Final draft memorandum on recent turmoil, politics of ethnic cleansing and BTC

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H.O. C/o N. k. Das, Khudiram Sarani, Sibbari Road, Tarapur, Silchar - 788008
Regd No. 2287
Ref :  NIL                                                                                                                    Date : ২৮-০৭-২০১২
The Honourable Chief Minister
Government of Assam
Dispur, Guwahati
(Through Deputy Commissioner, Cachar)

Sub – Memorandum

Respected Sir,
We, on behalf of various organizations would like to draw your kind attention to the fact that the recent orgy of violence that took away many innocent lives and torched innumerable Muslim villages speaks volumes about the politics of ethnic cleansing prevailing in the BTAD area. The mayhem let loose by the armed Bodo militant groups supported by biased political administration of BTC and an insensitive civil and police administration has compelled the lakhs of Muslim villagers to flee and take refuge in the camps to live the inhuman life of their predecessors who are still languishing in the makeshift camps as the victims of earlier similar genocide. In  front of an all out aggressive armed terrorist attack, the brave front of mass-resistance of the victims proved to be feeble and collapsing when the perpetrators of violence with their hegemonic position started an well orchestrated campaign of outside involvement with an intention to give an Islamic dimension of Bangladeshi infiltration to justify the entire anti-Muslim operation. As the mistrust between the communities looms large in a terror-stricken environment, a section of poor Bodo masses also fled their villages and took refuge in the camps. A section of the Bodo leadership having a least sympathy to their poor community-brethren is deliberately amplifying it to emphasise the theory of outside involvement.   
We uphold the principle of equal rights and equal dignity of all the communities and this principle necessitates empowerment of all communities whose identity rights are at stake. But the way a section of Bodo leadership is spearheading the Bodoland movement to establish absolute hegemony and minority rule over all other communities who constitute the majority population in the BTC area is not in any way serving the interest of common Bodo masses. According to one estimate, Bodos constitute not more than 25 per cent of the total population in the BTC area (and not more than 6 percent of total population of Assam). This means that the BTC Accord gives the Bodos a special status under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution at the cost of 75 per cent of non-Bodo population in the proposed BTC area. 
This movement with an undemocratic essence has naturally transformed itself into a chauvinist-terrorist onslaught through complete lumpenisation of the polity and twisting mass-psyche of disrespect towards the democratic rights of others. The armed Bodo organizations are bent on instilling a fear psychosis in the minds of all non-Bodo population with tacit support of their patron at the helm of affairs.

                                                                                                                                  Contd. To Page 2

This type of pogrom against the non-Bodos is not new and unfamiliar in this BTAD area. Actually the history of the movement for Bodoland and divide Assam fifty-fifty launched in the name of the assertion of Bodo identity rights is mired with killings of thousands and large-scale eviction of lakhs of people especially Santals and Muslims. A horrific attack in Muslim villages including the refugee camp in Barpeta District in 1994 and similar attack on Santals in 1996 are still fresh in the minds of the survivors and the victim families. In 2008, a rumour of a missing Bodo youth gave the alibi to the Bodo Terrorists to let loose a reign of terror on the Muslim populace in Darang and Udalguri districts  killing 55, injuring more than 100 and pushing more than 1.5 lakhs of muslim masses to refugee camp by completely shattering 54 villages according to one estimate. The death and destruction during the attack on Santals in 1996 had even surpassed this horrific scale. All other communities including the Bengali Hindus are muted through terror tactics and they have to live in a state of terror and submission.
This overt way of annihilation, covert way of leading those in the camps to die slowly in an inhuman living condition and forced displacement through eviction are machinated to establish the Majority figure of the Bodos who are otherwise minority in the entire landscape of Bodoland demanded. To put the figure straight, the Bodos in the area constitute less than 20 per cent of the population, but have been deemed fit to command an unassailable, absolute majority in the proposed Council. Over 65 per cent of the seats in the Council are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs), whereas the total ST population, including the Bodos, is around 30 per cent.  It is Bodoland for the Bodos even when the territory has only an absolute minority of Bodos. This is a gross violation of equality and democratic rights. Given the savage violence with which ethnic cleansing by the armed Bodos has been taking place in the area for decades, handing over considerable powers to the perpetrators of that protracted violence has meant the end of all guarantees of safety, livelihood and democratic rights for the non-Bodo majority. The sixth schedule has even deprived the non-Bodos from the powers that have been enjoyed by the people in the rest of Assam through Assam Panchayat act promulgated on the basis of 73rd constitutional act.
But the three men expert commission set up by the centre to propose solution of this vexed problem do not subscribe to the formation of BTC. This commission consisted of the Chairman, Bhupinder Singh, a long-time handler of tribal affairs for the Union Home Ministry; Kumar Suresh Singh an anthropologist and administrator; and, a member secretary supplied from the Home Ministry’s ranks. This commission was to look at both the Bodo and the Mising questions on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. We would like to summarise very briefly its recommendations so far as they pertain to the Bodo question.
The commission had access to the linguistic tables of the 1991 census. From their study of it, they concluded that the Bodos had majorities at the village and village cluster levels only. This was a crucial finding. Keeping in mind the aspirations of the Bodos, the commission proposed two things, one for the state level and another for the regional level. At the regional level, it proposed a three-tier structure of self-government, two of them territorial, at the village and village cluster levels, and a coordinating body above the two. All three bodies were to have demarcated but interpenetrating powers. At the state level, the commission proposed a second chamber for the legislature, a sort of house of ethnicities, with definite powers, including the veto over the lower chamber in certain matters, to ensure self-rule and the cultural and social autonomy of the various ethnicities. The question of the Sixth Schedule could not possibly occur in such a proposal. That or any large-scale territorial autonomy had become untenable on account of the demographic findings.                                                                                                                       Contd. To Page 3
But the objectives as stated in  the agreement are: to create an Autonomous self governing body to be known as Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) within the State of Assam and to provide constitutional protection under Sixth Schedule to the said Autonomous Body;                                              to fulfil economic, educational and linguistic aspirations and the preservation of land-rights, socio-cultural and ethnic identity of the Bodos; and speed up the infrastructure development in BTC area. So the formation of BTC itself curtailed the rights of non-Bodos who are majority in the area demarcated.
Under the circumstances stated above, we put forward the following demands for your perusal and immediate needful action.
(1)   All the arms of the Bodo militant organizations who are under ceasefire must be seized immediately.
(2)   All the past evicted people who are languishing in the makeshift camps and the evicted people of recent violence must be suitably rehabilitated and compensated,
(3)   BTC must be dissolved and BTAD must be abrogated immediately.
(4)   The present BTAD area vis-à-vis entire state of Assam must be re-structured on federal basis to ensure equal-rights and equal-dignity of all the communities of Assam including the Bodos.  
                                                                                                              Yours faithfully

Copy to – (1) Hounourable Governor, GoA, Dispur. (2) Honourable Prime Minister, GoI, New Delhi (3) Honourable Home Minister, GoI, New Delhi. (2) The Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission, GoI, New Delhi.

This scholarly article was written at the time when the Bill for formation of Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) was at the committee stage. The content of this article is not only relevant today, but the predictions made by the author are also vindicated by the recent turn of events at BTAD.

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Devolution of Power to a Minority of Ethnic Cleansers
Killings and Internal Displacement in Bodoland

                                                                by Vaskar Nandy

The Assam and the Union governments have agreed to grant autonomy under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution to a Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) comprising of whole or parts of six Lower Assam districts.  There is now a negotiated Accord to that effect with the biggest Bodo terrorist group, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which remains heavily armed and continues to intimidate, displace, rig polls, extort money and murder ordinary people under the guise of a ceasefire that has entitled them to the protection of the state and central paramilitaries. All that remains to be done is the passing of a Bill in parliament.
            The Bill is now at the committee stage and it will pass almost unopposed on account of the support the Accord has received from the NDA, the Congress and the parliamentary Left. Reflecting this wide party political consensus, the press and the other media have more or less followed suit, especially since Assam has always been the Unknown Continent and continues to remain so as far as the so called Indian mainstream is concerned.
            The opposition to this proposal is feeble, although it comes from the majority of the people living in the mooted BTC. The voice of this majority does not reach the glare of publicity on account of that majority’s poverty, illiteracy and a general lack of access to the political skills that are required to deal with the state machinery and the media. Having been abandoned by the established political parties, this majority’s views have been aired through a series of non-violent movements sponsored by a coordination of more than a dozen ethnic and class organisations, the Sanmilita Jati Goshti Sangram Samiti (SJGSS). The case put forward by the SJGSS is very strong and it requires serious and sympathetic consideration.
            The major points raised by the SJGSS are: 1) That the Bodos in the area constitute less than 20 per cent of the population, but have been deemed fit to command an unassailable, absolute majority in the proposed Council. Over 65 per cent of the seats in the Council are to be reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs), whereas the total ST population, including the Bodos, is around 30 per cent. The Accord states that the objective in setting up the BTC is to “fulfil economic, educational and linguistic aspirations and the preservation of land rights, socio-cultural and ethnic identity of the Bodos…” There is no concern here about the STs other than the Bodos. It is Bodoland for the Bodos even when the territory has only an absolute minority of Bodos. This is a gross violation of equality and democratic rights; 2) That, given the savage violence with which ethnic cleansing by the armed Bodos has taken place in the area for decades, handing over considerable powers to the perpetrators of that protracted violence will mean the end of all guarantees of safety, livelihood and democratic rights for the non-Bodo majority, much in the manner of the plight of the Palestinians in Sharon-led Israel, beholden to the mastermind behind the massacres at Sabra and Shatila; 3) That the two governments failed to consult any non-Bodo organisation, or indeed any organisation other than the BLT, in spite of repeated demands for it and it would appear to be their intention to buy peace by bribing a violent minority  with an undemocratic, illegitimate and dangerous Accord; and finally, 4) that the Sixth Schedule was intended by the framers of the Constitution for the “Hill Tribes” of Assam as it then was. It was explicitly not intended for the “Plains Tribes” of Assam. The framers of the Constitution explicated their intention to treat the plains tribes of Assam as “minorities”, without territorial autonomy. The granting of Sixth Schedule status to such plains tribes through a simple majority in Parliament would violate the constitution.

