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Cudgel of Chauvinism

Author(s): Hiren Gohain


Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 15, No. 8 (Feb. 23, 1980), pp. 418-420
Published by: Economic and Political Weekly
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4368393
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FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS

ASSAM from 'outside' have been plying theiI


trades without serious conflict with
the indigenous people for generations.
Cudgel of Chauvinism Since the thirties there have been
instances of Assamese resentment and
Hiren Gohain frustration at the progress of such
cultivators, mechanics and petty
IT is the function of social science to mates of the refugee camps or had
traders. Petitions were sent to
penetrate the fog of ideology and dis- discussions with spokesmen of the
the Indian National Congress but
cern the true shape and sequence of minority communities. It is obvious that
were ignored by the national leaders.
events. The recent disturbances in they represent a kind of 'rotten com-
Besides, the tempo of the Independence
Assam have once again brought home promise' between the all-India ruling
movement helped sink such petty dif-
this lesson to us. The agitation over the class and the Assamese ruling elite,
ferences. But the fears remained. There
presence of so-called 'foreign nationals' involving connivance at monstrous
was, further, the memory of the early
has grown into a massive movement, barbarities and breathtaking menda-
years of British rule when the colonial
bringing out into the streets hundreds city.
authorities tried to suppress Assamese
of thousands of ordinary men and
There is no denying the fact that and replace it with Bengali as the
women passionately committed to de-
over the last few decades there has official language.
fending Assam from an alleged 'silent
been an unusual spurt of population
invasion' by foreigners, sowing seeds In the decades after Independence
growth in Assam, far outstripping the.
of deep suspicion and mistrust among
all-India rate of growth. That a good 'the law of uneven development of
different communities who have been
d.eal of this is due to the continuous capitalism' prevailed to the detriment
living as peaceable neighbours for gene-
immigration from Bangladesh (at one of Assam which remained a backward
rations, and causing outbreaks of mob
time Pakistan) and Nepal is beyond and underdeveloped state. Neither
violence in which hundreds have lost
dispute. But it is yet to be ascertained agricultural development nor indust-
their lives and thousands have been
how much of the growth is due to rialisation kept pace with the needs of
uprooted from their homes.
natural fertility and fall of the death the growing population. Since the
In wide areas of northern Kamrup, rate, especially among the immigrant sixties unemployment has been acute.
a populous district, for about a week Muslims who had come before parti-
77 per cent of the local peasantry
(January 4 to 10) mobs roamed from tion and Independence.
found themselves either completely
village to village,. indulging in arson
landless or owners of uneconomic
Immigration had been officially en- holdings. Since planning and develop-
and massacring pitilessly helpless peo-
ple, unmoved by wails of terrified
couraged by the British who were ment all over the country have been
anxious to put to some use vast stret- largely in the interest of monopoly
women and children. The army had
ches of virgin land in Assam. The capital, there has been no attempt to
to be called in to establish some sem-
Muslim League ministry in the forties establish major industries to the point
blance of law and order and restrain
tried to increase the population of of burning up every year large quan-
the unruly mobs.
Muslim voters in Assam by encouraging tities -of natural gas.
Yet national leaders of the stature large-scale colonisation by poor Muslim
of Atal Bihari Vajpayee have, accord- peasants in government reserve lands. The situation has thus become ex-
ing to press reports, found the move- Even after Independence, successive plosive. Popular discontent and indig-
mnent 'on the whole peaoeful and Congress ministries tried to contain nation against 'the Centre' have sim-
democratic". M V Kamath, editor of the progress of Leftist forces by injec- mered long enough and class organi-
The Illustrated Weekly of India, has ting constituencies with heavy doses sations and class politics have be-
written an article called "Neglected of Muslim voters, usually smuggled come more and more -familiar. The lo-
Assam" in his magazine where a simi- from across the border. cal ruling elite and their all-India
lar view has been propounded with Apart from lakhs of tea-garden la- senior partners got a rude jolt when
some show of factuality. It goes with- bourers brought by the British tea-
in the last assembly elections the
out saying that the press in Assam, CPI(M) with a fledgling organisation
planters, the Assamese gentry too have
with one or two exceptions has been been in the habit of bringing hardy bagged 11 seats. An important factor
painstakingly preparing just such a pic- Muslim peasants from across the bor-
in the success of the CPI(M) was the
ture for local and outside consump- der to turn thousands of acres of fact that the erstwhile immigrants,
tion. They blacked out sporadic acts fallow land into smiling and luxuriant
now settled for decades and bearing
of violence, obscured or confused the fields of jute and paddy. (The indepen- the brunt of the widespread pauperisa-
circumstances in which these took dent Assamese peasants were not inte- tion, no longer voted Congress in a
place, and camouflaged the panic and iested in producing for the market or pack, but sometimes voted for the
terror among the threatened minority in intensive cultivation to that extent.) CPI(M) and the Left parties.
communities as peaceful support to the Besides, in the decades before and Naturally, the ruling class started the
agitation. Even now it is engaged in after Independence, a steady stream counter-attack with the only effective
covering the terrible atrocities in north of 'outsiders' from the rest of the weapon available to it - chauvinism.
Kamrup with phoney stories about the country have been coming to meet the During the last assembly elections it-
reign of terror' created by the army growing need for various kinds of self, there was propaganda launched by
and the CRP. skilled& labour and professions. Barbers, the Assam Jatiyatabadi Dal against the
Few journalists and leaders have cobblers, mechanics, technicians car- CPI(M) as a 'Bengali' party or as an
visited the affected areas, talked to in- penters, blacksmiths and petty tradersinstrument of 'Bengali expansionism'.

