. The councils, the committee concluded, “suffered from an excess of clerical over field staffs and spent government subsidy meant for development purposes on administrative expenses. There was no adequate effort to increase revenue, no inspection of offices and coordination with the state government”. Another inquiry in 1966 returned a similar verdict: “there were serious complaints against the accounts of the councils”.[20] Subsequent experience has provided little ground for revising these early, unfavourable judgments. Yet as long as state and central governments remain within this mode of thought, the pressures from various other ethnic groups that have reason to feel alienated from governance processes, will remain unrelenting. New modes of imagining the challenge of ethnic diversity are clearly called for as the north-east suffers through unyielding and unremitting cycles of violence

  1. Recommendations

The fact finding team was distressed to encounter a community living in intense social and economic distress, with grave development deficits, highly insecure and demoralised after the recent organised attacks. Our recommendations proceed from immediate steps required to longer term interventions.

Relief: For around 70,000 persons still in camps, the state government needs to urgently improve services in the camps, particularly in light of the winter cold. The quality of tents and blankets, and food, health and sanitation services need urgent and significant upgrading. Some camps that we visited are very overcrowded, such as the one we visited in Saralpara where 9000 people from close to 51 villages were living on the day of our visit.

The fact finding team also observed with some dismay that the quality of services were very different for different affected communities. We recommend that given the repeated acts of violence in Assam, the state should lay down statutory standards of relief and rehabilitation, and these must apply in all cases without exception.

Security: The affected communities are extremely insecure after the attacks, especially because of the remoteness of their locations. Whereas a permanent presence of military personnel is not socially desirable, the security forces should not be withdrawn until affected communities feel completely secure.

The sense of security would also be heightened with a dedicated and systematic campaign for the genuine disarmament of all non-state groups in the region, beginning with the surrendered militants.

Investigation: We have observed that one of the major reasons for the recurrence of violent ethnic clashes is a long history of impunity for the attackers. In other words, beginning from the fatalities in the Assam agitation and the Nellie massacre of 1983, guilty persons have not been punished till now. As a result, conditions have not been created for ensuring that such killings do not recur. We recommend that all the criminal cases connected with the attacks be handed over to the newly created central body, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the state government render its full support for independent investigation.

Following a fact-finding exercise on the last serious outbreak of communal violence in the region in May 2014, a fact finding team that some of us were members of, recommended that victim-survivor statements should be recorded by a magistrate camping in the affected villages under Section 164 of the CrPC. We commend the steps taken by the state government along these lines, and urge that the same practice be adopted for the December 2014 attacks as well.

Rehabilitation: The state government has taken early steps to pay death compensation as well as compensation for destroyed houses. It should be ensured that residents are not prevented from rebuilding destroyed houses in old locations. The assistance of reputed social workers may be taken to assist the families which receive large quantities of cash compensation to use their grants wisely, making longer term investments such as in property or bank fixed deposits.

Likewise the state government should take the assistance of professionals and students from social work and medical institutions to extend community based psycho-social care to the affected households, especially to children, women and the aged.

The state government should also undertake large-scale works under the MG NREGA in all the affected villages to help the affected people get back to a normal life, and to also assist them with basic subsistence in this difficult time.

Development Deficits and Entitlements: The fact finding team found the communities living in extreme poverty, with obvious signs of malnutrition, and many narratives of distress migration and trafficking of young adolescents for domestic work. Matters are aggravated by the failure of almost any government programme to reach them. We found that most did not have ration-cards, and ration shops were located too far from the village. RTE was not implemented as the nearest primary schools to some of the settlements were as far as 7 kilometres. There were no ICDS centres in the adivasi villages. Most old people did not access pensions, and the majority of deliveries were still unprotected at home, with no ante- and post-natal check-ups, immunisation or maternity benefit payments. In the absence of land or other local livelihoods, and virtual non-functioning of MG NREGA, they were more vulnerable to trafficking and exploitative migration.