The Demographic Tangle

            For Indians and others not familiar with the demography and history of Assam, the SJGSS views could easily seem to be too complicated, remote and unintelligible for opinion formation. It is therefore best to consider the issues mooted by them as factually as possible. This caveat about the possible is quite necessary. Government hides behind so called official secrets when it comes to disclosing crucial facts. Pertinent to the present issue, the census has clear data on the number of Bodos in the region and in each village demarcated for the BTC. But the Home ministry under which the census functions refuses to publish the linguistic data from which this number could be ascertained. That leaves researchers and activists to arrive first at total STs and then making “guesstimates” about the population of non-Bodo STs. Why should opposition to a serious political move require guesses? The Union Home ministry could have easily published the village-level data on populations of Bodos and non-Bodos, but they have consistently refused to do so. They should have been publishing them suo motu, as would be expected of any decent, democratic practice. It seems that a bureaucratic manoeuvre to hand over almost exclusive governing powers  to a violent minority requires much to be hidden away in government vaults. After an earlier amendment to the Schedule that was tailored to the requirements of the existing Autonomous Districts Councils, these powers are immense and extend to almost all spheres of governance except Home.   
The question of numbers has created much confusion. Even a journal with well-researched views such as the EPW (October 12, 2002) managed to contradict itself within the span of a short comment on BTC developments. At one point, the comment states that the Bodos “comprise 40 per cent of the population” in the proposed BTC area. That comment coexists with another that states that the “non-tribals [make] up nearly two-thirds of the population”. If the Bodos are 40 per cent, then the number of tribals will be much more, by some 10 per cent perhaps, given the substantial presence of non-Bodo tribes such as the large and small groups of Saranias, Rabhas, Madahis, Garos and Hajongs living in the area. That doesn’t make the non-tribals “nearly two-thirds of the population”. More like half would be the case. Also, with the Bodos alone at 40 per cent, it’s a rather stiff ask to make the non-tribals two-thirds. One doesn’t of course blame the commentator too much, as government spokespersons, both politicians and bureaucrats, have been in the habit of giving out all sorts of figures to confuse and obfuscate what should have been a reasoned discussion.
We tried to get at the ST population by consulting the Assam gazette notification for the now defunct Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC). The villages allotted to the BAC have all been included in the proposed BTC. The latter has some additional villages (AVs) of which a list was procured. The BAC villages and the AVs were then traced to the 1991 census which yielded the figure of 36 per cent STs in the total population of the BTC area. This does make the non-tribals nearly two-thirds of the population, as the EPW comment stated. And if we assume the “guesstimate” of 10 per cent non-Bodo STs, then the Bodo population comes down to about a quarter of the population. This is higher than the figure publicised by the SJGSS by around 5 per cent. But that does not contradict the organisation’s main contention about the imposition of minority rule over the majority. A quarter of the population has been rewarded with the powers of a majority. The overwhelming majority is to be stripped effectively of its democratic rights of local self-government. Government’s attitude towards that majority is clear when we see that the AVs that are proposed contain only 7.2 per cent of scheduled tribals, and even less of Bodos. Seventy-five per cent of the AVs have less than four per cent STs and one third have either no STs or have less than one per cent of them.
The Accord proposes that the 46-member Council will have the following composition:  30 seats will be reserved for the STs, 5 are open to all communities, 5 for non-ST communities and 6 seats will be nominated by government, presumably the state government, to give representation to women, non-represented communities, etc. This allotment of seats was the subject of a revealing contention between the negotiators of the Accord. Government had proposed 10 seats for the non-STs (a typically generous first move to give 22 per cent of seats to two-thirds of the population) but the terrorists wanted those seats to be open to all communities so that, as the terrorists knew and the government knew that the terrorists knew, given the prevailing culture of terrorism, all those 10 seats would go to the Bodo terrorists in the sort of elections that can be and are held under massive terrorist threats. That was precisely why Government had proposed a new reservation category of non-STs. But the government caved in soon enough and of the 10 seats in contestation, 5 were reserved for non-STs and 5 were thrown open to all communities. Imagining a best-case scenario for the non-STs, suppose that, 1) Government nominates only non-STs, and, 2) that all five seats open to all communities are won by non-STs, then the total number of seats that they could possibly win would be 16. That comes to 35 per cent of the seats. It means that two-thirds of the population can only aspire to getting, at best, only about a third of the seats. That’s democracy, Home Ministry fashion, with perfumes and adjuncts from the NDA, the parliamentary Left, and the Congress.
It has been an interesting experience to see the political parties and the media gliding over this issue of democratic rights of the majority. It just may be, given the elasticity of political opportunism, that there is some desire somewhere to satisfy the aspiration for self-rule and identity fulfilment among the Bodos. But that need not have taken the path of depriving the majority’s aspirations for the same things, especially when alternatives were not far to seek. In fact a commission set up by Government in the early nineties to look into this question mooted a realistic and fair alternative.
This commission is known in Assam as the Three-man Commission. It consisted of the Chairman, Bhupinder Singh, a long-time handler of tribal affairs for the Union Home Ministry; Kumar Suresh Singh who needs no introduction as an anthropologist and administrator; and, a member secretary supplied from the Home Ministry’s ranks. This commission was to look at both the Bodo and the Mising questions on the north bank of the Brahmaputra. We would like to summarise very briefly its recommendations so far as they pertain to the Bodo question.
The commission had access to the linguistic tables of the 1991 census. From their study of it, they concluded that the Bodos had majorities at the village and village cluster levels only. This was a crucial finding. Keeping in mind the aspirations of the Bodos, the commission proposed two things, one for the state level and another for the regional level. At the regional level, it proposed a three-tier structure of self-government, two of them territorial, at the village and village cluster levels, and a coordinating body above the two. All three bodies were to have demarcated but interpenetrating powers. At the state level, the commission proposed a second chamber for the legislature, a sort of house of ethnicities, with definite powers, including the veto over the lower chamber in certain matters, to ensure self-rule and the cultural and social autonomy of the various ethnicities. The question of the Sixth Schedule could not possibly occur in such a proposal. That or any large-scale territorial autonomy had become untenable on account of the demographic findings.
Having gone through various memoranda submitted to it, the commission felt that its view came close to an “important intellectual” stream within Assam, although it had some differences with it in the detail, largely on the composition and powers of the second chamber. The report prepared by the commission was however buried by the Union government, and the state government looked the other way. No informed public debate could thus take place. Why? Because the Bodo terrorists rejected it on the now familiar ground of not being satisfied with anything less than territorial autonomy or statehood, even if that required the suppression of the democratic rights of the majority. Of course, these terrorists would admit to no such suppressive desire towards the majority. They had conducted, they said, a census on their own, no less, of the whole of the north bank of the Brahmaputra and discovered that the Bodos were a majority in the whole of that area! The cheek displayed by such claims was simply a way of saying that they were not interested in majorities and minorities, they would take as much territory and as much powers as their guns would bring them. Now that we have some idea about what the guns have brought, it is time to see what the guns have wrought.

Two Decades of Internal Displacement and Ethnic Cleansing

Government has consummated its Accord with the larger of the two Bodo terrorist groups. It is therefore important to know about the terrorist activities in the area to understand the fear and trepidation with which that Accord is viewed by the majority of the people living in the area, not just non-Bodo people but also by the democratic sections of the Bodos.
Throughout the long night of Bodo terrorism (from 1986 to the present) national and international attention on its nature and extent has been scant and sporadic. This is quite strange in view of the scale of the killings and the internal displacements that have taken place over these years. Beginning in 1986, Bodo terrorist killings have accounted for thousands upon thousands of men, women and children gunned down in their villages and in crowded contexts such as bazaars and the relief camps sheltering those who escaped being killed during savage terrorist raids on their habitations. Many were blown to smithereens in buses and trains. The latest tally of people who remain internally displaced, as we hope to show presently, is between 300,000 to 400,000 people. The condition of these displaced people has been and remains one of starvation, disease and frequent terrorist raids. The death count from malnutrition and disease in the relief camps alone could not be far less than those from the actual terrorist killings.1
            The apathy in the media; among the great and the good in national and international politics; among the multilateral institutions with their incessant cant about crimes against humanity; among our activist judges; among human and women’s rights activists who should have been alert to the death and displacement of so many innocent people, especially women and children who are usually the first and the most numerous among the dead; and, most shockingly, among even those who are fighting for the democratic rights of ordinary people and against displacement elsewhere in India is, to put it mildly, quite breathtaking. After all, the number of displaced here in Assam may fall short of the numbers in RwandaAfghanistan or Palestine, but they are of the same order. The most generous gloss that one may put on this all-round apathy is that there has not been enough information available for people to act. Perhaps. Let us assume that we are not dealing with a failure of heart and sensibility that the market morality that has descended on the world demands of us and that the information gap needs another effort at breaching. The Bodo terrorist story then becomes one worth the telling.

