Terror Struck Assam Goes Protesting

The terror-struck Assam had virtually turned into a place for protest and demonstrations in the aftermath of a severe terror attack. The civil society, advocacy groups with the common people took various agitational programmes to condemn the incident of serial blasts on several weeks ago that killed over 80 people.

If one group organized public meetings, the other went on with candle light processions in Guwahati and other places of Assam. If a section preferred for the street corner prayers, other went for rigorous and comprehensive discussion on the terror issue. Northeast India is no stranger to terror attacks, but the latest serial blasts in Assam had shaken the psyche of the people.

For the first time, they feel helpless and total unsecured. Dance of death gripped the ambience and the citizens went on self imposing curfew formany hours. After the historic Assam agitation, one witnessed such a deserted Guwahati city for the first time. Closed shops, no vehicles with crowd on the roads and the unbelievable silence grabbed the ambience of the city. Shockingly, the explosions in Guwahati took place in the high security and crowded areas including the front of DC court, Kachari (where in fact two deputy commissioners of Kamrup district and Kamrup-Metro sit; and also adjacent to Chief Judicial Magistrate court, Guwahati).

Similarly the location of Pan Bazar, where another bomb exploded is very near to Pan Bazar police station. This is also crowded market place. The third one exposed in the busy Ganeshguri area. This place is near to the high security Secretariat and Legislative Assembly building and also a market place. Three another blasts took place in Kokrajhar, two in Barpeta and one in Bongaigaon district in lower Assam.

Significantly all the explosions took place within few minutes after 11.15 a.m. “Terrorism is the greatest threat to democracy and humanity. And the terrorists can not have any caste or religion. To deal with both the home-grown and international terrorism, a combined effort of political will and public support becomes the need of the hour,” said in a resolution of a citizens’ meet held at Guwahati Press Club on November 5.

Organized by the Journalists’ Forum, Assam of Northeast India the meeting also insisted that the authority must take responsibility to deal with the terrorism and finally ensure the civic security. Addressing the gathering, which was presided over by the JFA president Rupam Baruah, a noted Assamese author, Nirupama Borgohain commented that the government must be responsible its non-performance and failure.

The government has the legitimate power and responsibility to serve the country and provide security to its citizen, said the Sahitya Academy award winner litterateur. Talking about the United States of America, which has effectively dealt with terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attack, Ms Borgohain raised the vital question, why India can’t do that.

DN Chakrabarty, the former editor of Dainik Asom, a Guwahati based Assamese daily, expressed anger on the utter failure of the authority’s disaster management in the moment of terrorist’s attack in Assam on October 30 that killed over 80 and wounding nearly 400 people. The government of Assam has finally admitted that elements from foreign country (read Bangladesh) were involved in the heinous crime.

Terming the terrorists as the enemy of Assam (India), Chakrabarty criticized the State government, led by Tarun Gogoi, for his callous attitude towards the crisis. He appreciated the people of Assam for exercising their patience during the crisis. Chakrabarty also applauded the role of media, both the print and visual, for their restrained role while covering the violence. At the same time he appealed to the media persons for a comprehensive study and documentation of all the terror attacks in the country.

Talking about the threat of terrorism, Prof Abdul Mannan reiterated that terrorism never supports democracy and humanity. He also agreed that the terrorism had largely emerged as a threat to Assam (India). Prof Mannan at the same time argued that terrorism must be dealt with strong hands. He emphasized on the need of political will, where the party leaders would get united without mudslinging for the cause.

Bhadrakrishna Goswami, a prominent socio-cultural leader declared that terrorism simply destroy humanity. Remembering the terror of Assam serial blasts, Goswami appealed to all democratic forces to get united to fight the menace. The leader of anti-terror group, APW, Abhijit Sharma commented that Jehadi elements had joined hands with the United Liberation Front of Asom under the guidance of ISI for continuing disruptive activities in India. He asserted that ULFA was involved in the Assam blasts as a supportive force, if not as the master mind.

Amidst the crisis of Islamist terrorism, Munin Bayan, a senor journalist, analyzed how the ambience has created lot of confusion among the people in general and media persons in particular. He described with his belief that Islam never allow such acts of terrorism. Anjali Daimary, a social activist emphasized on creating strong public opinion against the failure of the administration.

The citizens’ meet in another resolution called upon the Government to speak in one voice about who are the culprits behind the October 30 blasts and the Darrang-Udalguri clashes instead of sowing suspicions and mutual distrust among various sections in the society. It also asked the authority to identify the culprits after a speedy probe, make the results public and mete out exemplary punishment to them.