The Fact-Finding Team recommends that a detailed mapping is undertaken of adivasi settlements, and these basic food and social protection entitlements, mandated both by the Supreme Court and the NFSA are ensured to them in a time-bound fashion. A more detailed and in-depth study of the development deficits and denials of entitlements of the adivasi settlements across the state should also be undertaken, so that a medium and long-term special plan is prepared to ensure that their situation is improved sustainably over time.

In fact there are many communities who are living across Assam in camps, many unrecognised by the state government, sometimes for many years. These include adivasis, Bengali Muslims, Bodos and persons of other communities. A full mapping of all such internally displaced persons in camps is imperative, to ensure to start with that their basic food and social protection entitlements, mandated both by the Supreme Court and the NFSA are ensured to them in a time-bound fashion.

Long-term Measures: A major source of the conflicts as well as the pauperisation of the adivasi communities in Assam relate to their fragile economic conditions born from exploitative conditions within tea-gardens and failures to secure land-titles of lands occupied by them in reserve forest areas outside. The adivasi people are denied ST status, and the benefits of the Forest Rights Act. These are issues which need to be carefully studied, and solutions found. The longer they fester without resolution, the longer the vulnerability to marginalisation and violence will persist.

There also needs to be better protection of the labour and food security rights of workers within tea-gardens, who are mainly from the adivasi community.

The state government should also play a proactive role in facilitating peace initiatives, and also supporting those which are being undertaken by the locals and the student unions.

Download full report here

IDPs of Lower Assam: Twenty-one years of displacement and suffering

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“The millions of displaced people in India are nothing but refugees of an unacknowledged war…..” – Arundhati Roy

On a sunny Sunday in late August, our vehicle parked in front of Hapachara Lower Primary School adjacent to National Highway 31, a four hour journey from Guwahati, the gateway to North-eastern states of India. The smooth road, beautiful hills and never-ending greenery almost made us forget that we were in search of a black spot of human history, the internally displaced persons camp located in Hapachara village under Bongaigaon district of Assam. We approached a scrap vendor taking shelter under a huge tree and asked for directions.


Forty five year old Romej Uddin not only showed us the way to the camp, but also informed us that he himself is a camp inmate. The left bylane from the National Highway took us to the village. As the street narrowed, we suddenly came upon a congested human settlement across just over an acre of land. An elderly person sitting in a medicine shop warned us that the actual camp is just ahead. We crossed a small plot of agricultural land and found another settlement, more congested, filthier and more inhuman. A few people were sitting under a tin roofed open house without any walls, door or window, and some women were drying boiled rice grain nearby. As we joined the group in the open house, within a few minutes the house filled up. Everyone had a grimy story to tell, everyone had a reason to lament, and yet, everyone also held a dim ray of hope for a brighter day to end their two decades long journey of suffering and betrayal.


There are 1118 families living in the Hapachara IDP camp set up on a piece of private land measuring 10 bighas (nearly 1 and half hector) owned by Rustam Ali in 2000 against an annual rent of Rs. 7000. On October 7, 1993, the Bodo militants started targeted violence against the Muslim minority (Muslims constitute some 30 percent of the statepopulation) of Sidli subdivision, Kokrajhar district, Assam. The violence spread to other Muslim dominated villages in Bijni subdivision, Bongaigoan district (presently under Chirang district after the district reshuffle under the BTC Accord) and the arson continued till October 11. Officially 3658 families or about 18000 people were affected by the violence (Goswami 2008). As many as 72 people lost their lives in the massacre. Officially, compensation for death was provided to only 10 or so families (Hassan 2014). The inmates of this camp are from Sidli subdivision of Kokrajhar district. After the violence, they were taking shelter in a government manned relief camp at Patabari under Sidli police station for two years. Though paramilitary forces were deployed to provide security to camp inmates from the attack of Bodo militants, yet within a couple of months two persons, Harej Ali and Gunjar Ali were killed by the militants just outside the camp. To avoid further attacks the camp was shifted to Anandabazar, on the other side of the Kanamakra river. Even there the insecurity continued, with one Baser Ali killed near the river by smashing his head by stone. It was almost impossible for the inmates to go outside the camp. They were strictly instructed by the security personnel not to go outside the camp without permission and getting permission was not an easy task. The eyewitnesses describe the horrifying physical and mental consequences of daring to break the order. They were literally confined in the camp. One day, the security personnel suddenly disappeared from the camp, and the government food and other essential relief supplies were stopped. The inmates then had no option but to leave the camp.