One major aspect of that story is of course the killings. When the first AGP government was installed (1985) in Assam, the Rajiv Gandhi government in Delhi decided to destabilize it. Following the example of the mother in the case of Bhindranwale, the son bankrolled, armed and trained the Bodo terrorists through the facilities of the Special Security Bureau at, among other places, the Manas Game Sanctuary, next door to the scenes of some of the massive killings in Barpeta, Bongaigaon and Kokrajhar districts that we will have occasion to discuss later. Terrorist sentiments were already present in sections of the Bodo community on account of the brutal suppression of that community’s identity assertion since the late sixties by all the factions of Assamese nationalism that were till recently convinced of the status of the upper caste Assamese in Assam as the herrenvolk. But these terrorist sentiments were shared only by a small, privileged section of the community, mostly youths hailing from landlord, rich peasant, Government servant and thikedar families. The Bodos are one of the tribal groups that have been sharply class-divided since at least the end of the nineteenth century. In the second half of the last century, newly educated sections of the Bodo exploiting classes had kneaded an extremist chauvinism out of the traditional  Bodo-Harsa (all non-Bodos) dichotomy. Infusion of money, Ak-47s and the indulgence of the Union security apparatus strengthened this section immensely. The leaders of the Congress party within the community followed their central leadership to lend covert and overt support to them. The first victims of this terrorism were the democratic forces within the Bodo community, including those that had been leading the struggle for Bodo identity rights. Leaders and activists of the Plains Tribal Council, the leading political party of the community till the rise of terrorism, were gunned down or coerced into silence by increasing numbers of brutal killings. Even a popular and prominent tribal leader of the stature of Samar Brahma Chowdhury was not spared.
Once the democratic forces within the community were silenced by the guns, the next phase of killings began through a mass lumpenisation process that was well coordinated. Students belonging to the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and youths were mobilised into becoming extortionists with rifles and bombs. At most times, the weapons were unnecessary, but the recalcitrant few were eliminated with brutal force. No one with any resource, from well-to-do businessmen and the salaried to the corner pan seller and the poor peasant who returns from the market after selling his few maunds of jute, were or are spared. The victims were both Bodo and non-Bodo. The killings during this phase ran into the hundreds.
Both factions of the terrorists, ABSU and what came later to be named the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a largely Christian-led faction that is more organized in its violence than the parent, ABSU, faction, account for a fairly large number of the dead through mutual slaughter in their bids for the total control over the largely peaceful Bodo community. In one instance, the venue of a marriage among supporters of a rival faction was attacked with automatic fire, killing the bride, groom and most of those present, including children and infants. These killings continue. But the really large-scale killings began when the terrorists started the dangerous game of ethnic cleansing. Starting in early 1989 came the mass killings of non-Bodos as such, accompanied by arson, rapine and the large-scale displacement of the latter. The so-called census by the terrorists was beginning to be realised as fact.
 One particularly gruesome aspect of this campaign of ethnic cleansing has been and continues to be the raids and wanton killings in the relief camps where the displaced are “accommodated” by the government. On July 24, 1994, for one particularly horrible example among many others, the Bodo terrorists attacked a relief camp, Banhbari in Barpeta district, where many Muslim families had been placed after a bout of Bodo terrorist killings, arson and loot in which at least 1000 persons were slaughtered. The toll at the camp itself, according to the administration, was 71 men, women and children dead and over 100 persons seriously injured. Unofficial estimates for both the dead and the injured in the camp were much higher.
In 1996, just after the elections, this ethnic cleansing reached its highest level in neighbouring Kokrajhar district, leaving around one thousand dead2, if one accepts the government figures, or thousands, if the locals are to be believed. Hundreds of thousands of people were burnt and looted out of their homes. This time, the displaced were mostly Santhals, but there was also a smattering of some other Jharkhandi “tribals”. (Why these tribals have become tribals within quotes is a story that we will have to touch upon presently.) This particularly loathsome incident, spread over days without any state intervention, came to a close only when some desperate Santhals gathered in Srirampur, Kokrajhar district and burnt down a few Bodo villages in an afternoon’s work that was remarkable for its lack of any killings. 
This ethnic cleansing of non-Bodos continues, but its purpose today is largely to keep up the terrorisation so that the displaced remain confined to the makeshift camps where they, especially children, women and the old, have died and are dying in their thousands from hunger, malnutrition and epidemics as a great tribute to Government’s hospitality. For nearly a decade now, the great and caring Indian state has been doing the ethnic cleansing for the Bodo terrorists quite efficiently in those camps. This does not mean that smaller scale terrorist killings and displacements are not taking place. They are.  
Two important attempts have been made to assess the extent of displacement in the region. Both Hiram Ruiz3 of the US Committee on Refugees and Monirul Hussein4 of Guwahati University have reached similar conclusions.
            In both of his assessments, Ruiz concentrates on the scale of displacement of Santhals after the traumatic May 1996 killings in Kokrajhar. In one of them he states the number as “the more than 200,000 people who became displaced”. But we do not have to wait long to see how much that “more than” actually means. In the other piece, Ruiz states the number to be “as many as 250,000 people”. Not a few, these 50,000 additional displaced people, far too many to be covered by that “more than” of folklore.  Strangely, both pieces appeared on the same dateJuly 18, 1998. Ruiz then moves on to stranger territory. He writes that “more than 30,000 of those [i.e., presumably the 250,000 people] remain displaced in Assam.” This would convey the impression that the bulk of the displaced must have returned to their old homesteads or found new homesteads to go to.  Yet, the two sets of villagers that Ruiz reports on in the two articles were facing precisely the problem of not being able to leave the government camps and settle back in their villages due to continuous terror. Moreover, Ruiz himself provides the evidence that the movement of displaced people into the camps was not confined to a just one-shot affair of 1996. The 158 displaced families living in a camp that Ruiz met had been displaced in February 1998.
We shall soon look into the question of how many are still in the camps and how many remain otherwise displaced. But before we leave the Ruiz account, it should be stated clearly that he deserves the praise and gratitude of all victims of Bodo terrorism and their sympathisers (this author admits to be one of them) for publicising the Kokrajhar displacements internationally in spite of the central and state governments’ restrictions on foreign scrutiny and a general predilection to part with nothing but half-truths and lies. The internally displaced in India do not have any access to UNHCR or other UN bodies concerned with the relief of the displaced because the Government of India is not a signatory to the protocols and instruments required for it. Our government can jeopardize our sovereignty by joyously accepting almost every fatwa from the White House, the IMF-WB and the WTO, but it turns fiercely independent when it comes to the survival of the internally displaced and cannot accept UN relief for them. Its attitude to them can be seen when it fails repeatedly to release its own massive stores of grain when there are persistent reports of large-scale starvation deaths among the inmates of the Assam camps. The majority of the internally displaced of this region are literally starving to death; the highly irregular, fortnightly government ration consists solely of three and two kilos of rice with some salt for adults and children respectively. The lack of international access has, in part, allowed the Indian authorities to mask the whole tragic story of internal displacement in Lower Assam. The contradictions and lacunae in the Ruiz account can be explained largely by the actions of our administration.
On the Kokrajhar displacements of 1996, Hussein has the same “more than 200,000” account of Ruiz. He goes on to add a post-1996 scenario: “As if the 1996 massacre was not enough, the Bodo militants again in May 1998 attacked and displaced 25,000 people, mostly Santhals, and a few thousand Nepalis living in Assam for generations. Further, more than 7,000 mostly Santhals were displaced in Assam’s western most district Dhubri in June 1999. Besides, many Hindu Bengalis too became displaced in the wake of Bodo militants (sic) ethnic cleansing process. Simply speaking, fear of being killed and injured has become an existential reality in post-colonial Assam for the marginalized groups.” Hussein’s account goes into instances of post-1990 ethnic cleansing and displacement in the region, corroborating and adding to what we have stated above. “In July 1994, the northern parts of the Barpeta district in lower Assam witnessed the massacre of Na-Asamiya Muslim [immigrant Muslim] peasants by a group of [Bodo] militants. It has been estimated that about 1000 persons mostly women and children, were killed and thousand injured and about 60 villages burnt down to ashes. A few months prior to the Barpeta massacre, the Bodo militants organised a very systematic massacre of Muslim peasants in the Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts.”
“Each successive massacre,” Hussein continues, “increased the number of victims. The massacre of Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon district failed to alert adequately the state and the civil society. We have observed elsewhere: ‘both these massacres remained inconspicuous. However, the Barpeta massacre became very conspicuous because the militants not only killed the innocents in their homes, fields, forests and villages, they did not spare even those who took shelter at the Banhbari relief camps run by the state… they were gunned down while they were asleep by the militants at midnight with sophisticated arms and ammunition…. The Banhbari camp was added to very rare (sic) record of relief camps wherein the unarmed inmates were killed mercilessly. A third name Banhbari was added to (sic) Sabra and Shatila list.’ Besides the Na-Asamiya Muslims, the Bodo militants killed many Hindu Bengalis, Nepalis, government and police personnel. The Bodo militants over the years besides looting, extortions and destruction, organised innumerable killings.”
What about Hussein’s estimate of the total number of displaced at the time of his publication, December 2000? “It has been reported that there are more than 200 thousand displaced persons are (sic) currently living in 78 relief camps located in Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts…. Most of the displaced persons of the Barpeta massacre in 1994 returned to their villagers (sic) a few weeks after the massacre. However, there are more than 20,000 Muslim inmates in 18 relief camps located in Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts since 1993.” Hussein’s 7,000 displaced in Dhubri district are, we have discovered, living in two miserable relief camps near Golakganj. But Hussein does not assign any figures to the displacement of the Hindu Bengalis that he mentions. We will deal with the plight of these Hindu Bengalis below. It would appear that Hussein’s account of displacement in the three districts of Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Bongaigaon would amount to around 230,000 camp dwellers plus an unknown number of Bengali Hindus. This misses the mark by miles.
The last authoritative statement by the Government of Assam on the displaced in Lower Assam came in the state assembly on May 5, 1999, before Hussein published his piece. The Assam Tribune (May 6, 1999) front-paged the news: “More than 2.59 lakh [One lakh = 100,000] riot-affected people are still living in the relief camps in Kokrajhar district and the government has so far rehabilitated 28,802 persons. This was disclosed … in reply to a question … in the state Assembly today.”  Apart from this statement, one gets to hear from local journalists and government spokespersons who cite various figures at different times, but almost always with the “more than” as the escape clause, as in this mid-1999 assembly statement itself. 
