Perhaps Union Minister for Rural Development, Jairam Ramesh does not know the dislike of the Northeasterner towards the Chinese because of the 1962 invasion, or perhaps he was merely following orders of the party high command. Whatever it was, he made an ignorant statement.
Ramesh said on December 1 at a press conference in Guwahati that two districts in Assam – Dibrugarh and Tinsukia be declared as Left Wing Extremism affected districts i.e. these, like 82 other districts in the country mostly in Central India, are Maoist-hit.
This is laughable for two reasons. One obviously is the dislike of the Assamese for most things Chinese, including Mao and his ideology (the reason why perhaps the Left in Assam has not been able to gain a strong foothold despite its proximity to Left-ruled West).
Secondly, the entire Northeast region is home to more extremist outfits than political parties. At its peak, it is joked that a new extremist outfit sprung up every week in the region. And the joke is not entirely off the mark. In the rest of the country, whenever people had any grouse against the state, they formed political parties. In the Northeast, they formed an armed outfit.
The Reds or their ideology, considering the competition, have had no place ‘left’ to even put a foot down, forget establishing a base.
So why did Ramesh make his red-remark?
Perhaps because the Assamese agitation against the proposed dams in Arunachal Pradesh has the support of the entire state’s population and is intensifying rapidly. Secondly these demonstrations, notwithstanding the dozens of extremist groups in the region, have been democratic, with protest rallies, hunger strikes and bandhs calling the shot instead of violence, like in the past.
For the first time in decades, the state and central governments that has a penchant for violently crushing protests in the region under the excuse of extremism, does not know what to do.
Perhaps they hope to replicate their successful decimation of people’s movements in the rest of the country by branding leaders as Maoists and keeping them in jail for years before the court acquits them.
What Ramesh also does not realize, is that the Assamese population, seem unlikely to budge down from their anti-dam protests whether they are shot, or thrown in jail.
Image: Jairam Ramesh at The Presidential Palace in New Delhi on July 12, 2011