Journalists defy militants’ diktat in Assam

BY Nava Thakuria| IN Regional Media | 29/01/2007
Despite boycott calls by insurgent groups and their invective against mediapersons, Republic Day is celebrated…

Nava Thakuria

It has become a ritual for a section of the armed outfits of the Northeast to impose a ban on Republic Day (and Independence Day) celebrations and this year too, the counter-reactions by mediapersons were equally true to form.  

All Guwahati-based newspapers disapproved of the boycott call by the militants on Republic Day and expressed their views in their editorials. Significantly, journalists and distinguished personalities gathered in the premises of Guwahati Press Club to observe Republic Day on January 26. Although the state looked habitually deserted due to the militants¿ threat, people came out in good numbers and participated in the Republic Day celebrations. 

The banned outfits that are demanding separate homelands out of India had asked the people not to participate in the functions of 58th Republic Day as a protest against `Indian colonial` rule in the region. "In connection with the boycott, a General Strike will be observed on 26 January 2007 from 1 am to 6 pm throughout the Region," declared a statement in Freedom, the official mouthpiece of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), who were joined by Manipur People`s Liberation Front (MPLF), Tripura People`s Democratic Front (TPDF) and Kamotapur Liberation Organization (KLO). 

This time, the diktat of the militants was also accompanied by unethical remarks against two senior Guwahati-based editors, calling them `agents of Indian state machinery`. It may be mentioned that both the editors have been vocal against the misdeeds of ULFA and also have been instrumental in highlighting the eroding bases of the outlawed outfit among Asomiya people for quite a long time.  

The ULFA militants have been blamed for the recent barbaric killing in eastern Asom (earlier Assam) and the frequent explosions throughout the Brahmaputra valley in the state during January that claimed nearly hundred lives, mostly of migrant labourers from other parts of India, and wounded hundred others. Militants targeted the major city of the Northeast, Guwahati, with repeated explosions that prompted the authorities to maintain high alert. Traders were also advised to down shutters after dusk. Meanwhile, the government launched a massive counter-insurgency operation against the ULFA cadres in Asom and its adjacent Arunachal Pradesh, where nearly 20,000 soldiers are engaged. The security personnel busted many ULFA hideouts during the operation and also arrested more than fifteen cadres, while five cadres were killed. 

The ULFA leaders were furious with the editor of Dainik Agradoot, Kanak Sen Deka,  and the editor of Dainik Asom, Dhirendranath Chakraborty, particularly for their supporting observations on an opinion poll carried out by an NGO, which negated the demand for an Independent Asom out of India. Assam Public Works, an organization comprising family member and relatives of ULFA cadres, conducted the opinion poll as a signature campaign among a total of 25,64,128 people (from various districts of Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Darang, Kamrup, Barpeta , Bongaigaon, Goalpara and Dhubri). Significantly, 24,49,740 of them rejected the sovereignty demand of the ULFA.

In inappropriate language, the ULFA decried, "Dhirendranath Chakraborty, one of the running dogs of India, has remarked, `masses of Asom do not crave for liberation`. Does it mean people want to live under the shackles of colonialism? Will the government of India hold plebiscite on this issue only? How far is this remark credible? India is quite vociferous of the outcome of their one-sided plebiscite drama without judging its legality, acceptability and neutrality. They are circulating wrong notion of plebiscite. We denounce this as a sheer conspiracy. If Dhirendranath Chakraborty and Kanak Sen Deka have regards for plebiscite then they must convince India to hold the same concerning the issue of sovereignty of Asom under the supervision of international organization. ULFA will readily accept such an arrangement."

Both the editors hit back at the ULFA for their illogical comments. While Dainik Asom editor Mr. Chakraborty criticized the outfit leaders as `misguided and half educated` who could not run an armed revolution, Dainik Agradoot editor Mr. Deka appealed to the people to defy the outfit in all sense.

Ridiculing ULFA`s sovereignty demand, Mr. Deka, who is also the president of Asom Sahitya Sabha, the highest literary forum of the state, declared that Asom was and would remain an inseparable part of India. "Asom joined in India`s Freedom Struggle wholly and actively. Moreover, great Asomiya personalities like Bharat Ratna Gopinath Bardoloi, Rohini Choudhury, Dharanidhar Basumatari with many others not only joined the freedom movement, but also worked on Indian Constitution after independence," asserted Mr Deka. 

Hoisting the national flag in the Press Club premises, the Dainik Agradoot editor appealed to the people of Asom to come forward defying the diktat of ULFA and observe the Independence and Republic Day every year in every household of the state. The participants included N.C. Choudhury (former Gauhati University Vice Chancellor), D.N. Bezbaruah (former editor, The Sentinel) with other prominent journalists like Ajit Patowary, Ranen Kumar Goswami, D.N. Singh, Pramod Kalita, Mukul Kalita, Sabita Lahkar, Anita Goswami, Akhyamala Borah and many others, who later took out a procession on the streets of Guwahati.

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