Since we are attempting an estimate of the number of terrorism-induced displaced in the eight districts as a whole, let us begin with the 1999 government statement. The very first point that requires to be noted about this statement is that it refers to only one of the eight affected districts, albeit the one most horribly scarred. Secondly, the “more than 2.59 lakh” figure it cites – we will definitely ignore the Government claim about rehabilitation, because most of those “rehabilitated” returned to the camps or were otherwise displaced again due to terrorist pressure - refers to only those who are in the government-run relief camps. Let us then take care of the “more than” by rounding the figure to 260,000 people in the government-run relief camps in Kokrajhar. Thirdly, we add to it those relief camp dwellers referred to by Hussein for Bongaigaon and Dhubri districts: 21,0005 and 7,000 respectively. That brings up the total of camp dwellers for three of the eight districts to 288,000. But Bongaigaon has official camps other than those for which Hussein provides specific numbers. For example, there is the Vidyapur camp right next door to Bongaigaon, the district town. In the early nineties, there were more than 3,000 inmates in that camp, mostly indigenous Koch-Rajbangshis. Over the years, the government’s hospitality has driven a lot of people out into a scatter, but as of a few months ago, there were still about 2,000 people in that camp, although they had ceased to get any government help by then. Taking a cue from the “more than” of government and non-government accounts, I should think it safe enough to say that there are now, in these three Lower Assam districts, i.e., Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Dhubri, a population of close to 290,000 official relief camp dwellers.
But are the relief camp dwellers the only displaced people in this region? What happened to the non-Bodos who fled the ethnic cleansing in the other five districts? There are no relief camps there. So, what happened to them? Moreover, even in the three districts mentioned above, were or are all displaced in the relief camps?
We could begin to answer these questions with Hussein’s account of a significant section of these people, viz., the survivors of the Barpeta massacres and the subsequent killings in the Banhbari relief camp. Hussein says that “most of the displaced persons of the Barpeta massacre in 1994 returned to their villagers (sic) a few weeks after the massacres.” Is this accurate? One of my informants, a fairly well-known lawyer and political activist of Barpeta, when questioned about Hussein’s account disagreed strongly. He says that he has participated in several post-1994 election campaigns covering, among other places, precisely the areas of the massacres. He has relatives and friends among the affected with whom he is in continuous touch. He says that there are no camp dwellers in the area because no one would dare to go through another Sabra-Shatila experience. Secondly, most of the victims were never in camps simply because no camps had been provided for them by the government. Thirdly, while a comparatively few have, over the years, returned to their old homesteads and fields because of the desperate conditions created by displacement and have thus become targets of repeated attacks and threats, the overwhelming majority have been scattered far and wide, plunged into the life of below-subsistence labourers living among sympathetic villagers or in cities and towns in Assam and the rest of India.
A Reuters report (27.7.1994) circulated soon after the Banhbari massacre would appear to confirm my informant’s account of a general scattering of the displaced. Professor Shin-wha Lee’s summary6 of the report states that “the massacre at the Bansbari [another transliteration of Banhbari] relief camp on July 24 has prompted more than 54,000 people, mostly Muslims, to flee their villages and head towards cities such as Guwahati and Barpeta.” My informant would place the number of such displaced today at around 50,000. His account would appear to be realistic simply because of the fact that the whole purpose of the original attack on these victims was to displace them and all subsequent terrorist activities in that area, of which there has been no dearth, have been with the purpose of not allowing the displaced to regain their homesteads and fields.
This type of scattering of the displaced has been a constant feature in the region. Lee documents a case of March 19897: “The Bodo-dominated areas of Kokrajhar and Udalguri [in Darrang district] had been in turmoil for the past two weeks, leaving some 32 dead and 40 injured. As ABSU-led  young armed Bodo extremists [later to sign the Accord as the BLT] engaged in arson and banditry, attacked security guards, and looted arms, Assamese non-tribals in the Bodo-dominated areas fled to neighbouring towns.” Fearing what was happening in neighbouring Udalguri and Tangla and spurred on by Bodo hooligan threats, many Hindu Bengalis, who were the majority of those killed and displaced in these particular incidents, began to flee from the north of the Goreshwar area of Kamrup district and scattered, like their ethnic kins in the directly affected areas, all over Assam and West Bengal.
The displaced among the Santhals, who are in such large numbers in the relief camps of Kokrajhar and Dhubri, also tally up significantly among the scattered population. I have observed that in the Sreerampur Santhal Colony, there are about 5,000 displaced Santhals who lead a miserable life that is largely dependent on charity from relatives, lineages and informal ties to the community structures of the various Christian parishes. This story repeats itself wherever the Santhals are in large numbers and have invested their political energies in the defence of their lives. The area west of Runikhata and around Nayekgaon and Salekathi are good examples where, as in Sreerampur, large numbers of displaced people are sheltering themselves. Many of these displaced Santhals are to be found in the adjoining districts of West Bengal and some are said to have found shelter in Jharkhand.
The Hindu Bengali displaced have scattered very largely all over AssamWest Bengal and, to a certain extent, further afield. In the villages around Tangla (Darrang district), Goreshwar (Kamrup district), Mazbat (on the borders of Darrang and Sonitpur districts), Bijni (Bongaigaon district), Nikasi and Subankhata (Nalbari district) and in many other places large and small, the total displacement of Hindu Bengalis has been of the order of tens of thousands of people. In a large number of places in the other parts of the region, the displaced have been in the hundreds, but they also add up to considerable numbers in their totality. With very bitter memories of relief camps when they came into India as refugees from East Pakistan, most of these people have not sought any relief in government camps and they were not offered it anyway.
Among the Muslim displaced, it is not only the victims of the Barpeta massacres that are not to be found in government relief camps. Many more such victims from the whole region have taken to scattered lives all over Assam and some other states of the North East. But some have been enterprising in an interesting way. They have formed “private camps”, as they themselves call them.  If one travels to Hapasara (Bongaigaon district), Simlaitari (Dhubri district) and Bangaldoba (Dhubri district), one finds these private camps. These are nothing but places where thousands of displaced Muslims from mainly Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts have found sympathetic areas where to camp down on private and government-owned waste land. There are tens of such places where smaller clusters of displaced people have sheltered themselves. At the main big, private camps, the total population will exceed 10,000.
What do all these figures add up to? First, we have the more or less firm figure of nearly 290,000 displaced persons in government camps in the three districts of Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Bongaigaon. Second, we have around 50,000 Muslims scattered from the Barpeta district where Banhbari is. Third, we have at least 10,000 Muslims of Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon districts who are living in “private camps”. Fourth, we have about 10,000 Santhals and other Jharkhandi “tribals” who are scattered among their ethnic connexions in relatively secure areas. Fifth, although it is difficult to put a figure to the Hindu Bengali displacement, my tours and investigations in Bijni, Subankhata, Nikashi and Tamulpur leads me to an estimate of almost 20,000 such displaced in those particular areas. Given the fact that Hindu Bengali displacement in the Tangla, Udalguri and Majbat belt was the most massive of all such displacements, I depend on hearsay to put forward the tentative figure of about 10,000 for that belt.
All these figures add up to a staggering, nearly 400,000 internally displaced people in the eight Lower Assam districts. Even if we discount the whole of my Barpeta informant’s estimate (50,000) and my estimates for the Santhal and Hindu Bengali scatter, we still have the firmest figure of more than 300,000 displaced in the government and private camps of which more than a quarter of a million are said by the Government of Assam itself to be in its camps. We can therefore conclude our numerical survey of the internally displaced by stating that there are between 300,000 to 400,000 internally displaced people in Lower Assam.
These are staggering figures that are comparable to the numbers of the displaced in many internationally publicised problem areas. And yet this massive human rights disaster attracts very little attention in India or elsewhere, while the heinous Bodo terrorist killers and their political spokespersons are feted and dined by Dispur and New Delhi in “negotiations” that progressively concede more and more undemocratic rights and privileges to them.
 For many years, the SJGSS and some of its affiliates have demanded serious negotiations between Government and all ethnic groups and interests in the region through the convening of what they call a Round Table Conference. The idea is to negotiate a fair settlement of the ethnic strife in the region by involving all its inhabitants. Unlike Government’s eagerness to hold innumerable secret talks with the ethnic cleansers, there have been no signs from it regarding the constitution of any round table discussions that included a broad spectrum of opinion. In fact Government has not held any formal talks with any of the region’s diversity of groups, interests and organisations, including the SJGSS. This is a dangerous policy. If all doors for the entry of democratic, negotiated settlements are shut, legitimate grievances will find illegitimate ways such as terrorism. Already, there are certain non-Bodo terrorist organisations operating in the area, mostly as contemptible as their Bodo counterparts. Luckily, the great mass of the non-Bodo peoples are still rejecting them and keeping faith with peaceful and democratic methods. 
Some well-intentioned people who are sympathetic towards tribals view the BTC question as simply a granting of some privileges to a backward group. What these people forget is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the victims of terrorism are in fact tribals who have been wrongfully excluded from the schedule. We speak, first of all, about the Santhals, Oraons, Mundas and other Jharkhandi tribals. These Jharkhandis, living in Assam for 150 years or so as tea labourers and as people relocated into a Santhal Agency in the aftermath of the Santhal Rebellion, are the quintessential autochthons of India and they are recognised as scheduled tribals in all the states they make their homes in except Assam where they were descheduled by the Presidential order of 1950. The reason for this is part of the sordid history of Assamese chauvinism and came out clearly when Indira Gandhi, under some pressure from her own tea garden vote bank, refused to reschedule them because she said that it would change the political picture in Assam. She was right about the picture, because these Jharkhandis in Assam constitute about a quarter of the population, another “guesstimate” of course. At present, the two major parties in Assam, the Congress and the AGP, are both on record as being in favour of their scheduling as tribes, but one suspects this to be the result of a rising sentiment for scheduling among these voters that cannot be ignored and is not to be taken seriously until that sentiment is strongly reflected in militant movement. The language of militancy and barbarism seems to be the only language understood by the Indian ruling classes.
The Koch-Rajbangshis are listed as OBCs in Assam and as scheduled castes in Bengal. In Assam as a whole, this group presents a wide diversity of social development, but in the larger Goalpara and Kamrup region where most of the proposed BTC area falls, the Koch-Rajbangshis remain basically tribal in spite of burgeoning class differentiation. This fact has also been dimly recognised by the two big parties in Assam. The Koch-Rajbangshis were in fact scheduled as tribals in the nineties by a central ordinance for six months before that ordinance lapsed for the lack of any legislation in parliament. The Koch-Rajbangshis and the Jharkhandi tribals together constitute, another “guesstimate”, around thirty-five per cent of the BTC population. That is about ten per cent more than the Bodo population. Added to their numbers, the equally harassed and intimidated non-Bodo STs would swell the population of non-Boro tribals in the BTC to a formidable forty-five per cent. It is therefore clear that those whose democratic rights are being snatched away are in the main tribals. Those who are concerned about  the plight of tribals should reflect on this.

