Would you wanted a Divided Assam?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Contribution: Media has very critical role to play in forming emotions.

Joi Aai Oxom.

Thanks for this welcome initiative. We have a long and difficult road to traverse to fulfill our goals of a united Assam and to stem and, if possible, reverse the trend of division and dissociation that has bled Assam over the last five decades, mostly encouraged by a central pan-North Indian administration, distrustful of Assamese unity. 

The dubious role of another linguistic community in sowing the seeds of discord and thereby, ensuring their linguistic hegemony over this part of the country, also cannot be denied. 

{Editor note: We don't know if any particular linguistic community is responsible, but we are all responsible in some ways or the other. Lets forget the past and get together now when the tides are high.}

Along with the Internet and the social media - powerful tools of this information age, other platforms and outreach should also be initiated. We need a powerful political class to safeguard our territorial integrity. We need a powerful business lobby that can influence policy, a vigilant media and journalists who do not resort to cheap and harmful publicity stunts for TRPs, young professionals committed to the cause, academicians and intellectuals we can fall back upon for guidance.

We also need to think of a multi-dimensional strategy that includes both hard and soft measures. Soft measures like culture, literature, song and dance, cuisine etc. that are popularized outside our state so that people know of our distinct cultural identity. But as charity begins at home, our own children need to be taught about our mother tongue and its rich culture first. It's sad and alarming when you think of the kind of cultural upbringing most Assamese kids have these days and the level of awareness about their own roots.

{Editor note: It is not enough to popularize the culture, literature et al, but it is critical to have an inclusive approach to promote all the various communities keeping the individual identities intact and proud.}
The need of the hour is to keep all the different ethnic strands united and under one umbrella. We should also strive to take back into our fold communities that have at some point of history left us in search of their own separate identities. As a Meghalaya minister remarked few weeks back, "Things would probably have been better for Meghalaya, if it was with Assam."

The road may be long and difficult. But as someone said, the journey of a thousand miles start with a single step.

At this stage, I feel we also need to flag/ report/ highlight/ forces and ideological streams that are inimical to the cause of a United Assam and have been trying over the years, deliberately or inadvertently.

One of the most powerful propaganda tools is the media, both print and electronic. In this context, I have observed the rather suspicious role the Calcutta-based news-paper, the Telegraph. It has been trying to exaggerate the ethnic differences and fault lines that exist between different Assamese communities and feeding into these fires of dissension and separate identity.

Just notice how the reporter mentions the two communities involved and not labeling them as Assamese.

This is something very minor but there have been plenty more blatant and openly biased reporting instances in the past. I have cited this example only because it appeared in today's edition.

Ironically, The Telegraph remains one of my favourite newspaper because of the language, coverage of North East, thoughts regarding different issues and the richness of content. Much as I admire these qualities and the role it played in shaping my thoughts, I cannot ignore the harm it is causing by amplifying the situation regarding Bodoland, kamatapur etc. beyond proportion. Now, stung by revolt in their own backyard - Gorkhaland - it should know and realize the wisdom in the saying: as you sow, so shall you reap.

This blog should think of ways to articulate these concerns and highlight them to the masses and think of strategies to counter them.

As one of the greatest artist and cultural communicators of this and the last century, Bhupen Hazarika sings in one of his many "milonor geets" (songs of unity):

"Bived anibokhuja xokotik korimei sirodinoloi nixex...
...ei moha milonor protigya bhongar xotorur kolija naai "
Joi Aai Oxom,
A loyalist and a wellwisher.

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