Finally the Railway minister of India announced a new air conditioned express train between Bombay (Mumbai) and Kamakhya, Guwahati. Being the virtual capital of seven north eastern states of India, there are lots of commuters to Guwahati from the financial capital of India (Bombay). Following the 50-60 year long step motherly attitude towards north east India, the central government and its high profile railway ministers have always been ignoring the expansion of railways in north east. Less than half of north east India is yet to come under the reach of railways and no electric railway tracks have been set up to allow speedy trains. Anyways, being in Bombay for last six years or so, I have always faced the problem like many other fellow north eastern people, due to the deficiency of trains. There was just one train which runs twice a week and so pathetic that it takes around 55 to 60 hours at least to reach Guwahati. Man from earth probably can reach the moon in less time than this! But finally a new train has been introduced by not so high profile railway minister this time, who had to take over after the previous railway minister became the chief minister of an Indian state. Its hard to say if just one more weekly train would be enough, but still its better than having none. Previously, it was difficult to get a reserved seat in the trains even if you try to book two months before. Hope that situation will improve, slightly though.
Kudos to the railway minister anyways, who is currently under fire from some parties who have not done anything great for common men or the people of north east, but backfiring at the present railway minister for increasing the railway fare by few paisa (100 paisa = 1 rupee) per kilometer (after nine years) saying this would affect the common men. The increase in fare is aimed towards increasing safety and modernization of railways, which in a way should save lots of money and human lives lost every year due to accidents, slow (inefficient) trains etc. Anyways, these plans have always been a pen and paper work in Indian system, only time will tell how much of these will actually be implemented!
In my last post I said that people should fight for every cause of their concerns equally and not just the one which has captured media attention for various reasons. The current issue which has figured in every newspaper headlines is nothing but the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare who is currently fasting at Ramleela Maidan in New Delhi asking the government to pass his version of the lokpal bill. Without repeating few of the loopholes in the lokpal bill and the so-called undemocratic (black-mail) way of protest (fast until death = attempting to commit suicide) like I have mentioned in my previous post, let me say a few words about the extent to which this anti-corruption movement fever has spread all over the country. By extent, I don’t mean the number of people protesting with Anna Hazare, but the thousands of people who have stopped bothering about the other crucial issues which affect their lives much more than corruption does, those who openly acknowledge of being corrupt and still shouting for anti-corruption and those who were involved in mass corruption but don’t acknowledge it and now shouting against corruption just for their political benefit or publicity. In short, the extent here means the extent of hypocrisy I can see all around me which has shaken my faith in the anti-corruption movement more than the loopholes in the lokpal bill.
As far as I have seen, the most hilarious example of hypocrisy has been shown by Maharashtra Builder’s Association. They went on a rally day before yesterday to show their support to the anti-corruption movement. Apparently these builders demand 50% black money when they sell flats to the customers. And when a journalist mentioned this fact in front of one of the builders, he said in reply that taking black money from the customers and supporting anti-corruption movement are two different things. He also tried to justify by explaining why they charge black money and where those are being used (Rehabilitation and Resettlement of the poor people whose land they take for building apartment etc). But nothing can justify corruption, isn’t it? So, these corrupted builders are looting money (black) to fill their Swiss bank accounts on one hand and shouting against corruption on the other hand. Similarly the whole corporate world is backing Anna’s movement, there is news which says that some billionaires in multinational companies are also fasting to show their support to Anna. Needless to mention that, many of these corporates are also piling up black money in Swiss banks which they earn by evading tax. But unfortunately the current anti-corruption movement is more directed against the corrupted politicians we elect but not against these corrupted corporates. Anyway, this is just an example of such hypocrisy spread all over the country, there are probably thousands such people who are practicing it nowadays for various reasons.
But I at least appreciate one thing about those builders: they have acknowledged whatever wrong things they are doing, may be for a noble cause as they say. But there are others in the society who don’t even acknowledge it, the best example are the non-Congress politicians who are shouting for the anti-corruption movement. Had they been honest, they would have declared their assets in Swiss banks, returned them to where they actually belong before coming out on the streets to take part in an anti-corruption rally. By joining anti-corruption rally, these corrupted political leaders can win hearts of a million (mostly illiterate or too much loyal ) Indians , but their actual motive is very clear to educated Indians. But considering the fact that most of our so-called educated youths refrain themselves from voting, it won’t be surprising if these non-Congress politicians (no less corrupted than Congress) come to power in the next elections. In fact these builders probably represent most of the Indian middle class who pay bribe to buy a LPG cylinder, pay bribe to get their children admitted to a school or college, use pirated copies of computer and mobile phone software, download movies, songs illegally etc on one hand and shouting against corruption on the other hand as if, the anti-corruption movement is only against the bribe takers but not those who give bribe. If this is not hypocrisy, then what is it?