The Sixth Schedule

The Bodo Accord proposes the formation of the BTC under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Indian constitution. Can this be done without violating the letter, spirit and intention of that document itself?
The constituent assembly formed a committee to look into the provisions for the tribes of India and make recommendations to the Drafting Committee. This committee created a sub-committee under the chairmanship of Gopinath Bordoloi, then Premier of Assam, to give special consideration to the tribal question in the hills of Assam as it then was. Its main focus, as required by the Cabinet Mission Statement of May 16, 1946, was what were known since the Government of India Act of 1935 as “excluded” and “tribal” areas of Assam, i.e., areas that were “partially administered” or “un-administered” respectively. These areas were in the hills and of these, only the North Cachar Hills district and the Karbi Anglong district survive within present-day Assam. As we shall see, the sub-committee looked also at the plains tribes of Assam in its report. This term “plains tribe” is a unique constitutional provision for Assam wherein the scheduled tribes are divided into two groups depending on the location of homeland, whether in the hills or in the plains. This follows the sharp distinction that the constitution makes between the hill areas of Assam and the plains areas on account of the unique requirements of the former.  
The Gopinath Bordoloi sub-committee’s report became a part of the larger committee’s report that was accepted in its totality by the Drafting Committee. During the Assembly debate on the question, Ambedkar, on behalf of the Drafting Committee, proposed the acceptance of the report, with some minor amendments such as on the discretionary powers of the Governor, the appellate powers of the courts, etc. which do not concern us here. The report, with the minor amendments, took the shape of the Sixth Schedule of the constitution.
The joint report of the two sub-committees was clear in its mind about why the provision for a special schedule for the hill tribes of Assam was required: “The distinguishing feature of the Assam Hills and frontier tracts is the fact that they are divided into fairly large districts inhabited by single tribes or fairly homogeneous groups of tribes with highly democratic and mutually exclusive tribal organisation and very little of the plains leaven which is so common a feature of the corresponding areas, particularly the partially excluded areas of other Provinces. The Assam hill districts contain as a rule upwards of 90% of tribal population whereas unless we isolate small areas this is generally not the case in the other Provinces. The tribal population in the other Provinces has moreover assimilated to a considerable extent the life and ways of the plains people and tribal organisations have in many places completely disintegrated… Having been excluded totally from ministerial jurisdiction and secluded also from the rest of the Province by the Inner Line system, a parallel to which is not to be found in any other part of India, the excluded areas have been mostly anthropological specimens… It is in these conditions that proposals have been made for the establishment of special local councils which in their separate hill domains will carry on the administration of tribal law and control the utilisation of the village land and forest.” (Select Documents III, 7(iv), pp.771-2)
The contrast here in this passage is between the hill tribes of Assam and the tribes in the other provinces. But the report makes sure that the contrast extends to the plains tribes of Assam also. B.Shiva Rao, the authoritative constitutional expert and historian, says: “The sub-committee on the Assam tribal and excluded areas [the Bordoloi sub-committee] also made a reference in its report to the tribal population of Assam living in the plains. According to the sub-committee there were nearly twice as many tribals living outside the excluded and tribal areas as there were within those areas. The sub-committee did not make any specific recommendations about these people except to remark that they were being gradually assimilated to the population of the plains; that measures for the protection of their lands would be necessary; and that the question of their representation and protection should be considered by the Minorities Sub-Committee.” (Select Documents III, 7 (iii), p.734)
The constituent assembly was thus aware of the situation of the plains tribals of Assam and its recommendation was to consider them as Minorities with special problems regarding land, representation and protection. The mind of the makers of the constitution had drawn a strong line separating those among the tribals of Assam for whom the Sixth Schedule was necessary and those for whom it was not, i.e., the plains tribals. One should be reminded here that the Three Man Committee’s recommendations for Bodo local self-government could easily take care of the problem of land alienation, representation and protection. It should be remembered, however, that Bodo representation in the Assam assembly has always hovered around their percentage in the total population of Assam and their representation in parliament has been continuous on account of their monopoly over the Kokrajhar ST reserved seat in the plains. Parliamentary representation has therefore been way above what their proportion in the population would indicate. As to protection, the reader should judge as to who needs it.
It is customary for disputes arising out of interpretations of constitutional provisions to be adjudicated very largely on the intentions of the makers of the constitution. Some people have tried to interpret a particular provision of the Sixth Schedule without any reference to the intentions of the makers of the constitution.
Writing in Frontline (March 14, 2003), M.S.Prabhakar states, with regard to the formation of the BTC, that Sixth Schedule “Para 1 (2/c) empowers the Governor to create a new Autonomous District….” Clearly, Prabhakar has in mind Para 1(3/c) rather than 1 (2/c). Para 1(3/c) does empower the Governor to “create a new autonomous district”. But where can he create such a district? If the intentions of the constitution writers are taken into account, such districts can be created only where the tribes live in large compact areas; constitute an overwhelming majority of the area; are isolated from the rest of the population; with little assimilation with non-tribals and have retained their traditional tribal organisations more or less intact. That was the essence of what the Bordoloi sub-committee had to say, in the passage quoted above, about the tribes that should come under the purview of what became the Sixth Schedule. As far as Assam, at that time consisting of all of the present North East except Tripura, was concerned, that meant only the hill tribes. Instead of complaining, as Prabhakar does, that this power to create autonomous regions has been used only in the case of “so-called Hill Tribes”, he should ponder whether that was precisely what the framers of the constitution had intended. He has every right to think, as he does, that the Sixth Schedule should be extended to the plains tribals, but instead of invoking colonial ghosts, he should get down to the business of telling us how that can be done where populations are mixed and the plains tribes do not command majority status except at the village and the village cluster levels.  If that demographic imperative is forgotten, then the choices are very stark: ethnic cleansing to create a majority status or make arrangements to violate the rights of the majority. The Bodo terrorists have tried the first and Government has bought peace with them by doing the other.   

1 In EPW, December 16,2000, Professor Monirul Hussein writes: “The condition of the relief camps are pathetic and inmates do not get adequate food. The displaced children are deprived of education for years together. There is no privacy for the inmates.[That’s our cute Indian way of saying that there are no latrines.] There is no safe drinking water at all. Most of the displaced persons cannot go out of the camps because of safety reasons. Very few could leave the camps at their own risk. There are no provisions for medical aid and no immunisation to protect the displaced persons and their children from epidemics. Many died because of starvation and malnutrition. Many parents have sold off their children out of poverty and helplessness. Many girls from the displaced families have been forced to accept prostitution along the national highway.”
2 Hussein, ibid.
4 Monirul Hussein, ibid.
5 Hussein says 20,000, but produces documentation for a number a little less than 21,000.
6 Shin-wha Lee, Assamese and Bodos in AssamIndia,

7 ibid.

গণতান্ত্রিক লেখক সংস্থার উদ্যোগে আলোচনা সভা ঃ বিষয় - "দিশেহারা সমকাল - সাহিত্যের ভূমিকা।"

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গুরুগম্ভীর আলোচনাকে অন্তরঙ্গ আলাপচারিতায় রূপান্তরিত করার জন্য সংযোজকের কঠিন দায়িত্ব বর্তায় দীপঙ্কর চন্দের উপর। আলোচনা সভার আহ্বায়ক স্নিগ্ধা নাথ উদ্দেশ্য ব্যাখ্যা করতে গিয়ে বলেন যে বরাকের সাম্প্রতিক ঘটনাবলীকে এক সামগ্রিক দৃষ্টিভঙ্গী থেকে দেখতে হবে এবং দৃষ্টিভঙ্গীর প্রশ্নকেই আলোচনার কেন্দ্রীয় বিষয় হিসেবে তিনি উল্লেখ করেন। প্রথম নির্দ্দিষ্ট আলোচক সুবীর কর বরাকের সাম্প্রদায়িকতাকে ‘চক্রান্তের তত্ব’ দিয়ে ব্যাখ্যা করার চেষ্টা করেন এবং তার একটা দীর্ঘ বাস্তব ইতিহাসও তুলে ধরেন। ঘোষিত বিষয় এবং উদ্দেশ্য ব্যাখ্যার মধ্যে একটা সুক্ষ ফারাক ছিল। ফলে আলোচনাটা কোন খাতে যাবে তা নিয়ে বিভ্রান্তি দেখা দেয়। বিষয় যখন ‘দিশেহারা সমকাল’ – তখন সময়টাকে চেনা-বোঝা এবং তার থেকে উত্তরণের দিশা নিয়ে আলোচনাকে কেন্দ্রীভূত করলে আলোচনাকে অনেক গভীরে নিয়ে যাওয়া যেত – শ্রোতার আসনে নতুন প্রজন্মের অংশগ্রহণ সেই আগ্রহকে প্রকাশ করছিল। কিন্তু এর সাথে জুড়ে দেওয়া হয়েছে আরেকটি বিতর্কিত বড় বিষয় “সাহিত্যের ভূমিকা” এবং ফলে দুই খাতে আলোচনায় অনেক গুরুগম্ভীর কথা অনেক স্রোতধারায় এগিয়ে আসলেও একটা মোহনার দিকে অগ্রসর হচ্ছিল না। যেমন শান্তনু সরকার ও অমিতাভ দেব চৌধুরী সৃষ্টিশীল সাহিত্যের দিশা দেখানোর ব্যাপারে কোন বিশেষ ভূমিকা না থাকার পক্ষেই মত পোষণ করেন। এই তিন বক্তাই দিশেহারা সময়কে মধ্যশ্রেণির সমাজ বিচ্ছিন্নতার মাপদণ্ড দিয়ে ব্যাখ্যা করার চেষ্টা করেন, মধ্যশ্রেণির নেতৃত্বের প্রশ্ন নিয়ে সুবীর করের সাথে দ্বিমত পোষণ করেন শান্তনু। এই দুটো কথার যে কোন একটি থেকে আলোচনা ক্রমশ গভীরতার দিকে নিয়ে যাওয়ার সুযোগ ছিল, কিন্তু আলোচনা এই দুটোর মধ্যে গাঁটছড়া বেঁধে একটা বিশৃঙ্খলার মধ্যে আটকে যায়। তথাপি আলোচনা ছিল অনেক উন্নত মানের এবং নতুন প্রজন্মের অংশগ্রহণ একটা নতুন মাত্রাও দিয়েছিল। শ্রোতাদের মধ্যে অনেকেই দেখার প্রশ্ন – 
 দর্শনের প্রশ্নকে গুরুত্ব আরোপ করেন – কিন্ত এই প্রশ্নকে মতাদর্শের সাথে গুলিয়ে ফেলে আলোচনাকে তার গণ্ডী অতিক্রম করতে দেওয়া হয়নি। ‘কিছু একটা প্রাপ্তি ঘটল’ - সেই মানসিকতা থেকে দেখলে এটা এক সফল আলোচনা – আবার কেউ বলতে পারেন দিশার সন্ধান করারও পথ পেলাম না। এই দিশার সন্ধানের প্রশ্ন নিয়েও খানিকটা বিতর্ক হয়েছে। অনেকের বক্তব্য থেকে একথাও বেরিয়ে এসেছে যে দিশার সন্ধান করাটাও নাকি সাহিত্যের ক্ষেত্রে হুকুম জারি করা। বিভিন্ন অবস্থান থেকে বিভিন্ন জন বাস্তবকে বিভিন্নভাবে দেখে – সিদ্ধার্থের তাত্বিক বক্তব্যের এই সারকে স্বীকার করেও একথা নিশ্চিতভাবে বলা যায় যে দেখারও বিভিন্ন পদ্ধতি থাকা সত্বেও সব পদ্ধতি নিশ্চয়ই একই সাথে শুদ্ধ বা সত্য জানার গ্রহণযোগ্য পদ্ধতি হতে পারে না – এই পদ্ধতিগুলোর নামই ভাববাদ – বস্তুবাদ – দ্বান্দ্বিক বস্তুবাদ। এই পদ্ধতি আয়ত্ব করার পদ্ধতিও আসলে এই ভিন্ন ভিন্নভাবে দেখা বাস্তবের মধ্যে আন্তঃক্রিয়া ও মত বিনিময় এবং প্র্যাকটিস থেকে গড়ে উঠে। ‘দিশেহারা সমকাল’ ও ‘সাহিত্যের ভূমিকা’ এই দুটি বিষয়ের আলোচনা হতে পারত বাস্তব নিয়ে চর্চা থেকে। একটি ভাল সাহিত্য যেমন গ্রাম সমাজ নিয়ে হতে পারে, ঠিক তেমনি বুর্জোয়া সমাজ বা মধ্যবিত্ত শ্রেণি নিয়েও হতে পারে। যে দক্ষ সাহিত্যিক যত ভালভাবে তার সাহিত্য সৃষ্টির বিষয়কে সামগ্রিকতার অংশ হিসেবে দেখতে পারবে – তার সাহিত্যিই ততবেশী সৃষ্টিশীল হবে এবং তারজন্যই প্রয়োজন বাস্তবের চর্চা। অমিতাভ তথ্য-প্রযুক্তির বিপ্লবের ফলে মধ্যশ্রেণির বিচ্ছিন্নতার জন্য ‘ভার্চুয়্যাল ওয়ার্ল্ড’-এর ভূমিকার কথা তুললেও এনিয়ে আলোচনাকে গভীরে নিয়ে যাওয়ার প্রচেষ্টা থেকে নিজেই বিরত থাকেন -– যুক্তি-প্রতিযুক্তির মাধ্যমে পরস্পর বিপরীত গ্রহণযোগ্য সূত্র প্রতিষ্ঠার অবৈজ্ঞানিক মতের প্রতি তার বিশ্বাসই (যা শক্তিপদ ব্রহ্মচারীর মত হিসেবে সেই মতের প্রতি তিনি আস্থা ব্যক্ত করেন) সম্ভবত এবিষয় নিয়ে বেশিদূর অগ্রসর হওয়া থেকে তাকে বিরত করে। নাহলে বাস্তবতার এই দিক নিয়ে আলোচনা করতে করতে আমরা হয়ত বৃহৎ পরিসরে যেতে পারতাম।
        বাস্তবতার বেশ কিছু দিক উন্মোচিত করে গ্রাম বরাকের ঐক্যের ঐতিহ্য নিয়ে দীর্ঘ বক্তব্য রাখেন তুষার কান্তি নাথ ও মুকব্বীর আলী। এখান থেকেও বাস্তব নিয়ে একটা আলোচনা শুরু হতে পারত – কিন্তু ততক্ষণে বেলা গড়িয়ে পড়েছে অনেক – আলোচনার সার সংকলন করতে ডাকা হল সঞ্জীব দাশকে যিনি সঠিকভাবেই বললেন আলোচনার বিষয়বস্তু জটিল – তাই চটজলদি কোন সিদ্ধান্তে উপনীত হওয়া যায় না এবং সাহিত্য সৃষ্টি যেহেতু হুকুম দিয়ে হয় না, তাই ভাষা আন্দোলন নিয়ে উপন্যাস কেন তৈরি হলনা এপ্রসঙ্গ অবান্তর। কিন্তু অশান্ত বাস্তবে আমার মত যারা অশান্ত চিত্তের অধিকারী – যারা এখনও যৌবনের উন্মাদনার স্বাদ নিতে উদগ্রীব – তাদের কাছে সম্ভবত মনে হয় সময়ের চাহিদার কাছে আমরা ক্রমশঃ পিছিয়ে পড়ছি। সময় অর্থাৎ বাস্তবকে জানা - বোঝার জন্য, আমাদের পারিপার্শ্বিককে চেনার জন্য আত্মতুষ্টির কোন স্থান থাকতে পারে না। বরাকের বুদ্ধিজীবী শ্রেণির এই আত্মতুষ্টিই আসলে এখানকার জ্ঞান-বিজ্ঞান ও সাহিত্য চর্চার জগতকে করে রেখেছে পঙ্গু ও প্রাণহীন।    

