Last week, team Concern For Silchar presented before the readers an analysis of the merits and demerits of having a separate state or union territory status for the three districts of Barak Valley.
While many valid points have been raised demanding a separate territorial identity for the people of the valley, according to me the very practice of carving out new states within the Indian nation has to be abandoned immediately.
Currently there is no basis or guideline for the creation of new states in India. In fact, the modus operandi for getting a new state is simple – agitate hard and paralyse the law and order over a substantial period of time and you may well manage to get a new state.
The governments, both at the state and the central levels, have time and again shown that they respond to agitations which are violent and lead to breakdown of the law and order machinery. On the other hand, if your agitation is democratic and peaceful, you will never be listened to. As a result, today the central government is ready to talk to the Bodos and the Karbis while even the Chief Minister has not invited Barak Valley’s leaders for talks.
The very reason for which different ethnic groups are demanding separate states is lack of development and step motherly treatment meted to them by the state’s administration. However, our past experience shows that as long as the political and bureaucratic machinery is corrupt, separate statehood doesn’t bring in any positive change.
In Assam, the Bodos, the Karbis and the Dimasas have all managed to get considerable autonomy from the state government. Barring a few subjects like law and order and education, they practically govern themselves. But has such autonomy propelled the pace of development in these areas? The answer is an overwhelming no. The reports of a thousand crore scam in a small district like Dima Hasao proves how the money meant for development is being siphoned off by some greedy politicians and sarkari babus.
Some new states like Jharkhand also further prove that statehood alone is not sufficient to speed up the process of development. Another argument often given in favour of separate statehood is separate ethnic identity. But in a country where the language and culture changes every few kilometers, can we afford to have statehood for each and every community?
For example, in Assam, Karbi Anglong has a population of about 10 lakhs while Dima Hasao has a population of about 3 lakhs. Again, these figures don’t include only the Karbis or the Dimasas, but many other tribal and non tribal communities which live in these areas in large numbers. So, can a country like India with the second largest population in the world afford to accord statehood to communities with such miniscule populations? How many divisions will we have to make to satisfy each and every community?
Assam is not the only state in the country with multi lingual or multi ethnic populations. Almost all states have a similar demography. In West Bengal, the Gorkhas have been demanding statehood for a long time. In Orissa, there is considerable cultural and dialectical difference between the coastal and the western Oriyas. In Bihar, different regions speak different dialects such as Maithali, Bhojpuri, Angika etc. if such separatist tendencies are encouraged then where will this lead us to?
Our past experience also teaches us that granting of separate statehood has also not satisfied many areas as new tribal or ethnic groups are now asserting their identity and seeking a separate territory. For example, in Meghalaya, the demand of a separate Garoland is gradually gaining momentum.
So, what should be done to satisfy all the agitating communities? First of all, the central leadership of the nation has to stop dealing with such issues in a knee jerk manner and immediately take steps to bridge the governance deficit that these areas suffer from. Secondly, clear guidelines for creation of new states have to be laid which will notify that a certain amount of geographical area and population is mandatory for the creation of new states. For smaller communities, the constitution has to provide further cushion to ensure their rights and privileges, though there are many provisions already in place.
In Barak Valley, the agitation has to be issue based to ensure that all issues facing the people are suitably tackled. The demand for a separate economic council makes sense as such an arrangement will streamline the flow of funds for various developmental projects. We must also press for the recruitment of our indigenous people in the government offices in the valley. In fact, the top bureaucratic and law and order officials also should belong to the valley. Any violation of the language act should become punishable by law. The state assembly must bring in legislation to enforce such changes.
However, against popular sentiment, I would fall short of demanding a separate state for the valley. The political leadership here is extremely corrupt and even if a separate state is created, corruption will continue to remain rampant and development will continue to be in the back seat. Moreover, Barak Valley, being a border area will always remain demographically sensitive. If corruption paves the way for illegal migration, then the valley might become a haven for illegal migrants.
· This is a contribution from one of our readers as a response to our article last week. Team Concern For Silchar neither opposes or supports the views expressed in the article.