“The helplessness of the Government and the confusing role played by the opposition parties have not only eroded the confidence of the people, but also and diminished their faith in the political system, the citizens pointed out and urged the political parties to rise above petty politics of power and join hands together on issues of terrorism and threat to the nation’s security,” added in the resolution. It also analyzed, “Since illegal foreigners issue is at the root of many a problem in Assam, the Central and State Governments must take steps to seal the international border, prepare a National Register of Citizens and detect and deport foreigners.

The citizens also urged the Government to raise the issue of terrorism and illegal migration in various international for to create pressure on the neighbouring countries responsible for exporting troubles to the State.” Others who were present and spoke on the occasion include GS Kalita, Benu Barua, Hiten Mahanta, Alaka Buragohain, S. Tahbilder, Jahnavi Goswami, Ranen Kumar Goswami, Sabita Lahkar, Sumitra Hazarika, Pramod Chandra Bhattacharya, Mitradev Sharma, Kishore Giri, Ranjan Baurah, Dhanjit Kakoti, Jawarlal Saha, Manoranjana Gupta, SN Rahman, Biman Hazarika, J. Raichoudhury, Pabitra Bora, Dipen Bayan etc. Before the meeting starts, one minute silence was observed by the participants for those killed on the terror attacks.

The police suspected the United Liberation Front of Asom as the sole outfit behind the handiwork. But the banned armed group promptly denied its role in the explosions. Later the security agency pointed finger at foreign Islamist elements for the violence.

The first suspect was put on the Bangladesh based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI). Another thought of schooling was that HuJI planned and supplied the materials and the local ULFA cadres implemented the heinous acts. But the Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi went on arguing that the act was masterminded by none other than ULFA cadres. His cabinet colleague Himanta Bishwa Sarma also echoed his version. Of course, both Gogoi and Sarma admitted that ‘every act of terrorism perpetrated in the State has its link with Bangladesh’.

Assam police detained few persons for interrogation and also released the sketch of a suspect in the blasts. Meanwhile, the member of All Assam students’ Union and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad had burned and hanged the effigies of the Prime Minister and Home Minister of the country in public. Two general strikes (Bandhs) were also observed in the State against the act of violence.

The first one bandh was called by BJP and its supporting organizations on November 1, which enjoyed spontaneous response from the common people. The second bandh, called by AASU on November 3, also received response in both Brahmaputra and Barak valleys of the state. Incidentally, the PM Dr Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi visited Assam during the BJP supported bandh.

Paying visit to the locations and also attending the injured persons in the hospitals, Dr Singh assured that ‘whosoever is responsible for the dastardly act’, the government would take effective measures. He also clarified, “We will not be soft on terror and there will be no compromise on terror.” In the meantime, an unknown militant organization named Islamic Security Force-Indian Mujahedeen reportedly claimed responsibility for the explosions.

Sending an SMS to a Guwahati based satellite television channel the organization also threatened to continue disrupting activities in Assam in the coming days. Mentionable that Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for explosions that took place in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and New Delhi weeks back. The opposition political parties including Bharatiya Janata Party, Asom Gana Parishad with NCP and CPI had raised voices against the terrorist attacks and also dismissal of the Gogoi government.

The AGP president argued that the common man of Assam is against the Gogoi government and hence the government should be dismissed. The senior BJP leader LK Advani while visiting the locations of Guwahati next morning criticized both the central and State government for not taking effective legal and administrative measures to prevent the infiltration from Bangladesh. He asserted that the problem of terrorism in Assam had been aggravated by illegal migration and the recent terror attack had an inter link with the illegal Bangladeshi settlers in India. Mr Advani, while claiming that there were 35 million illegal Bangladeshi settlers in India, also asked New Delhi to impose diplomatic pressure on Dhaka to address the serious issue.

Earlier another public meeting, organised by Asom Nagarik Samaj on November 2, also condemned the incident. Noted playwright Arun Sarma, while addressing the gathering, blamed foreign forces for the recent violence and insisted that the common people and the government must work together for nurturing peace. Similarly the eminent intellectual Hiren Gohain argued that all sections in the society should come together to fight against violence and terror. Others, who spoke in the occasion, included DN Bezbaruah, Hiren Dutta, Anuradha Dutta, Anil Roy Choudhury etc. But the greatest show against terrorism was organized by the AASU on November 11.

Thousands of students, teachers, government employees, cultural activists, religious leaders, NGO workers with common men participated in a protest march condemning the terror attacks and also demanding security of the citizens. The protest rally started from Latasil playground in Guwahati and marched through the streets of the city. It was, in fact, the biggest show of strength for a noble cause materialized after the historic Assam movement led by AASU in Eighties.

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Northeast India) based journalist, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world.