শান্তির বাণী নীরবে নিভৃতে কাঁদে

Posted by স্বাভিমান Labels: , , , , , ,


    অরূপা মহাজন (অরুণোদয়ের জন্য)
     শান্তির আদর্শ

            “শান্তির দ্বীপ” কথাটি বহুচর্চিত। এই রাজনৈতিক উপমাটি চালু করেছিলেন ভারতীয় শাসকশ্রেণির দোর্দণ্ডপ্রতাপ নেত্রী ইন্দিরা গান্ধী। এরমধ্যে বরাক উপত্যকার সাংস্কৃতিক গরিমা খুঁজে পান অনেকেই। শান্তির এই পরিমণ্ডলকে বরাকের গৌরব হিসেবে দেখাতে পিছিয়ে থাকেন না বামপন্থী বলে পরিচিত একাংশ বুদ্ধিজীবীরাও। এই শান্তি আসলে কীসের ইঙ্গিত বহন করে তা আমরা তলিয়ে দেখতে চাই না। আমরা কায়মনোবাক্যে কামনা করি এই শান্তি সম্প্রীতি যেন অটুট থাকে আবহমান কাল ধরে। শাসক শ্রেণির প্রতিভূর ছুঁড়ে দেওয়া এই উপমাটি কী এমনই নিরীহ যে নিরীহ ছা-পোষা সাধারণ বরাকবাসীকে একেই আদর্শ হিসেবে মেনে নিতে হবে?
মতাদর্শগত কাঠামো

           আমাদের উপনিবেশিক অতীত আমাদের সভ্য হয়ে ওঠার বাসনাকে চাগিয়ে দিয়ে সভ্য করে তোলার দায়িত্বে নিয়োজিত উপনিবেশিক প্রভুদের গ্রহণযোগ্যতার জন্য প্রয়োজনীয় কাঠামো গড়ে তুলে। এই অধিপত্যবাদী কাঠামোই পুরুষত্বের বিপরীতে গুণহীন ক্লীবত্বের মতাদর্শ গড়ে তুলে নারীত্বকে পুরুষত্বের অধীনে সামিল করে নেয়। অর্থাৎ এমন একটি মতাদর্শগত কাঠামো যেখানে আধিপত্যের দৃষ্টিকোণ থেকেই কোন গুণকে বিচার করার বাতাবরণ সৃষ্টি হয় – বিপরীতটি হয় হারিয়ে যায় নতুবা বিপদজনক হিসেবে বিবেচিত হয়। শাসক শ্রেনির জারি করা “শান্তির দ্বীপ” উপমাটি এরকমই এক আধিপত্যবাদী মতাদর্শ থেকে উদ্ভূত যেখানে শোষিতের অশান্ত হয়ে ওঠার ধারণাকে নাকচ করে তাদেরকেও সহাবস্থানের এই অমোঘ শান্তির কাঠামোয় সামিল করে নেয়। বৌদ্ধিক চর্চার দৌড় এই কাঠামোর গণ্ডীর মধ্যে সীমাবদ্ধ থাকায় শোষিতের দৃষ্টিকোণ থেকে শান্তির প্রশ্নটিকে দেখতে চায় না বা দেখার সাহস করে না। সাহস করে না এই কারণে যে এই মতাদর্শগত কাঠামোটি এই বোদ্ধাদেরও সামাজিক প্রতিষ্ঠা দেয়।
শান্তির মাহাত্ম্য

         তাহলে এই “শান্তির দ্বীপ” কথাটির মাহাত্মটা কী?  এর সোজাসাপটা মাহাত্ম এই যে বরাক উপত্যকায় শাসক শ্রেণির দল এবং দিল্লি-দিসপুরের হুকুম তামিল করা রাজনৈতিক নেতৃত্বরা কখনওই কিন্তু তেমন কোন বাধার সম্মুখীন হয়নি, তাদের অপ্রতিরোধ্য স্রোতে সামান্য প্রতিস্রোতের হাওয়া লেগেছিল জয়প্রকাশ নারায়ণের নেতৃত্বে ‘জরুরি অবস্থা বিরোধী’ আন্দোলনের পরবর্তী ১৯৭৭-এর নির্বাচনে। কেন এই অপ্রতিরোধ্য গতি তা বিচার করার জন্য বরাকের বুদ্ধিজীবীদের যুক্তির কাঠামো কীভাবে নিয়ন্ত্রিত হয় তা দেখে নিতে হবে। সাম্প্রতিক ভারতে যে দু’টি বিষয়ের উপর সবচাইতে বেশি চর্চা হয়েছে ও হচ্ছে তা হলো – জাতপাত ও ধর্মীয় সাম্প্রদায়িকতা। এই দু’টি বিষয়ের উপর আলোচনাকে কেন্দ্রীভূত করলেই আমরা “শান্তির দ্বীপ” প্রসঙ্গের উপর অনেকখানি আলোকপাত করতে পারব।
 যুক্তির কাঠামো

             বরাক উপত্যকার বুদ্ধিজীবীরা বিশেষ করে বামপন্থী বুদ্ধিজীবীরা কিছুদিন আগে পর্যন্তও পশ্চিমবাংলাকে দেখিয়ে বড়াই করে বলতেন ‘বাঙালির মধ্যে জাতপাত নেই’। কীভাবে তাঁরা বুঝলেন যে সেখানে জাতপাতের বিভাজন নেই – কারণ বিহারে ভূমিহার-রাজপুত-ঠাকুর-দলিত-যাদব-কুর্মী ইত্যাদির মধ্যে সহিংস সংঘাত লেগেই থাকে, কিন্তু পশ্চিমবাংলায় অপার শান্তি। সেখানে যেমন রণবীর সেনা রয়েছে – তেমনি রয়েছে দলিত সেনা – পশ্চিমবাংলায় তো তেমন নেই। তাঁরা সম্পত্তি-সম্পর্ক বিচার করার দিকে না গিয়ে বহিরঙ্গের শান্তি-অশান্তির রূপ দিয়ে জাতপাতের বিচার করলেন। বিহারে উচ্চবর্ণের জমির মালিক সরাসরি জমির সাথে যুক্ত থেকে সস্তায় শ্রম শোষণকে সুনিশ্চিত করতে শারীরিক নিগ্রহ চালাত। দলিতরা তার প্রতিরোধ করলে কিংবা যে কোন শ্রেণি সংগ্রাম সেখানে শুরু থেকেই হিংসাত্মক রূপ নেয়। দীর্ঘ লড়াইয়ের মধ্য দিয়ে এই সম্পত্তি সম্পর্কের খানিকটা পরিবর্তন সাধিত হয়েছে – কিন্তু তা এখানে আলোচ্য বিষয় নয়। পশ্চিমবাংলায় বর্ণহিন্দু আধিপত্য যে শান্তিপূর্ণ সহাবস্থানের মধ্যেই বিরাজ করছিল তা এখন সবার কাছেই পরিষ্কার। সাচার প্রতিবেদন প্রকাশ পাওয়ার পর “পশ্চিমবাংলায় সাম্প্রদায়িকতা নেই” এই দাবিও যে ঠুনকো তা পরিষ্কার হয়ে গেছে। অত্যন্ত পিছিয়ে পড়া গরীব মুসলমানদের বিরুদ্ধে সাম্প্রদায়িকতার হিংসাত্মক রূপ পরিগ্রহ করার প্রয়োজন পড়ে না, কারণ বর্ণহিন্দু আধিপত্য যেখানে শান্তির বাতাবরণেই সবচাইতে সুরক্ষিত থাকে সেখানে অশান্তি ডেকে আনা আধিপত্যের পায়ে কুড়োল মারার সামিল। বরাক উপত্যকার ক্ষেত্রেও ধর্মীয় সম্প্রদায়ের জনসংখ্যাগত ভারসাম্যের চিত্রটি বাদ দিলে শান্তির এই একই যুক্তি ক্রিয়াশীল থাকে।
রাজনীতি ও মতাদর্শ সম্পর্ক

