Assam Defies Militant Diktat to Celebrate India’s Independence Day

Defying the diktat of militants, the people of Assam in Northeast India celebrated India’s 62nd Independence Day. Besides the government programmes throughout the State, the common people observed the auspicious Day. Journalists in Guwahati assembled at Guwahati Press Club to hoist the National flag and later went on a procession in the city streets.

There were a series of explosions in lower Assam, where militants triggered three blasts Dhubri and Chirang districts. All the explosions took place near the parade grounds readied for flag raising ceremonies. According to police sources, two persons were injured in the explosions.

A week earlier, four banned organizations in Northeast India issued calls to prevent the celebration of Independence Day throughout the region. The banned armed groups namely Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF), Tripura Peoples Democratic Front (TPDF) and United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), also imposed a general strike throughout the region on the day.

Journalists, citizens at a procession in Guwahati after hoisting India’s National flag at Guwahati Press Club premises, August 15.

“On this day, a general strike shall be observed throughout the Region from 01:00 AM to 6:00 PM,” said in the statement, which was sent to the media through the internet. The statement, issued by the ULFA chief Arabinda Rajkhowa, made an appeal to the people of Northeast ‘to boycott and prevent the celebration in any manner of India’s Independence Day on 15th August 2008’ to consolidate the people’s solidarity in the struggle for liberation from Indian colonial occupation.

Northeast India is the home of more than 30 active armed organizations, all of which have been fighting the Indian Union Government with demands ranging from sovereignty to self rule. Thousands of people died in the last few decades because of insurgency. The most active among them, the ULFA was formed in 1979 and still fighting New Delhi for an Independent Assam.

“The Indian state has been employing all means, particularly covert and state terrorism to intimidate the outfits and using massive military force to push the liberation forces into peace talks. But as anticipated, such peace talks have not produced the desired results even after 10 years of negotiations as talks could not resolve the politico-military conflict in the region because it does not address the core issue of sovereignty and independence,” the statement said.

However, the spirit of Nationalism among the Assamese populace continued and hence the diktat of militants had never deterred the journalists of Assam conveying the message of Independence Day and to make pleas to the people to celebrate the Day in a befitting manner. The city-based journalists and citizens joined the celebration at the press club, where veteran journalist Dhirendra Nath Chakrabarty hoisted the Tricolour.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Chakrabarty remembered the sacrifice of the martyrs of the Freedom movement to make the country a free Nation. Pointing his finger at the militants, he criticised their move to impose a diktat on celebration of India’s Independence and Republic Days. Rather, he commented, the cadres of the banned armed groups should come forward to join hands in making Assam a prosperous State in the country.

It may be mentioned that a group of Assam based journalists and columnists earlier appealed to the people of Assam to defy the militant’s diktat. In a press statement, issued in the first week of August, they asserted that the people of Assam had ‘inherited the spirit of the freedom-fighters who had made immense sacrifices to make India a free nation’.

“The great patriots like Kushal Konwar, Kanaklata, Mukunda Kakoti, Tilak Deka, Bhogeswari Phukanani and many brave hearts from Assam laid down their lives to free the country from the clutches of colonial British rulers,” added the statement. The statement was signed by Nirupama Borgohain (a Sahitya Academy awardee) and DN Chakrabarty (former editor of Dainik Asom) with Ajit Patowary, Hiten Mahanta, Rupam Baruah, Ranen Kumar Goswami, Bhupen Bargohain, Sabita Lahkar, Mukul Kalita, Pramod Kalita, Kumud Das etc.

They also made a clarion call to the freedom loving people of the region ‘to express their gratitude in memory of those patriots and martyrs, and hoist the National Tricolour on the Day atop their houses and also to organise community celebrations in their respective localities’.