Diabolical Games(Assam): ...something sinister about it
The violence in Assam and exodus of Northeast people across India points to a sinister agenda with a typically deceptive game plan. In the face of a weak, discredited UPA II, and an insensitive, xenophobic BJP, this can become dangerous
Sanjay Kapoor Delhi
As the crow flies, Guwahati, the capital of Assam, is about 1,000 kilometers from Sittwe, the capital of the restive Rakhine province of Myanmar and about 3,000 kilometers from Bangalore. These seemingly disconnected places that are redefining ethnic violence and its consequences in an interconnected world may not only influence the way India votes in 2014, but seriously test the tenuous bonds of different regions and ethnicities that comprise the world’s most chaotic democracy — India.
The neurotic outcome to the communal or ethnic violence at display in Rakhine state and in Assam, whatever may be the historical reasons for this strife, is not really spontaneous. On the contrary, it is pre-planned, carefully conceived and diabolically executed to subvert once again a country that had been enjoying communal amity in recent times, especially after the vitiated and polarising BJP reign ended in 2004.
Every possible tool of a globalised and wired world like text messages, facebook, twitter and Instagram have been used to disseminate images and messages that would inflame passions, undermine the authority of the established order and also the way communities perceived each other. The implications of what is being sought to be achieved by fanning the flames of hatred from the Northeast to the rest of the country are just too mindboggling to arrive at a coherent answer. Weakening a scam battered Congress and its discredited authority at the Centre may be one of reasons for the spike in communal feelings in certain parts of the country, but this is not the only reason.
It is this, that, and a lot more.
Common sense at times can be confusing. To untrained minds reality may have different shades which may result in obfuscation. Perpetrators of violence may look different from those who benefit from it. The expressed or suppressed narratives of official commissions of enquiry in different parts of the country are usually the same. The person, who funds stone-pelters, punches a hate message, pulls the trigger, hacks and burns an innocent, rapes a woman, and the politician who benefits, are usually the same. They are part of the same sinister web. However, the reasons and implications of the latest round of ethnic violence may be slightly more complex. Let’s take a look.
Long before the Assam violence rocked the country, tweets and posts were going around on about the massacre of the Rohingyas in the Rakhine province, west of Myanmar. Considered to be of Arab origin, the Rohingyas have faced violence and discrimination for many years. Considered to be one of the most persecuted ethnic communities in the world, they have been disenfranchised by the military junta in Burma, keen on forging a Burmese identity. Brutalities against the Rohingyas had forced them to seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh and Thailand, but there, too, they have been finding that they are no longer welcome. Thai authorities are accused of towing ships full of Rohingyas and leaving them rudderless in high seas. Thousands have died.
More recently, there were reports that a Rakhine girl was raped leading to the killing of 10 Rohingyas. More killings followed with the police and armed forces contributing their bit in bringing grief to this already oppressed section of people. Pictures of Rohingyas being massacred began to scorch the social media. In Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan, there was great concern at what was happening in Myanmar. Turkey sent its first lady to Yangon, Saudi Arabia gave $50 million to Burma and Pakistanis did what they could do best — they tweeted and agitated.
So fierce was the agitation over the atrocities that many commentators began to wonder: so what was the big deal about Rohingyas being brutalised when the Ahmadis, Shias, Christians and Hindus were being subjected to similar treatment in Pakistan. Some Pakistani liberal ‘tweeples’ found evidence of Burmese pictures of massacres being diabolically morphed to dramatise the impact: old pictures of the dead from tsunami etc, were counterposed as current pictures from Burma. While the Muslim world was still grappling with what to do with the hapless Rohingyas, violence hit Assam on its face. The festering issue of Bangladeshi foreigners in Assam had resurfaced.
The tribal Bodos, cheered by entities engaged in majoritarian politics, including some Congress leaders trying to negate the exit of its Muslim support base, attacked Bengali-speaking Muslims in Kokrajhar. The Assam government (and the Union home ministry) was slow in smothering the riots fuelling suggestions that the Congress had a role to play in teaching the Muslims a lesson. The delay in calling the army made the riots brutal. It also reinforced eternal grievances that Muslims have towards the government that they never get justice.
As if on cue, the rumour mills in their different modern day avatar began to work overtime. Twitter and Facebook fed rumours and vice versa. Space and time collapsed. Pictures of Rohingyas were palmed off as happening in Assam along with its own pictures. The common feature in these dangerous pictures —morphed or otherwise — were people sporting Mongoloid features, hurting the Muslims.
In votes and violence, Steven Wilkinson establishes how riots in India are mostly preplanned to garner votes and it is an outcome of electoral competition at all levels. He blames political parties for much of the communal violence.