             উচ্চবর্ণ-নিম্নবর্ণের সম্পর্ক, হিন্দু-মুসলিম সম্পর্ক পরস্পর সম্পৃক্ত। সম্পত্তির সরাসরি মালিকানা তা      কৃষি-অকৃষি যে কোন উৎপাদনের ক্ষেত্রে কিংবা সরকারী দপ্তর ও প্রশাসনের মাধ্যমে সম্পত্তির অমলাতান্ত্রিক মালিকানার হিসেবে সংখ্যালঘু বর্ণহিন্দু আধিপত্য প্রশ্নাতীত। নীতি নির্ধারণে বর্ণহিন্দুদের সংখ্যাধিক্য তাদের আধিপত্যকে বজায় রেখেছে এবং নিম্নবর্ণীয়দের কায়িক শ্রমশক্তি শোষণের উপযোগী পিরামিডাকৃতি শ্রম বিভাজনের কাঠামোর চূড়ায় তাদের অবস্থান রয়েছে। অনুরূপভাবে মতাদর্শ – মূল্যবোধ গড়ে তোলার সকল প্রতিষ্ঠানও তাদের নিয়ন্ত্রণে থাকায় লোকায়ত প্রাক-ব্রাহ্মণ্যবাদী বস্তুবাদী মতাদর্শ ক্রমশঃ ক্ষয়প্রাপ্ত হয়ে বর্ণবাদী মতাদর্শের অধীনস্ত হয়ে পড়েছে। মতাদর্শের সাথে রাজনীতির সম্পর্ক নিয়ে ‘পারস্যে’ রবীন্দ্রনাথ লিখেছেন, “...যে বাস্তবের পরে মানুষের স্বাভাবিক মমতা, সে যখন ঝাপসা হয়ে আসে তখন মমতারও আধার যায় লুপ্ত হয়ে। গীতায় প্রচারিত তত্ত্বোপদেশও এই রকমের উড়োজাহাজ – অর্জুনের কৃপাকাতর মনকে সে এমন দূরলোকে নিয়ে গেল, সেখান থেকে মারেই-বা কে, মরেই-বা কে, কেই-বা আপন, কেই-বা পর। বাস্তবকে আবৃত করবার এমন অনেক উড়ো জাহাজ মানুষের অস্ত্রশালায় আছে, মানুষের সাম্রাজ্যনীতিতে, সমাজনীতিতে, ধর্মনীতিতে। সেখান থেকে যাদের উপর মার নামে তাদের সম্বন্ধে সান্ত্বনাবাক্য এই যে, ‘ন হন্যতে হন্যমানে শরীরে’। কঠ উপনিষদ থেকে গীতায় উদ্ধৃতি – ‘ন হন্যতে হন্যমানে শরীরে’ – হত্যা করলেও তাকে সত্যি হত্যা করা যায় না। কাকে? পরমাত্মাকে। দেবীপ্রসাদ চট্টোপাধ্যায় লিখছেন, “ যে-দার্শনিক তত্ত্বের উড়োজাহাজ অর্জুনের কৃপাকাতর অনেক ধ্যানধারণার এমনই ঊর্ধ্বলোকে নিয়ে গেলো যেখানে বাস্তব পৃথিবীর সত্তা অস্পষ্ট, তার অস্তিত্বের দাবি বিলয়ের মহাশূন্যে বিলীন – ধ্যানধারণার সেই উর্ধ্বলোকই দার্শনিকদের ভাষায় ভাববাদ ...”। সেখান থেকে মারেই বা কে, মরেই বা কে! কঠোর শ্রমই বা কে করে – তার শ্রমশক্তিকে শোষণই বা কে করে। এই দর্শনের বিশ্বাসেই এসব নিয়ে প্রশ্ন তোলা অজ্ঞানের ঘোর, পাওনা-গণ্ডা নিয়ে সোরগোল পাকানো – এসবই নেহাত বেকুবের লক্ষণ। এই বিশ্বাসই দ্বিজ-শূদ্রে বিভক্ত এই সমাজ আদর্শের ভিত। কোশাম্বী ভারতীয় বর্ণকে বর্ণণা করেছেন অনগ্রসর পণ্য উৎপাদনী ব্যবস্থায় একধরণের শ্রেণি হিসাবে, সামাজিক সচেতনতা নির্মাণে এমন এক ধর্মীয় পদ্ধতি হিসাবে যেখানে প্রকৃত উৎপাদকরা ন্যূনতম বলপ্রয়োগের মাধ্যমে তাদের উৎপাদিত উদ্বৃত্ত থেকে বঞ্চিত হয়”। এই ন্যূনতম বলপ্রয়োগের পরিস্থিতির নামই শান্তি। এই শান্তির কাঠামোর বাইরে যারা রইল – তারাই অ-হিন্দু। মতাদর্শগত স্তরে এই অ-হিন্দুদের উপর বলপ্রয়োগের সম্ভাবনা সবসময়ই থাকে, কারণ বর্ণবাদী মতাদর্শ দিয়ে তাদের আচ্ছন্ন করে রাখা যায় না, তারা তাদের পাওনা-গণ্ডার দাবি করেই ফেলে এবং তাতেই তাদের উপর নেমে আসে আক্রমণের খড়গ। এই আক্রমণকে বৈধতা দিতেই নানাধরনের অপপ্রচার চালানো হয়। হিন্দুত্ববাদীরা যেমন নাগরিক ও সম্প্রদায়গত বহুত্ববাদকে খণ্ডন করে এক সমসত্তাবিশিষ্ট রাজনৈতিক শক্তি কায়েম করতে চায়, ঠিক তেমনি অন্য ধর্মাবলম্বীদের বিশেষ করে মুসলমানদেরও এধরনের এক সমসত্তা হিসেবে জনসমক্ষে তুলে ধরতে সচেষ্ট থাকে। কিন্তু বাস্তবে অন্যান্য দেশের মত ভারতীয় ইসলামও নাগরিক ও সম্প্রদায়গত বহুত্ববাদ রয়েছে, যদিও ধর্ম হিসেবে ইসলাম সম্প্রদায়গত বৈষম্য ও শ্রম-বিভাজনকে বৈধতা দেওয়ার বিপরীতে সাম্যের কথা বলে। এই সমসত্তার ধারণা ও আধিপত্যের কাঠামো যতক্ষণ অটুট থাকে ততক্ষণ শান্তির উপমাটি খুব যুৎসইভাবে রাজনৈতিক পরিভাষা হিসেবে গ্রহণযোগ্যতা লাভ করে। কিন্তু সংরক্ষণ ব্যবস্থার মাধ্যমে এই কাঠামোতে ইতিমধ্যে বেশ জোরালো আঘাত পড়েছে। সাচার ও রঙ্গনাথ কমিশনের সুপারিশের পর মুসলিমরাও সংরক্ষণের দাবির সপক্ষে সাংবিধানিক বৈধতা পেয়েছে। হিন্দুত্ববাদীরা তাতে শঙ্কিত হয়ে উঠছে। বুদ্ধিজীবীদের একাংশ হিন্দুত্ববাদীদের সক্রিয়ভাবে মোকাবিলা করার মাধ্যমে গণতন্ত্র প্রতিষ্ঠার দিকে আরও একধাপ অগ্রসর হওয়ার পরিবর্তে শান্তির বারি বর্ষণ করার প্রতি যে বেশি আকর্ষণ বোধ করছেন তা প্রতিক্রিয়ার সাথে আপসকামী ও দুর্ভাগ্যজনক।
অর্থনীতিবাদের গাড্ডা

              তবে এই আচরণ যে প্রতিক্রিয়ার সাথে আপসের ও আধিপত্যবাদের পক্ষে যায় তা তাদের উপলব্ধিতেই আসে না, বরঞ্চ তাঁরা ভাবেন যে শান্তির জন্য এই কামনা সমাজের কল্যাণেই। তাঁরা মনে করেন যে অর্থনৈতিক অধিকার ও উন্নয়নের দাবিতে শোষিত-বঞ্চিত মানুষের আন্দোলনের মাধ্যমে হিন্দুত্ববাদী সাম্প্রদায়িকতাকে মোকাবিলা করা সম্ভব। আজকের উদার আর্থিক নীতির পরিপ্রেক্ষিতে আর্থিক অসাম্য যখন দ্রুত বৃদ্ধি পাচ্ছে এবং মানুষের মনের মধ্যে ক্ষোভ ধূমায়িত হচ্ছে, তখন এই ধরনের ধারণা বুদ্ধিজীবীদের মধ্যে আরও জাঁকিয়ে বসছে। জনগোষ্ঠীগত সমতার প্রশ্নকে এড়িয়ে গিয়ে গরীব-মেহনতি মানুষের ঐক্যবদ্ধ লড়াই যে দানা বাঁধতে পারে না – এই সত্যকে তাঁরা দেখতে পান না। অর্থনৈতিক প্রশ্নকে অনৈতিহাসিক দৃষ্টিভঙ্গি থেকে বিচার করার জন্যই এই বিভ্রান্তি ঘটে – মার্কস যাকে আখ্যায়িত করেছেন অর্থনীতিবাদ হিসেবে। রাজনীতিকে অর্থনীতি থেকে আলাদা করা বা অর্থনীতিকে ইতিহাসের আলোকে বিচার না করাই আসলে পুঁজিবাদী অর্থনীতি কিংবা তার নব্য রূপ উদারবাদী অর্থনীতির গ্রহণযোগ্যতার মুল চাবিকাঠি। বামপন্থী বুদ্ধিজীবীদের একাংশ অর্থনীতিবাদের এই ফাঁদে পা দিয়েছেন। ফলে তাঁরাও জনগোষ্ঠীগত অধিকারের প্রশ্নকে আড়ালে রেখে তথাকথিত শান্তি বজায় রাখার পক্ষে ওকালতি করেন, কারণ তাঁরা মনে করেন যে শান্তির পরিস্থিতিতে অর্থনৈতিক আন্দোলন গড়ে উঠে এবং তা দিয়ে হিন্দুত্ববাদকে মোকাবিলা করা যেতে পারে। তাদের এই ধারণা যে ভ্রান্ত বরাকের সাম্প্রতিক ঘটনা তাই প্রমাণ করল।

