There was no positive story in the recent past that was reported n the recent Assam imbroglio, except one, but before telling that lets count the negatives that has shaken us from within.
First was the mass exodus of the Bengali speaking Muslims population from their shanty homes residing in the lower Assam valley? It followed the armed raid by the murderous Bodo tribe. There was much of blood letting and mayhem in this tragedy that triggered one of the largest displacements of population in the independent Indian history.
Unfortunately, Assam is too far from New Delhi, the seat of power and also far from the so called national media that’s more comfortable in reporting Anna Hazare and Ramdev. Even though five lakh people left there home and over 100 perished, the tragedy did not moved the national media to report it like a national crisis.
The second important development was the angry and violent protest by Muslim youth in Mumbai and the subsequent violent protest. It sparked off the question, why Muslims in Mumbai should protest for the happenings in Assam; after all they are too far away and have no connection except common religion.
The argument may sound fair enough, but living in Chennai, and witnessing protest in support of Tamils in Sri Lanka, who are citizens of another country, the Mumbai protest definitely make sense to me.
The protest was to tell the government and the media to do something to address the issue and not let it to recur again. This has to be seen into the context of 1983 Nellie riots in Assam, when more than 3000 people died and not an FIR was lodged against such program.
However, the act of Mumbai protestors to become violent is something really condemnable. It would be prudent that those indulging in acts of vandalism must be given exemplary punishment. However, Mumbai protest also exposes the laxity of the police force that did not anticipated the situation and had not made enough preparations to handle the possible fall out if the peaceful crowed becomes unruly.
Continuing with the negative news, the story of rumor mongering mills then came in. The so called national media that could not cover the Assam story properly started giving live commentary of the fleeing northeast people from various metropolitan cities. The citizenship issue of Assam became secondary, primary was to unearth the rumor mongering factories in the country.
It was discovered that the rumors were spread through the internet using social media and the mobile phones, the modern day tools of communication. This triggered a debate how to control them from having damaging influence on the society, while others arguing that such mediums should not be controlled.
The government took the decision to put restrictions on these two sets of communication and set a precedent for future as well. Do we like to remain under such control and restricts in a democratic country is something that requires a national debate.
Oblivious of all these facts, a youth organization, in New Delhi took a bold step to cool the social temperature that was rising due the problems related to recent developments in Assam.
It assembled a large number of it volunteers at India Gate in solidarity of the people of Assam in particular and northeast in general. Youth gathered there shouted slogans of peace and non violence and harmony. They joined hands and formed human chain near Amar Jawan Joti to show the solidarity for the northeast people.
The youth shouted slogans ‘we are one.’ Many placards were displayed condemning the violence and riots in Assam. One placard read; ‘Na Bodo Na Muslamaan, Sabse Pehle Hai Insaan’ (no Bodo, no Muslim, we all are first human beings). Many present at India Gate also joined the human chain to convey the message for restoring unity and harmony.
“This human chain is a way to show our unity and solidarity, we also want to say that these violence and riots cannot disintegrate our society and we through our unity will rise every time together,” said Shekhar Jain, of Mission Bhartiyam that organized the peace initiative.
“We are really hurt by the recent ongoing violence and thus we feel that it is us (youths) who have responsibility to come forward and to show that we are against all violence and riots,” he added.
Ansaar Ahmed from National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) who joined the human chain said; “This is the time of national emergency, our society is in danger and people must know that they are human first, not the Bodos, Hindus or Muslims.”
“We were hurt by this violence in Assam and its aftereffects. Though some organizations and individuals went there and helped in relief works, we also have responsibility towards our fellow citizens. It will be a good gesture if we all can come together to tell that we are one,” said Ms Pathak, a Mission Bhartiyam activist.
“We, as citizens of this country and as human beings, condemn riots and violence in all forms. We also condemn the shock, the pain, the terror that the people had to face. We empathies with the people of northeast and show our solidarity and extend our support to them” she added.
Such developments are powerful narratives of contemporary India. It lives up the adage, that what is true of this country, the opposite of it is also true. Among the stories of hatred and violent protest this little tale, was hardly reported anywhere in the media.
As this story sends positive messages- a message of peace and harmony- a message of being human first- a message that we all are Indians and we share our joys and sorrows together, it at least deserves a glance.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com