The majority of the Muslims of present day BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Area Districts) are of Bengal origin, while a small number are aboriginal EIAV8N6P7-03.jpgconverts to Islam from Koch Rajbongshi. After Assam, a scarcely populated and natural resource rich province, was annexed by the British in 1826 through the treaty of Yandaboo, the British administration encouraged migration of agricultural workers from densely populated Bengal. The advent of the Indian Railway and migration friendly policy helped the administration to bring large numbers of Muslim agricultural workers from Bengal. The colonial administration introduced family tickets from Bengal to Assam, recruited colonization officers in Nagaon, Barpeta and Darrang to look after the issues of migrants. From the early 1930s however, the aboriginal Assamese communities started opposing the migration of Bengalis. After India’s independence and partition, another flow of migration started however, of Hindus from newly formed Pakistan (Guha 2011).

After three decades of independence, an unprecedented movement against migrants took place in Assam. Initially, the ‘Assam Movement’ focused on aboriginal unification against all other Indian ‘bohiragot’ or outsiders. According to some political analysts however, the intrusion of right wing ideologists like RSS into the movement leadership caused it to become a movement against the Bengali origin Muslims (Citizens’ Rights Preservation Committee (CRPC), Assam 2011). The peaceful democratic movement eventually became violent, and within a few hours on February 18, 1983 more than 3000 Muslims of Bengali origin were killed in Nellie, Nogaon district (present day Morigaon). Similar attacks happened in Chaolkhuwa Sapori, Gohpur, Mukalmuwa (Goswami 2013). After six long years, the movement under the leadership of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) came to an end through the “Assam Accord” in 1985.

Various Assamese tribes participating in the Assam Movement realized that the ‘Assam Accord’ was not going to serve their aspirations. Decision making power within the AASU and their subsequent political party called the Asom Gana Parishad had been hijacked by upper caste Hindus. The Bodo leadership which was earlier demanding for a union territory for plains tribes called ‘Udayachal’, narrowed their demands to an exclusive ‘Bodoland’, a full-fledged state. Since the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Bodo underground group targeted mainstream Assamese people in present day BTAD area. In 1993 for the first time, Muslims were targeted on a large scale. The inmates of Hapachara camp were among the victims of this violence.

Subsequent to the violence and large scale displacement, the Bodo Accord of 1993 was signed between the government and the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU)/ Bodo Peoples’ Action Committee. The Accord formed the Bodoland Autonomous Council, comprising a contiguous geographical area between the river Sankosh and Mazbat/river Pansoi. The Accord entitled villages having more than 50 percent Bodo population to be included in the council. It was not an easy task for the Bodo leadership to find adequate villages having more than 50 percent Bodo population without eliminating other tribes from such villages. For this reason, targeted violence against Non-Bodos intensified after the formation of the council, seen as a process of ethnic cleansing (Rajagopalan 2008). In EIAV8N6P7-04.jpg1994, a relief camp of Muslim IDPs in Bashbari, Barpeta district (now in Baksa) was attacked by Bodo militants. Nearly a hundred inmates were massacred in the government manned relief camp at Bashbari High School. These growing incidents of violence, insecurity and complete breakdown of livelihood options mounted pressure on the inmates of Anandabazar relief camp. They finally left the camp without knowing where they were heading to, merely desperate to get away from the reach of the Bodo extremists. They found Rustam Ali, who agreed to give his 10 bighas of agricultural land at the present location to set up a temporary camp against an annual payment of Rs. 7000. In the last 14 years the rent has increased manifold; today they are paying Rs. 48000 per annum.