418

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ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY February 23, 1980

The experiment paid off with the de- flexible. constitution, began to play a harrying the foreigners out of the
feat of the strong CPI(M) candidate in leading part. 'sacred soil' of Assam. In north Gauhati
Gauhati. As the background of the
The phase of statements, letters and students participated in a police attack
present movement one can unhesitat- on indigenous tribal peasants falsely
public meetings was followed by a more
ingly point to the year-long propaganda
nilitant and active phase of Satyagraha
given out as 'Bangladeshis'. A river-boat
in the Assam press - skilfully ixing carrying 'Bangladeshis' to the paper-mill
and picketing. Soon the middle class
up news about influx of outsiders
was deeply involved. By the middle of
at Jogighopa was seized and two help-
with stories of Bengali trickery, deceit less members of the Muslim crew were
November, massive popular participa-
and treachery. Most of the lurid cn'- butchere(d near Goalkuchi on Novem-
tio n began to be noticed in the towns.
mes were reported to have been thi ber 10.
The leadership was in the hands of a
work of such outsiders, and spectacular
loosely organised 'Gana Sangram Pari- The spate of violence was triggered
claims,, mostly unfounded, were made
shad' with representatives from dif- off by the death of an Assamese stu-
about the extent and degree of foreign
ferent political and non-political bo- dent leader at Bhawanipur -in Kamrup
infiltration.
dies, though the most effective element district. The caretaker government at
The press campaign began from in it was unquestionably the All-Assam the Centre did little to meet the de-
about a year before the schedulIed Students' Union. The left parties were mands of the movement. By an extra-
date of the parliamentary election. It first isolated by a clever manoeuvre, ordinary fluke the Janata government
was aided by a highly efficient machi- and then made the target of vicious at the state capital had fallen some
nery for spreading rumours and hear- propaganda. Among the national par- time ago and the new Chief Minister
say, so that inflated and colourful de- ties too, one could see elements of led a ramshackle ministry and feared
tails of any supposed incident could Janata party (like Ajit Sarma, MP) collapse everyday. This situation cer-
travel! by word of mouth for miles and the Congress joining the agita- tainly encouraged the irresponsible
within a matter of minutes. There were tion with unbridled enthusiasm. elements and tendencies in the move-
articles, letters to the editor, and edi- ment. The PLP had come out with a
A facade of non-violence and 'de-
torials in hundreds, accusing the Left demand that the electoral rolls must be
mocracy' notwithstanding, the atmos-
parties and intellectuals of callousness corrected before the elections took
phere was fast deteriorating in Novem-
to and betrayal of the fate of Assam. place. In many places farces of such
ber. The 'law and order' situation be-
Rejoinders and rebuttals from the 'correction' took place, deleting at a
came extremely unpredictable with the
besieged leftists were either suppres- stroke hundreds of names of genuine
Assam Police and the state adminis-
sed or given short shrift. News stories voters, adding to the confusion. Soon
tration lending unconcealed support
and careful management of the corres- the cry was taken up by the other
to the movement. The Marwari trad-
pondence columns very soon created groups and it was decided to prevent
