Sunday, August 4, 2013

Union Territory/ State status for Barak Valley: an analysis...

Following the declaration of Telangana as a separate state, similar statehood demands have erupted in various parts of the country. Assam is the worst affected among the lot with four different state demand movements completely paralyzing normal life in many parts of the state.

Apart from the agitations by the Bodos, the Karbis, the Dimasas and the Koch Rajbongshis, similar sentiments have also been echoed by many from Barak Valley. The Union Territory Demand Committee (UTDC) has also reiterated its demand of declaring the valley as a union territory.

Social media is abuzz with many threads discussing the merits and demerits of carving out a separate administrative entity for the three districts of Barak Valley. Therefore, we at Concern For Silchar decided to analyze the positives and negatives of the same and help the people of the valley towards reaching a consensus.

Why Barak Valley should separate from Assam?

·         66 years of continuous discrimination by the political leadership at Dispur: Ever since independence, the state level leadership of Assam has always ignored the legitimate demands and grievances of the people of the valley. Today, whatever Barak Valley has are mostly central government establishments such as the university, the engineering college etc.  The airport was built during the British era. So, the medical college and polytechnic are the only state government establishments worth speaking about.  Till today, the valley does not have an all weather road connecting it with the state capital. Most state government offices do not even have major offices here. For example, the PWD does not have a functionary senior than the Executive Engineer here. As a result of which, even petty road repair issues are sent to Guwahati for approval resulting in inordinate delays and corruption. Another major issue is the lack of employment opportunities for the youth of the valley. Almost none of the senior or middle management level jobs of the state government are given to the candidates from Barak Valley. Today, a majority of the employees at the government offices of the valley are from the Brahmaputra valley which is a violation of the policy of equal opportunities.

·         Continuous linguistic oppression of the people: The Assam government continues to make efforts to thrust the Assamese language on the people of the valley despite repeated protests and the status of Bengali as the official language of the region. So, sometimes government notifications are sent in Assamese or sometimes, Assamese speaking teachers are sent to teach Bengali medium students in the valley’s schools. Despite many movements, they continue to be shameless towards pushing this hidden agenda.

·         Geographical differences: Geographically Barak Valley is an extension of the Sylhet plains and is connected to the larger Bengal territory comprising of Bangladesh and West Bengal. The hill areas of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and the Meghalayan hills stand between the Barak and the Brahmaputra valleys. So, the amalgamation of the two valleys can never be a natural administrative set up.

·         Separate history and culture: When the state of Assam was created by the British, the districts of Cachar and Sylhet were added only to make the new state revenue sufficient. The British were certainly not bothered about the cultural or linguistic gulf between the two regions. However, it is indeed baffling that such an administrative arrangement was continued with even after independence.  

·         Dispur’s scant concern for the infrastructure projects of Barak Valley: The Tarun Gogoi led government and the dispensations before him have never treated the infrastructure projects of the valley as their own. Therefore, Gogoi never ever expresses his concern about the lack of progress of the region’s two major projects – the Mahasadak and the broad gauge conversion work. His government does not even bother to expedite the process of giving clearances to issues related to forest etc. The state government also tries to block many projects suggested by the central government. according to unconfirmed sources, the proposal of a medical college inside the Assam University campus has been blocked by the state government.

·         Barak Valley’s severe identity crisis: The identity crisis faced by the people of the valley is unparalleled and cannot be compared with any other linguistic group anywhere in the country. The entire country has absolutely no idea that close to 30 lakh Bengali speaking people reside over three districts in the south of Assam and they are as indigenous as any other community of the state. They are often branded as ‘Bangladeshis’ by their Assamese counterparts and are forced to live with such slurs and disrespect. The Bengalis of West Bengal also do not consider them to be their own. May be, a separate identity away from Assam will help us to have an identity of our own.

Why Barak Valley should remain with Assam?

·         With such separatist demands, the idea of an unified yet diverse India gets defeated:  With such demands, the very idea of an united nation full of diversities gets defeated. Creating new states or union territories on the basis of such micro ethnic identities is dangerous for the nation as whole. Therefore, we must think about the larger picture rather than focusing too locally.

·         Better administration is the answer, not separation: At the heart of all the grievances which have been discussed, lies the basic issue of maladministration or misgovernance. A separate state or union territory cannot be the answer to these problems. After all, there is great probability that 50 years after the creation of a separate Barak Valley, the people of Karimganj might allege discrimination by the political leaders of Silchar and demand further separation.

·         Sensitivity of a border region:  Assam has suffered greatly because many supposedly Bangladeshi citizens have been allowed to illegally migrate and settle down with the help of unscrupulous leaders and government officials. If created as a separate entity, Barak Valley will definitely have the same problem. Linguistic similarities will infact, further complicate the problem.

·         Presence of corrupt and inefficient leaders: Even if Barak Valley gets separated from Assam, the leaders representing it will remain the same. We all know that almost all of them are infinitely corrupt and inefficient. In a separate Barak Valley, they will get ample opportunities to make more money and therefore, the real fruits of progress may not reach the grassroots.

According to us, the above are the pros and cons of having a separate Barak Valley. We have tried to be objective and impartial in our assessment. Hope this will help us debate the issue better and take this issue forward….

1 comment:

  1. In view NRC of Assam Government, the question of demanding a separate State becomes a necessity for the future of Barak Valley. The separation of India and Bengal on the basis religion was a mistake no doubt. Gandhi, Petal and Nehru did it for the benefit of Northern India and power of Chair. Gandhi was the pioneer in bringing the communal hatred through the movement of Non-Violence in a very clever way and finally rioting between Hindus and Muslims so as to divide Bengal and shift the power centre from Bengal to Delhi. It was the Cachar district where the people Hindus and Muslim together fight for UNITY. Now after 70 years, the time has come once again to show the Indian as well as to the world that Hindus and Muslims can live together in the state of Barak Valley and India should follow the same. We are all human being; we wish to live together as brothers and sisters. It is possible if Cachar gets established as a separate State when Cachar can take an effort to develop through international trade by opening its land road through Manipur to Mynaur and Sea route to the Bay of Bengal through Mizoram. It could involve its young led in flourishing technology in Semi-Conductor to bring a revolution in technology like that of South Korea. [H P Roychoudhury- 9101286359]

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