সাম্প্রতিককালে বরাক উপত্যকার উন্নয়নের প্রশ্নে, অর্থনৈতিক-নাগরিক ও মানবিক অধিকারের প্রশ্নে বিভিন্ন ধরনের আন্দোলন গড়ে উঠছে। হিন্দুত্ববাদী আধিপত্যবাদ তাতে শঙ্কিত হয়ে উঠাই স্বাভাবিক ছিল। তাদের এই শঙ্কা দূর করার এক সুবর্ণ সুযোগ এনে দিল হাই-প্রোফাইল ভিন-ধর্মী বিয়ের ঘটনা। প্রগতিশীল শক্তি তাদের এই সুযোগের সদ্ব্যবহারের রাজনৈতিক কর্মকাণ্ডকে খাট করে দেখল এবং এর সক্রিয় প্রতিরোধের বদলে নিষ্ক্রিয় শান্তির পক্ষে ওকালতি করল। তাদের এই অবস্থান এই বোধ থেকে উদ্ভূত হয়েছে যে অর্থনৈতিক আন্দোলনের মাধ্যমে সম্প্রদায়গত ও শ্রেণিগত যে ঐক্য গরে উঠেছে হিন্দুত্ববাদের সক্রিয় বিরোধিতা এই ঐক্যকে বিনষ্ট করতে পারে। তাদের এই ভূমিকা যে সুবিধাবাদের নামান্তর ও বাস্তববোধ বর্জিত তা আবারও প্রমাণ হলো। আর্থিক সংকটের ফলে নড়বড়ে আধিপত্যবাদী কাঠামোয় কোণঠাসা হতে থাকা হিন্দুত্ববাদী শক্তি এই ঘটনার মধ্য দিয়ে আবারও পুনরুজ্জীবিত হয়ে উঠল। আমরা যদি অতিসত্বর এই অর্থনীতিবাদী মোহ থেকে বেরিয়ে আসতে না পারি তাহলে পরাজয়ের গ্লানি আমাদেরকে আরও বহুদিন বহন করে বেড়াতে হবে।
সংকট, বিশৃঙ্খলা ও পরিবর্তন

বিশ্ব-পুঁজিবাদী সংকট ও ভারতীয় উদারবাদী অর্থনীতির কুফলের পরিণতিতে মানুষের মধ্যে ক্ষোভ ধূমায়িত হচ্ছে এবং তা হিন্দুত্ববাদী আধিপত্যের কাঠামোকেও দুর্বল করে তুলছে। কিন্তু এই অর্থনীতিতে লাভবান একাংশ উচ্চশ্রেণি-বর্ণের লোকের সমর্থনে ও ক্রমবর্ধমান বেকার যুবকদের বিপথে পরিচালিত করে এক আগ্রাসী হিন্দুত্ববাদ যে গণ-সমাজের উপর জাঁকিয়ে বসতে পারে না তা হলফ করে বলা যায় না। আধিপত্যকামী শক্তির শান্তির শ্রুতলিপিকে মান্যতা দিয়ে এই আগ্রাসনকে মোকাবিলা করা যায় না, বিশেষ করে আজকের পরিস্থিতিতে যখন মধ্যপন্থার জায়গা ক্রমশঃ সঙ্কুচিত হয়ে আসছে। সুতরাং আমাদেরকে এর মোকাবিলা করতে হবে এক সম্পূর্ণ র‍্যাডিক্যাল অবস্থান থেকে।

            ‘রুমি কাণ্ডে’ যে এক রাজনৈতিক ষড়যন্ত্র রয়েছে তাতে কোন সন্দেহ নেই। আবার তীব্র অর্থনৈতিক সংকট থেকে উদ্ভূত রাজনৈতিক সংকটেরও প্রতিফলন এই শ্লীল-অশ্লীল, ঔচিত্য-অনৌচিত্য, হিংসা-ভালবাসা, অন্তর্ঘাত-সম্মুখ সমর ইত্যাদি মহাকাব্যিক গুণে ভরপুর এই কুনাট্য। শাসক শ্রেণির অভ্যন্তরিণ দ্বন্দ্বে সৃষ্ট বিশৃঙ্খলা যে আগামী দিনে উত্তরোত্তর বৃদ্ধি ঘটবে তা হলফ করে বলা যায়। অর্থনৈতিক সংকট থেকে এই রাজনৈতিক বিশৃঙ্খলার কীভাবে উদ্ভব ঘটে তা সাধারণ পাঠকের জন্য একটু ব্যাখ্যা করে বলা যাক। রাজনৈতিক আধিপত্য বজায় রাখা সম্ভব হয় মতাদর্শগতভাবে মোহাচ্ছন্ন ও শাসকীয় অর্থনৈতিক নীতিতে পরিচালিত শাসিতের প্রচ্ছন্ন সম্মতির বলে অথবা শাসিতরা যদি অসম্মতি প্রকাশ করে তাহলে বলপ্রয়োগের মাধ্যমে সম্মতি আদায় করে। প্রথম অবস্থা বজায় রাখার জন্য আর্থ-সামাজিক অসাম্যকে একটি সহ্যের সীমার মধ্যে ধরে রাখা প্রয়োজন, প্রয়োজন শ্রমশক্তি লুণ্ঠনের এক নমনীয় কাঠামো। কিন্তু অর্থনৈতিক সংকট অসাম্যের তীব্রতা বৃদ্ধির মাধ্যমে এই সামাজিক ভারসাম্যকে বিনষ্ট করে। আর্থিক সংকটে জর্জরিত মানুষ বিদ্রোহ করতে চাইলে – শাসক শ্রেণি দিশেহারা হয়ে পড়ে। এই দিশেহারা অবস্থাতেই রাজনৈতিক বিশৃঙ্খলা দেখা দেয়। স্বাভাবিকভাবেই যে কোন অবস্থার দ্বিমুখী গতি সম্ভব। তাই এক্ষেত্রেও এই বিশৃঙ্খলার         নব্য-উপনিবেশিক পরিণতি হিন্দুত্ববাদী–আক্রমণাত্মক-শৃঙ্খলার দিকে যাওয়ার প্রবণতা যেমনি থাকবে – ঠিক তেমনি আর্থ-সামাজিক ও রাজনৈতিক কাঠামোর আমূল পরিবর্তনের মাধ্যমে নতুন সমাজ গড়ার প্রবণতাও থাকবে। এই দ্বিতীয় পথকে উন্মোচিত করার জন্যই হিন্দুত্ববাদীদের বিরুদ্ধে ও সমান-অধিকার, সমান-মর্যাদার দাবিতে তীব্র ও প্রত্যক্ষ গণতন্ত্রের লড়াই গড়ে তুলতে হবে। ‘সাম্প্রদায়িকতা শান্তি বিনষ্ট করে – তাই বর্জনীয়’ – এধরনের প্রচারের মাধ্যমে শান্তি বজায় রাখা যাবে না। আমাদের দুর্ভাগ্য যে তথাকথিত বামপন্থী বুদ্ধিজীবীরাও বাস্তবকে অনুধাবন করতে ব্যর্থ হয়ে শান্তির বারি ছিটিয়ে দেওয়ার একধরনের ক্লীব অবস্থান নিয়েছেন।
র‍্যাডিক্যাল অবস্থান

            রাজনৈতিক ক্ষেত্রে র‍্যাডিক্যাল অবস্থান সুনিশ্চিত হবে প্রতিটি জনগোষ্ঠীর সমান-অধিকার, সমান-মর্যাদার নীতির ভিত্তিতে জনসংখ্যার অনুপাতে সংরক্ষণের দাবিতে জোরদার অন্দোলন গড়ে তোলার মধ্য দিয়ে। সংখ্যালঘু তোষণের হিন্দুত্ববাদী প্রচারকে জোরালোভাবে খণ্ডন করে সংখ্যালঘুদের সংরক্ষণের পক্ষে দাঁড়াতে হবে। প্রতিটি জনগোষ্ঠীর ভাষিক-সাংস্কৃতিক অধিকারের প্রশ্নকে গুরুত্ব আরোপ করতে হবে। হিন্দুত্ববাদী ইতিহাস পাঠের বিপরীতে দলিত-নিপীড়িতের সংগ্রামের ইতিহাসকে উর্ধে তুলে ধরতে হবে। নমঃশূদ্রদের আন্দোলন – কৈবর্ত বিদ্রোহ – সিধু-কানুহ, বিরসা মুণ্ডার বিদ্রোহ – নাথ পন্থের ইতিহাস – তেভাগা – নানকার বিদ্রোহের ইতিহাস এবং সর্বোপরি বরাক-বাংলাদেশের ভাষা সংগ্রামের গৌরবময় ইতিহাসকে সামনে এনে পরিচিতির সংগ্রামকে হিন্দুত্ববাদী মতাদর্শের কাঠামোকে চ্যালেঞ্জ জানানোর হাতিয়ার হিসেবে ব্যবহার করতে হবে। অর্থনৈতিক অধিকার – গণতন্ত্র প্রতিষ্ঠা ও শোষিতের ক্ষমতায়নের প্রশ্নকে যুগপৎভাবে পরিচালিত না করে অসাম্য ও অর্থনৈতিক বৈষম্য দূর করার দিকে এককদমও অগ্রসর হওয়া সম্ভব নয়। বরাকের বুদ্ধিজীবীরা যত তাড়াতাড়ি এই বাস্তব সত্য উপলব্ধি করতে পারেন ততই মঙ্গল। শোষণ – বঞ্চনা – অনুন্নয়নের কাঠামো বজায় রেখে তথাকথিত ‘শান্তির দ্বীপের’ চেয়ে তাকে চ্যালেঞ্জ জানিয়ে ভবিষ্যতের প্রকৃত শান্তির আশায় অশান্ত বরাক হাজারো গুণ কাম্য।

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