ers joined in a body and helped to
an atmosphere of terror and intimida- by force the submission of nomination
fan the flicker of anti-Left sentiment
tion. Members of the minority com- papers by candidates announced by the
into a blaze. Violence erupted in east-
munities were also forced to sign all-India parties. Such candidates were
ern Assam towns like Tinsukia and
pledges and letters to the editor ex- gheraoed in their houses. The Central
Dibrugarh, where the Bengali minority
pressing total support to the cause of government did nothing stronger than
came under attack. A section of the
expelling 'foreigners'. announce that candidates wishing to
Bengali population, inspired by their
The anxiety and terror of the mino- submit nomination papers would be
brand of chauvinism,, tried in some
rity communities were aggravated by given police protection. Abida Ahmed,
places to retaliate. The death of a
the deliberate confusion about the widow of the late President, was re-
banlt officer was the first clear case
exact number of foreigners to be de- scued from such a gherao by a convoy
of violence in the course of the
tected and expelled from Assamn. of armed police and CRP, which pro-
movement to be reported. But the
Often the figures given in public meet- ceeded towards Barpeta. Volunteers of
press lost no time in covering up the
ings and the press were as high as five the movement offered resistance at
traces and blaming it on 'anti-social
million or seven million, naturally several places on the way and were
elements' and saboteurs. At this junc-
making every non-Assamese feel that brutally beaten up by the CRP. In sucth
ture, the RSS elements in the move-
he would be on the list of such a confrontation, a student leader lost
ment tried to divert the tension into
aliens, however just and strong his his life near Barpeta on December 10,
anti-Muslim channels and nearly suc-
claim might be. and at once he was acclaimed as the
ceeded. The RSS General Secretary.
martyr of the movement. There was
In the meantime, two prestigious
Rajendra Singh, visited Assam and
widespread indignation and grief
declared that the Hindus from Bangla-
organisations became involved in the throughout the state, fanned by a pres
desh should be allowed to stay on
movement. The Assam Sahitya Sabha, on the alert.
but the Muslims be driven out.
a 'non-political' body looking after
the 'cultural interests' of Assam and Since the youths in the movement This was the long-awaited trigger
the Assamese joined the leadership of were not given clear instructions as that sparked off a series of incidents
the movement, so far in the hands of to the procedure for detection and where members of the leftist organisa-
regional groups like Purbanchaliya expulsion of foreigners, since there tions and minority communities came
Loka Parishad (PLP) and Assam Jati- under remorseless and brutal attack.
was no strict discipline and control at
yatabadi Dal (AJD). Secondly, the All- Members of the CPI(M) and the SFI
the local level, and since extremists
Assam Students Union (AASU), a among the regional groups made a were carefully marked out and either
professedly non-political (meaning habit of coercive fascist practices, in- killed, injured or kept on the run.
cidents of violence and intimidation
non-Left, and sometimes anti-Left) stu- Many are yet to return to their homes.
dents organisation covering all the were bound to increase. Many thought Quite a few have been subjected to the
schools and colleges in Assam under a that the movement was committed to public indignity of a forced recantation

