Here is a story that I had read in Assamese, and I am translating it in first person. This story signifies a fact that is a universal social truth.
From my childhood, I have been asking questions. Specially when it concerns religion. It was stark to me how religion was becoming a business and an excuse for discriminating the middle class, the less literate and the God fearing citizens of the Assamese society.
Any society is susceptible to differences, as there are differences of opinions in almost every topic. Religion somehow tops the list. We had a 'Naamghar' in our village and even that small 'Naamghar' had two factions: 'Goxai' party and 'Dangoria' Party. One side of the 'Naamghar' was maintained by one of the parties. The other party will not even bat an eyelid if the whole roof of the other party falls down. They fight shamelessly over smallest of matters.
My father was a bit old generation. He used to have extreme faith on one 'Goxai' - a disciple of some guru called Aniruddha Dev. Everybody in the village used to give all their best produce to this 'Goxai'. They used to even share a part of their salaries with this 'Goxai'. So 'Goxai' would have the best rice, the best Jack-fruit, the best Bananas and the best vegetables. It was rumored that he had a list of all the salaried people in and around the village. If there is a 'Xokaam' being planned in the 'Goxai's' house, he would send a special message to all his followers for contribution and participation. Interestingly, everybody would respond to his demand, with whatever they can manage.
I had no such problem with this practice, apart from a bit of anger. What bothered me was the fact that the 'Goxai' would never interfere and solve the problems of the village. He only took from the village. He never contributed to the society in terms of a responsible citizen who is learned, educated and perhaps has more pragmatic logic than the rest of the villagers.
So I used to argue with my father and try to understand his arguments. The 'Goxai' was one of the richest in the village, then why does he accept and even demand for such help and donations from the poor villagers, when he is least bothered about the welfare of the village and the villagers. Sadly, there were no counter arguments. It was just an irrational belief.
Once my father gave me a 'Xorai' with a bunch of bananas and a few 10 rupee notes, to go and give it to the 'Goxai'. I could understand that it was a lot of money for my family in those times, but my father was adamant to give it to the 'Goxai'. I started walking towards the 'Goxai's' only RCC building in the village.
As I was passing through one of my friend, Manikanta's house, I got compelled to give the money to his mother. I just went into his house and gave his mother the money. Manikanta's family was the one of the poorest families in the village. Their thatched roof used to leak in the monsoons. His father was sick and therefore has not been going out to work in the fields. They badly needed money for his hospital treatment. Manikanta's mother, 'Khuri' had gone to the 'Goxai's' house to ask for some money. But as expected he had refused.
That evening I had the worst argument with my father. My Ma, however supported me and that saved me from at least a few slaps. She understood me.
A few years later, I had gone to Guwahati with Manikanta. My father had mentioned that 'Goxai's' elder son is studying there, and we should visit him if possible. The night I visited him was the last night I ever respected another religious figure. The son of the 'Goxai' was pissed drunk in foreign liquor, wearing the best of branded jeans and full-tshirt. I realised that 'Goxai' was taking the best of the best from the poor villagers and spending on his son's luxury in Guwahati.
I was troubled for quite a few days after reading this story. There was no solution to this kind of menace. Perhaps every village, every community, every tribe has these kinds of menace in some form or the other. You can't get away from these kinds of people in the society. There is no point in having two factions: the 'Goxai' faction with all the 'Goxais' and their followers, and the common people fighting against them instead of working for a respectable living. Such fights would weaken the village and make them susceptible to outside pressures of other societies, or villages.
For a larger goal and long term benefits, the village had to live in unity, learn to accept the differences and find one's own comfort zone doing the best that one can do for the society.
Similarly, the Assamese people in Assam have to live in unity. There will be millions of differences and rationale to fight among each other, every community demanding for different states and political entities. The British conquered India and ruled Indians for 200 years because we were divided. The Burmese plundered Assam because we were not united. The current political scenarios is taking advantage and dividing us into believing that a separate state is the solution of great significance. We should discuss about the benefits that all the new states formed in the past 10 years have had in the current political situation of India and Assam.
Assam need not go back in time, into a politics of tens of princely states and regions. Srimanta Sankaradeva would never liked these divisions. King Sukapha, Bir Lachit Barphukan, Kalaguru Bishnuprasad Rabha, Rup Konwar Jyotiprasad Agarwalla, Kalicharan Brahma, Rongbong Terang, Bhupen Hazarika and all those great minds would have never wanted a divided Assam.
It is better to let the 'Goxai' live for the larger unity and benefit of the Assamese people.
Joi Ai Axom.