Though they escaped from the fear of persecution and execution, their plight continued to follow them in the form of starvation, malnutrition, disease, lack of education and livelihood. Seventy-year-old Abdul Jalil once had 26 bighas of agricultural land, more than 15 cows and his own house to live in. In the camp, he has nothing beyond a sense of security. The government has demonstrated only indifference towards these uprooted people. The inmates of various camps united and continued various protest demonstrations and demanded their safe return to their villages. Over a decade later, they are still waiting for some response. Many of the inmates migrated to various cities in search of livelihoods. They went as far as New Delhi to work as rag pickers, construction workers, domestic help and so on. Abdul Jalil’s two sons are working as agricultural labourers in Nagaon districts of upper Assam.

In 2003, the government gave more power to the Bodo militia through a tripartite agreement signed by the State/Provincial Government of Assam, Central/Federal Government of India and the surrendered Bodo Liberation Tigers BLT. This agreement created the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with a demarcated geographical area and constitutional validity under the sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution. Impunity was given to the perpetrators of violence and not a single legal case was pursued against the multitude deaths and displacement. As many as 28 state government departments were transferred to the councils, while the central government was directed to provide a 100 crores annual fund for infrastructural development. The accord made a provision of a 46-member council, with 30 reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes, five seats for non-Tribals, five seats open and six seats to be nominated by the Governor of Assam. The demographic profile of the demarcated area constitutes 28 percent scheduled tribes, while the remaining 72 percent is made up of non-tribals including Muslims, Adivasis, Koch Rajbongshis, Assamese and Bengali Hindus. In other words, 75 percent of seats are reserved for 28 percent of the citizens, while 25 percent of seats are reserved for 72 percent of the citizens. This was not the only attempt to forbid the political participation of the area’s social majority within the council. The accord dismantled the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) within the council area, to be replaced by the Village Council Development Committee, selected by the BTC. The PRIs were given the authority and responsibility to oversee development under the 73rd amendment of the Indian Constitution, as well as to ensure the participation of all sections of society, including marginalized groups like scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and women. In 1996, the government extended PRIs in scheduled areas as well, under the Panchayat (Extension to the Schedule Area) Act. Paradoxically, the BTC replaced the PRIs with the Village Council Development Committee, which literally keeps non- Bodos away from grassroot developmental decision making.

The accord showed a ray of hope however, for those displaced by the ethnic violence, especially the inmates of Hapachara camp. Section 13 of the accord talks about a Special Rehabilitation Programme (SRF), under which the BTC was to provide suitable land for the rehabilitation of the displaced persons. This provision not only gave hope to the displaced Muslims, but also the lakhs of displaced Adivasis who were uprooted by the Bodo militants through a series of violent attacks in 1996 and 1998. Over a decade later, not a single family has yet been rehabilitated under the programme.

The camp inmates of Hapachara, Bordup, Garogaon, Salabila, Bangalduba continued their struggle in the form of democratic protest, sit-ins, hunger strikes. In 2004, after more than a decade of their displacement, the Assam Minister of Rehabilitation visited inmates in their camps and agreed to provide 10 days of ration per month. Government officials showed up one day to survey the camps without prior notice to the inmates. The inmates who had gone to work in nearby towns or villages and those who had migrated to other places were deliberately not included in the list of beneficiaries. In Hapachara camp more than 500 families were excluded and deprived from minimum government support. A total of 1685 families in all camps who were displaced in 1993 were deprived from getting the monthly 10 day ration.


The inmates continued their struggle jointly, demonstrating in front of the state secretariat in Dispur. Finally in 2010, the Assam Government agreed to compensate the IDPs with Rs. 50,000. The government refused to resurvey the camp however, and instead stipulated that only the displaced families who had received a) 10 days ration per month and b) Rs. 10,000 compensation in 1995 will be eligible for the rehabilitation package of Rs. 50,000. In this process, 95 families from Hapachara camp who had received 10 days ration but not the Rs. 10,000 were dropped from the list. As a result only 557 families received Rs. 50,000. Amongst all the camps, the total number of deprived families is more than 1600. The government further stipulated that after receiving the Rs. 50,000, the family will have to leave the camp forever. Is Rs. 50,000 enough to rehabilitate a family which lost everythinEIAV8N6P7-06.jpgg in the course of forced displacement? Today, there are two settlements in Hapachara: one is of those IDPs who have received the Rs. 50,000 and the other is of those who are still fighting for the package. There is little difference between the two camps.

