Rather than celebrating Independence day on 15th August, I would like to observe it as a Mourn day paying tribute to those innocent victims who were killed in Dhemaji on this very day. A group of Students and teachers gathered for flag hoisting ceremony in a school in Dhemaji on 15th August, 2004 when a blast triggered by suspected ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) militants took place killing around 10 children and three women. This is just one example of such incidents, many such incidents have been taking place throughout the years killing hundreds of innocent citizens of this great country called India on the occasion of Independence day. Extremist groups call for boycotting independence day in whole North East India, and if someone tries to disobey them (like those school kids in Dhemaji did) and come out as a free man to celebrate independence day, the extremists often do what they did in Dhemaji seven years back. Needless to mention that ULFA lost whatever trust the people of Assam had in them after this heinous incident. People of Assam (or whole North East) who had been betrayed by the central government before, were betrayed by their own sons as well. What can be more disgraceful than this?
Independence day has always been a holiday in North East due to the boycott call from various extremist groups. Nobody wants to risk their life by coming out from their home to celebrate Independence day. The shops are closed, the roads are deserted and even Indian railways cancel or reschedule lots of trains. Government takes such preventive measures on the eve of this day, but never attempt to solve the problem from the grass root level. Currently the government has claimed to have achieved a lot by holding peace talks with some fraction of the extremists although it is crystal clear that until and unless the government hold talks with all fractions of the extremists, peace can not come back to the North East. But government is perhaps least worried about bringing peace to the region but just to gain some political advantage. Anyways, holding talks with existing extremists do not eliminate extremism permanently, we need to strike at the root cause of it which are nothing but increasing unemployment, poor business opportunities etc. Every year flood as well as erosion destroys lots of farming lands effectively increasing the number of landless unemployed people. So until and unless these issues are taken care of, holding talks with some small section of the extremists means nothing but a drama to fool the people of North East. It is really annoying to notice that the government is more interested in this drama than trying to bring some permanent solution to the problems. For example, instead of trying to solve the flood problem, the government is trying to increase it (indirectly) by constructing huge number of dams in Arunachal Pradesh and Northern part of Assam. According to the expert panel formed by the government, it’s really dangerous to construct dams of that height in a region which comes under seismic zone V. But the reckless government is still going ahead with it which has fueled huge public protests in various parts of Assam which are on the verge of becoming violent very soon. We have already seen such an incident on 22nd June this year in the capital of Assam where at least 4 civilians including a minor lost their lives while protesting against the evacuation drive by the government from the hillside areas around Guwahati. More importantly, only 25 mega watts of power will be given to Assam free of cost out of 1800 mega watts to be produced in those dams and 600 mega watts more will be sold to Assam at a price more than many Indian states are currently paying for electricity. On the other hand, instead of looking at the increasing unemployment issue of the people there, the government is encouraging influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh as a part of their vote bank policies. This slow and silent killer is changing the entire demography of the whole state as well as the North East region which may (hope not) be a center point of Islamic fundamentalists in future. Government Census also tells the same shocking story, Muslim population was less than 5% when British came to Assam, but now it is more than 35%. These are just a few examples of fear and concerns the people of Assam and North East are living with and it is really difficult to say how much independence day makes sense to them when they are enslaved with so many problems most of which threaten their very existence on their own soil.
In such a situation, does celebration of Independence day mean something to the people of North East? May be it does to few but not to the most of them. The best and the safest way to celebrate is to sit in front of the television and watch the live actions going on in New Delhi. Hoisting a flag on this day doesn’t mean anything unless the people feel the pleasure of being free or independent from the core of their hearts. Only time will tell when the people of North East will come out to celebrate Independence day without any fear or compulsion but with the pride of being Indian.