Assam’s media ignores a new Sena

IN Regional Media | 26/12/2005
Till date no major newspaper of Assam had either published editorials on Asom Sena or analytical pieces on the development.





Nava Thakuria


The media in Western India may be pre-occupied with the Shiv Sena, but the newspapers in Assam are focused on the emergence of another ultra regional outfit named Asom Sena that has taken the pledge to safeguard the socio-political rights of the indigenous people of Assam. In fact, the birth of a new outfit with the initiative of All Assam Students Union (AASU) at the end of the year 2005 was a major polticial development of Assam as well as the Northeast.


Amidst the gun totting youth in the North Eastern part of India, Assam has recently been gifted with another brand of Sena (literary meaning soldier). Where, the armed cadres of different  outfits have declared themselves as ‘revolutionary soldiers’ fighting against New Delhi’s ‘colonial approach’ to the North East, the newly formed `Asom Sena`  (the soldiers of Assam) has vowed to fight against the imposition of vulgarity in the name of culture in this part of the country. 


The center of Vaishnavite culture in lower Assam, Barpeta had witnessed the formation of the vigilante group named Asom Sena on December 8 last.  The once powerful students organization, AASU that initiated the historic Assam Agitation in the eighties, has created the outfit to carry out its agenda in an ‘aggressive way’.


As declared by the prime architect of the outfit, Samujjal Bhattacharya Asom Sena would function as a front of the AASU and Asom Unnati Sabha. "The deprivation of local youths in the matters of appointment in various  departments of  the governments both  in New Delhi and Dipsur (Guwahati) will be a major issue to be taken up by Asom  Sena," reiterated the long time advisor to AASU. Asom  Sena is also suppose to work tirelessly to strengthen the existing  bond of unity among the different ethnic and religious communities in Assam.


Elected as the chief advisor to the ultra regionalist non-political pressure group, Mr Bhattacharya had repeatedly stated that Asom Sena would function as a ‘non-violent organisation’ denying any kind of speculation that the outfit would take on the form of a militant group in future. "The volunteers of Asom Sena will never pursue violent activities and remain as a non-political group. Though it may adopt a radical stand in need on the issues of regional interests," claimed the long lasting influential student leader of Northeast, Mr Bhattacharyya.


While it was expected that the sensible local media of Assam would provide abundant space for discussion relating to the birth and the consequence of Asom Sena in the Northeastern political arena, the media in Assam showed little interest in analyzing the development. The local media provided considerable space for the news items narrating the birth of Asom Sena, but did not sufficiently discuss the implication of the new brand of soldiers in the region. Surprisingly enough,  no major newspaper of Assam had either published editorials on Asom Sena or analytical pieces on the outcome till date.


Only, ‘The Shillong Times’, a Meghalaya based newspaper had dubbed the move of AASU to have formed Asom Sena with the object of ‘cultural policing’ as alarming.  The second oldest English daily from Northeast after ‘The Assam Tribune’, in its editorial titled ‘Cultural Chauvinism’ on December 14 argued that the AASU leaders had fuelled sub-nationalism by mounting an offensive against Indians from other states since long back. The editorial of the prominent daily published from  Shillong  argued that every one would agree with the ‘need to preserve the cultural diversity of India while recognising the importance of establishing a pan-Indian identity’.  However, also added in the editorial, ‘the culture of a polyglot country with a wide geographical variety has to be a composite one-the parts integrating into a holistic entity. Assam has for years been plagued by a sense of isolation from the Indian mainstream and this has spawned a narrow chauvinism.’


The concept of Asom Sena is, in reality, borrowed from that of Shiv Sena led by Balasaheb Thakre. Of course, the leaders of Asom Sena had declared its ‘non-interest’ in party politics. However, there are popular assumption that  Asom Sena may not keep itself aloof from the forthcoming Assembly polls. One of the active student leader turned politicians of Assam, Apurba K.  Bhattacharya also guesses that the role of Asom Sena ‘will be crucial’ in the next general election as AASU still enjoys ‘mass support’ in Assam. Apurba’s comment is well taken in perspective of the armed rebels ‘hidden participation’ in the general elections held in the region that nurtures over 30 active insurgent groups in the last few decades.


One can cite the example of  Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the regional party of the state that is sitting in opposite bench now, which was born with the leadership of AASU after culmination of Assam agitation in 1985. The AGP  ruled the state for two terms but like any common political parties of the country, it had also shown  its ugly face with  non-performance and unbelievable corruption among its leaders. Faced with vertical splits twice, AGP is now waiting for another triumph in the state Assembly elections due in April 2006. 


Though Asom Sena has received welcome message from the mainstream Assamese community in general, there are views that are not comfortable for the leaders of AASU. A minority organization (Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal) has officially raised voice against the outfit. Expressing ‘deep concern’ at the formation of Asom Sena, the MMA has termed the infinitive of AASU is taken ‘in order to terrorise Bengali-speaking voters and to harass all non-Assamese living in the State on the eve of the Assembly election’. On the other hand, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has made the political scene more chaotic with its recent declaration that it would launch a similar outfit named Hindu Sena in Assam.


While the Mumbai media in particular and Metro dailies in general (with Satellite Television) was inundated with the speculative news on Shiv Sena’s future during the first half of December, the otherwise responsive media in Assam remained unwilling to handle the issue proficiently.  It will remain a mystery for many, why the local media in Assam ignored the development and showed reluctance to analyze the post-Asom Sena scenario-is it because it accepts everything that comes from the initiative of AASU? Or is it  quietly displaying its  shrewdness by ignoring the issue, as most of the media has lost interest in the controversial student’s organization? In recent times some its leaders have taken to  chasing political ambitions from the comfortable bastion of AASU.




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