One of the most pertinent questions arising here is whether the Indian state considers rehabilitation and resettlement as a ‘reward’ or ‘entitlement’ (L.J. Bartolome, C. de Wet, H. Mander, V.K. Nagraj 2000). It is unfortunate that instead of accepting rehabilitation as an entitlement or right for displaced people, the government rather offers it as a ‘reward’ against the sacrifice made by the displaced persons. The government remains indifferent even in cases of humanitarian crisis. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (iDMC) observes that in Assam and Tripura, food shortages and lack of health care leave the internally displaced in acute hardship. Its report further stated that “The state governments say they have no money to provide relief to the displaced population and that they depend on support from the central government,” (iDMC 2007). The central government seems even more reluctant; despite the formulation of its National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy in 2007, it continues to grossly fail in addressing the issues and concerns of the large numbers of IDPs in the country.

International organizations like the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, Norwegian Refugee Council and other human rights organizations have been asking the Indian government to enact relevant law in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Azad 2013). Principle 18 of the said UN Guidelines says, “At the minimum, regardless of the circumstances and without discrimination, competent authorities shall provide internally displaced persons with and ensure safe access to a) essential food and potable water, b) basic shelter and housing, c) appropriate clothing and d) essential medical and sanitation.” This holds the state duty bound to provide relief and rehabilitation to IDPs, which is seen as their basic rights. Those bodies have also recommended the Indian government to form a constitutional body like the National Human Rights Commission or the National Commission for Women to protect the rights of internally displaced persons. A government that can shamelessly say it has no money to feed those ill fated people however, can hardly be expected to formulate such law or make any competent body.

It must be asked though, how much money is actually needed for the resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs? Is India poorer than Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Colombia, Croatia, Georgia (Ahmed 2008), all of which have made the necessary legal and constitutional arrangements for their IDPs? On October 7, 2014, the IDPs of Hapachara camp marked the 21st anniversary of their displacement. Is it really too expensive for the world’s largest democracy to do its duty to its own people?


Ahmed, Shahiuz Zaman. “IDPs in South Asia: Issues and Challenges.” In Internally Displaced Persons in South Asia, by Shahiuz Zaman Ahmed Debamitra Mitra, 3-22. Agartala: Icfai University Press, 2008.

Azad, Abdul Kalam. “The Internal Displacement Persons: Issue Roared in Assam Assembly.” Eastern Crescent, May 2013.

Citizens’ Rights Preservation Committee (CRPC), Assam. “Approach Paper (National Convention on D Voter in 2011 in New Delhi).” Citizens’ Rights Preservation Committee (CRPC), Assam, 2011.

Goswami, Sabita. Along the Red River. New Delhi: Zubaan, 2013.

Goswami, Uddipana. “Nobody’s People: Muslim IDPs of Western Assam .” In Blister on Their Feet: Tales of IDPs in India’s Northeast, by Samir Kumar Das, 176-188. Sage, 2008.

Guha, Amalendu. Jagaran (Char Chapori Sahitya Parishad Asom), 2011.

Hassan, Sajjad. “Summery of Assam Visit (Un-published).” September 2014.

iDMC. India: Large Number of IDPs are unassisted and in need of Protection. Switzerland : iDMC Norwegian Refugee Council, 2007.

L.J. Bartolome, C. de Wet, H. Mander, V.K. Nagraj. Displacement, Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Reparation, and Development. Cape Town: WCD Thematic Review I.3, 2000.

The article was published in Dec, 2014 issue of Ethics in Action, AHRC, Hong Kong http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/journals-magazines/eia/EIAV8N6/EIAV8N6P7