Like I have mentioned in my earlier post that we should fight for other problems also, not just one which has grabbed too much media attention. I won’t hit out at Anna on this like Arundhati Roy has done saying why Anna is not fighting for farmer suicides in his home state Maharashtra. After all one person can not fight for all the problems in the society. But I never expected a Gandhian like Anna to come in a reality show of a private television. May be he was not paid for this, but it really creates a bad impression on a person like him who is leading millions of Indians now. Anyway, regarding the equal level fight for other causes, people are silent. People have even stopped fighting for other causes which are of more concern. For example, in Dhemaji district of Assam, flood is creating havoc making around 300 thousand people homeless and killing hundreds of them. There are similar other problems like mega dams in Northern Assam and Arunachal and their threats to the people of Assam etc but everybody has joined the anti-corruption movement. In fact there are some people who never took part in any rally or protests to fight for many problems they are facing, but now have come out to show their (pseudo)support to the cause of making India corruption free. May be they really mean it, but it looks as if the only motive behind this is to get a media coverage. It seems that the number of such anti-corruption rallies in Assam will soon cross the number of rallies shouting for a solution to flood problem, illegal immigrants problem, repeal of armed forces special power act (AFSPA) and many other issues. The youth leader Akhil Gogoi also has joined the anti-corruption movement in New Delhi leaving behind all his fights in Assam for various issues. It’s good to see the whole country getting united for a cause, but getting united for a cause and doing exactly opposite in daily life will not bring any change to the nation. Hypocrites can not change anything in this world, they rather produce too much chaos bringing instability to the system. And this worries me more than the loopholes in the jan lokpal bill and the fast until death type strategies to blackmail an elected government which I talked about in my previous post. I hope one day Indians will stand united to refrain themselves from bribing and will say no to piracy like they are getting united for passing a bill(with serious loopholes) in the parliament which they don’t even understand fully!
Seven years ago, on this very day 13 people (10 children and 3 women) lost their lives in Dhemaji district of Assam during a flag hoisting ceremony to celebrate Independence day. As I have mentioned in my previous post, extremists group ULFA was behind the blast which took those lives. Today, when the whole country was celebrating Independence day, 8 persons lost their lives in the same district Dhemaji in front of many others as well as media who were taking live coverage of the incident. However today’s incident is not same as the one that happened seven years back. Today’s incident is perhaps more common in Dhemaji in the sense that everyday during summer/monsoon people are losing their lives out of which probably less than 1% get such media coverage. Yes, I am talking about flood and Dhemaji is perhaps the worst flood-affected district of Assam. Today eight persons were trying to save their lives in Dhemaji during sudden outburst of flood by Gai river. They struggled for four long hours by taking various measures like holding to a tree, and media were taking live coverage for hours. Ultimately the poor tree could not stand against the speedy flow of Gai river and all those persons were washed away with the tree. Unfortunately and not so surprisingly not a single effort from administration was seen there, although there were enough time to save those lives. May be everyone was busy with flag hoisting and singing national anthem to celebrate Independence day. May be celebration is more important for them than saving lives of a few common men. This incident should not surprise anyone, specially those who are from Assam or North East India, as such things have been happening all the time there. The only difference is that, private television media has reached out to them this time : a symbol of development, may be! Unfortunately national media never publish these news, they did so much when there was flood in Bihar few years back, launched so many campaigns to raise funds etc, but the story of Dhemaji has always remained untold. However, if these eight members were killed in a bomb blast during independence day celebration like it happened seven years back, I am sure the news would have come in the first page of any national newspaper. I remember I saw the news of the blast killing 13 people in 2004 in a digital display board on the roadside in New Delhi. So whom will you blame? The government who never take any step to solve the flood problem or the media who publishes some news for their benefit and discard others which are not fit for their so called “masala news” tag. Anyway, I pray for those victims who lost their lives today and hope to see some improvements in the flood situation very soon!
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.
15th August is approaching, and India is going to celebrate her 65th Independence day. The country, although got freedom from the British rule in 1947, is yet to get freedom from many other things: poverty, illiteracy, insurgency, unemployment, corruption, illegal immigration are few of them. Specially the people of rural India are yet to understand what independence or freedom actually means. Situation is even worse in North East(NE) India, an alien land to rest of India as well as the central government. All the above listed parasites have been there in this part of the land since the day India got her freedom. The step-motherly attitude of the central government as well as the lack of good leaders from this region are possibly the main reasons why NE, a paradise on earth so to say, has always been affected by the above mentioned problems. There are huge number of articles or books related to NE India and its problems which I am not going to repeat here, neither I have studied enough to suggest effective solutions to all these issues. It’s just that I feel very nostalgic as this day approaches. Although I have been outside NE India since 2003, yet I come to know from my family and friends there about the celebrations, fears, anxieties in the minds of people there as the Independence day approaches. Things have not changed there, Independence day means a holiday, a holiday of a different kind when people prefer to stay inside home, shop owners never open their shops and car owners never hit the streets. Few government officers come to their respective offices for flag hoisting amidst tight security. Even the Indian railways cancel their trains for around 1 week fearing attacks creating lots of problems for common people who have to travel everyday. I am sure most of the people would even wish if this 15th August day had never come to their lives, they would have probably lived a better life. I wonder how soon these things will change there, I haven’t seen any change throughout my life but still hopeful of seeing some changes so that people can come out of their homes to celebrate Independence day without fear but with the pride of being an Indian. Jai Hind!