419

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of Marxism. We have already indicated
at the beginning the enormous extent MINIST'RY OF INDUSTRY
and ferocity of violence in northern (DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT)
Kamrup. There is no doubt about PUBLIC NOTICE
popular involvement in such cases of The office of the Economic Adviser to the Government of India,
destructive violence. There was also a
Ministry of Industry, New Delhi, "has in the past been collecting
information about employment of non-Indians and Indians engaged
certain degree of planning and co- in industrial and commercial concerns (foreign, as well as Indian) in
ordination - as in simultaneous attacks respect of employees drawing total monthly emoluments of Rs. 2001/-
in several places, wrecking of bridges and above as on January 1 of each year.
and building of road blocks and use of All Industrial and commercial concerns, viz. Public/Private Limited
Companies, co-operative societies and firms, as also any person or
motorised transport to carry mobs from body of persons engaged in manufacturing, assembling, packing, preserv-
place to place. It is enough to indi- ing or processing of goods, or in mining or in generation or distribu-
cate the fury of the mob that on Janu- tion of electricity or any other form of power, or engaged in trade or
ary 6 in a place near Mukalmua in commerce, including banking, financial corporations, shipping and
northern Kamrup a hamlet of sixty navigation, and road transport services, brokers dealing in shares. stocks
and securities and commodities, advertising consultants and all other
houses was entirely wiped out and concerns working for profit, are hereby requested to furnish the re-
even women and children were not quired information as on Ist January, 1980 in the prescribed Foms (I, II
spared. and III), given below to the office of the Economic Adviser, Ministry
of Industry, Udyog Bhavan, New Delhi-1O 011, before 31st March, 1980.
In our opinion, such acts were not the Industrial and commercial concerns registered abroad or sub-
result solely of conspiracy by isloated sidiaries of foreign majority companies or branches there of are requested
groups of saboteurs or provocateurs. to furnish details as per proforma Nos. I and II, even if they are not
There was popular enthusiasm for and employing any foreigner on regular or short-term basis. Indian con-
cerns employing foreign national on regular or short-term basis need
participation in such ghastly acts. But to furnish summary data in respect of Indians and non-Indians (regular)
such terrible enthusiasm had been .in Form I and information about foreign employees (regular) only in
generated by months of inflammatory Form II. Indian concerns not employing any foreigner (either as a
propaganda in the press. Even the regular employee or short-term technician) need not send any return.
Companies having branches at different places in the country
Gauhati centre of All-India Radio
should furnish one consolidated return covering all the branches.
added to the intoxicatioT by broad- Industrial and commercial concerns are also requested to furnish
casting burning patriotic songs and separately in Form III information regarding employment of foreign
plays - even a talk on Human Rights short-term technicians defined as those who are duly exempted from
was turned into a vindication of the the payment of income-tax on their remuneration bv the Government
of India. In case, the information is Nill, it may be indicated in form-Ill.
rights of the 'neglected Assamese'! FORM-1
Political elements like the RSS also 1. Name and address of the firm; 2. Nature of business done; 3.
cannot disclaim their responsibility and Total employment as on 1-1-80: 4. Whether thei firm is an Indian' Com-
mnay even have provided the element of nany (i. e. having majority Indian participation in equity capital' or a
discipline and organisation in these man- foreign company registered abroad or a subsidiary of a foreign majority
comnany or branch there of. (Please clearly mention the status. In case,
hunts and massacres. Any impartial re- the firm is an Indian Company. please indicate the firm's total equity
view of the press in Assam for the cth ital and Indian share therefore); 5. Particulars' of reguilar emoloyees
last six months would prove that the drawing total monthly emoluments of Rs 2.001/- and above. The data
contagion of violence and inhumanity should not include short-term technicians referred to in Form III.
was largely spread by the press. Pay group (including Persons in Persons in
Chauvinism has since Independence
allowances etc.) Managerial Posts Technical Posts
been the deadly enemy of all radical Indians Non-Indians Indians Non-Indians
and genuinely democratic forces in a) Rs. 2,001/- Rs. 3,0001-
Assam. The Assamese ruling elite lack b) Rs. 3,001/- Rs. 5,0001-
both the economic resources and cul- c) Rs. 5,001/- to Rs. 7,000/-
d) Above Rs. 7,000/-
tural strength to be able to integrate e) Total of the above
non-Assamese groups into Assamese FORM-Il
society. Yet it has not abandoned its Particulars of employees (other than short-term technicians)
dreamn of national resurgence in a shown in Form I as on 1-1-1980
capitalist set up. Hence it uses from Name of the firm:
time to time the cudgel of chauvinism Name of Nation- - Designa- Date Field Basic Scale Total
to beat into submission non-Assamese employees ality tion or of of pay of monthly
(Country Post appo- Speci- per pay, emolu-
groups who might resist the domina- of origin) held int- alisa- men- if ments
tion. Chauvinismn is by nature authori- ment tion @ sem any (Rs)
(Manage- (Rs) (Rs)
tarian and fascist, and an ally of the rial or
Indian ruling class as a whole. This is Techni-
the reason why eminent Indian intel- cal) @ @
lectuals from outside the state have Including oosts of Accountants and Legal Adviser.
blessed the movement which has been @= Including Engineering and Scientific posts.
FORM-III
a nightmare to thousands of innocent
people. While the tyranny browbeats Particulars of 'foreign short-term technicians' as on 1-1-1980.
Name of the Firm:
the non-Assamese working class and
inspires the Assamese peasantry with Name of the Nationality Designa- Field Date of Total
Technicians (Country tion of of appoint- Morithly
dreams of refurbished 'national' glory, of origin) post held speci- ment emolu-
it receives support from Indian big alisation ments. (Rs)
traders and -yes, international N.B. Foreign short-term technicians are technicians who a
capital. exempted from the payment of income-tax on their rem
tion by the Government of India under a specific permis
_davp 563(205)179
420

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