'Befriend people of North-East and make them feel secure'

Prior to the mass exodus of the North-East workers, professionals and students from Bangalore, some students from the region living here were already threatened. Some others were asked to vacate their paying guest accommodations.

 

A few have experienced abuse and intimidation. Innocent as they are, they unable to relate to the local population because of the lack of mastery over the local language. They were allegedly told that the reason behind the hostility and abuse, verbal and physical, is because of the Bodo-Muslim conflict in Assam. Unable to make sense of the accusation, they were afraid and in some areas they have not moved out from their homes.


The college authorities in some colleges where sizeable North-East students study were in the know of threats since the major chunk of the students did not report to classes for the last two days. Before any assurance could be offered by local authorities, they had decided to move out of the city, not sure that they will be protected.


What has happened in the city is due to misplaced proposition. The Assam conflict is no anti-Muslim conflict at all though presented as one. If people are threatening the North-East students on that premise, attempts should be made to educate the communities to prevent any conflict and insecurity to the students coming from the North-East. Bodos are tribals and possibly a section of them follow Hindu rituals specific to their region.

Most of those in conflict with Bodos are emigrants and belong to Islam as well as Hinduism. Sensationalisation by the media, even colouring it as a problem between Muslims and Bodos (who are presented as Hindus) can mislead people. The problem is not one of religion. It is primarily an issue of immigration into Assam. Among the immigrants 40 per cent happen to be Muslims and 60 per cent are Hindus. Why then give it a communal colour?


More important issue in the Bodo-immigrants conflict is the issue of land in the conflict zone. Bodos have limited land. As a tribal community of the North-East, they do not own individual properties. The entire land belongs to the community and administered by the headman. Tribal self-rule law, a law passed by Parliament is how Bodoland is run. They have no identity apart from their land. Given the limitedness of land on which their livelihood and identity depends how much of their land can they offer to immigrants?


Ignite emotions


If the issue is diverted from the issue of land and religion is brought in as the primary issue, then it is likely to ignite emotions at the cost of reason. On the other hand, if the issue is understood as an issue of tribal identity which is closely related to land, a solution can be found in terms of rehabilitation or providing land to the immigrants at some other places.  


There are hardly any students from Bodoland studying in Bangalore. Because there is a conflict there on the issues of immigration, identity and land between Bodos and immigrants, how can any rational human being justify attacks on all the students from North-East? Most students studying in Bangalore hail from Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal, Tripura, Sikkim, Assam and Tibetan refugees.

They all look alike in their features. Just because all of them have mongoloid features, they do not become Bodos. Besides, they have nothing to do with the issue and in the past there have been differences and conflicts among the different tribes in each of those North-East states. Trying to homogenise them when they are different and diverse and put them all in one bracket and attack them because of a conflict in Assam defies all logic. There is a need for reason to enter into the picture.  


One cannot even justify the attacks even if they are on the Bodos. How can anyone state that all the Bodos are at war with immigrants? The conflict is restricted to one small area of Assam. Similarly all the Muslims living in Kokrajhar area are not immigrants. If they have lived there for long they have a right to their existence. Bracketing all of them as illegal immigrants and Muslims is not right. Whatever may be the issue in Assam, as democratic citizens, we cannot justify violence on anybody. Issues and conflicts have to be negotiated through dialogue. The tribals of the North-East are as open to dialogue as people in other parts of the country.


It is sad that the issue is getting communalised and innocent students of the North-East are becoming victims. In them lies the future of the region. In the last few years they have found the city friendly. There is a need to befriend them and offer all kinds of assistance to make them feel secure.


 The threats and attacks remind us that this is how communal and fanatical minds operate trying to get mileage out of it. Bodo-immigrants issue is a local issue and needs a local solution. It should not be made as a national issue for the purposes of propaganda. There are forces behind this vicious campaign that desire to benefit from this kind of sensationalisation. The need of the moment is to befriend students of the North-East and instill confidence in them so that they feel a part of the city and the nation. 

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