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Selfish nature of Barak Valley Bengalis exposed as they quietly watch the language lose its pride in Assam

First the land, then language, then the education and now job. In the last couple of months, Bengalis got stripped off from various pride in Assam without the community making any hue and cry about it. So, is the love for language only a seasonal drama on May 19?

In the name of safeguarding the Assamese culture and tradition, the government of Assam is bringing one amendment after another and that too without a contest.

After each and every shocking revelation the minister, in most cases, Himanta Biswa Sarma, announces that it is not applicable in Barak Valley and that makes the people residing in the valley feel secure. The first such announcement was that the government is planning to bring in a land bill that will ensure that a ‘Khilonjia’ (Indigenous People) can only sell land to a ‘Khilonjia’ in Assam.  It is worth mentioning here that a special committee has been assigned the duty of defining the term ‘Khilonjia’ which is critical in the implementation of Assam Accord’s Clause 6. However, Sarma said that he has his definition of Khilonjia ready and by his definition any immigrant irrespective of the year they have trespassed the border should not be allowed to buy land in Assam.

The summary of Clause 6 states constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

The same day Sarma announced that the state government will appeal to the centre to make Assamese the official language of Assam with the exception of Barak Valley and BATD. Amendment in the way people in Assam study followed next. Himanta Biswa Sarma announced that each and every school irrespective of their medium of instruction, in order to keep their SEBA accreditation intact, will have to make Assamese a compulsory subject till Class X. In Assam, MIL (Modern Indian Language) was an optional subject where the students got the option to choose the language they want to study. Many in Assam naturally choose Assamese, students from the Bengali community choose their mother tongue as a subject of their choice, some select Hindi. Now its a compulsion again with the exception of Barak Valley.

Bengalis in Barak Valley did not bother about the interest of their fellow Bengalis living in Bramhaputra Valley and remained quiet. Then came the next big announcement, an amendment in the recruitment procedure of Assam Government. Again it was Himanta Biswa Sarma, who announced, that to get a Assam Government job one needs to study Assamese till Class X.

Barak Valley was left out it. The point of concern is that leaving Barak Valley out of it does not make any sense as the jobs are scattered all over. A Bengali living in Barak Valley is well within her right to apply for a job at the secretariat or Assam Police or any other government jobs which are headquartered in Guwahati.

The implementation of Assam Accord’s Clause 6 is the writing on the wall that one and all can easily read. What happens after that is the bigger question. The narrative of Assam is that while for Assamese it’s being peddled fast, Bengalis are finding consolation in Citizenship Amendment Act which is yet to lay out its way of action.

How will someone who failed to prove she is Indian prove that she has entered the country before 2014 and from Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan is a maze, that a runner is yet to solve. While all this is happening, the political leaders in Barak Valley are largely silent. In last two months, Rajdeep Roy, MP Silchar did not post a line written in Bengali on his Facebook wall while the only Bengali minister in Sarbananda Sonowal cabinet, Parimal Shuklabaidya, used Bengali only twice among close to 40 posts. In fact, on December 25, 2019, Parimal Suklabaidya paid a tribute to Bharat Ratna and former Prime Minister of India by posting a Hindi post on his official Facebook wall. However, in the case of Swami Vivekananda, Netaji Shubash Chandra Bose, the minister from Barak Valley posted his tribute after composing it in Assamese.

IAS Laya Madduri dared to stand tall and sing ‘Jodi Tor Dak Shune Keu Na Aashe Tobe Ekla Cholo Re’.Today, when the language is getting stripped off its pride in Assam, the intellectuals of Barak Valley who keep demanding the Railway Station to be renamed after the language martyrs are mostly sleeping under the blanket or quiet.

Himanta Biswa Sarma had visited Silchar on the auspicious occasion of Durga Osthomi and that was seen as a message of assimilation. He received a warm welcome in Silchar and became the showstopper for at least a day. But since then he has been at the centre of all the developments that posed a sense of threat on Bengalis and their integrity. However, in the time of Hindu VS Muslim, Nationalists VS Urban Naxals, Bhakt VS Liberals, ‘Bengali’ is the last priority, and at times it does not even matter.

Bengalis are as much the son of Assam as Assamese are, Bengalis are as indegenous as Assamese, Bodo or any other communities are. One has to wonder if Bimolangshu Roy, Mahitosh Purkayastha would have sat quietly as today’s political leaders are. One has to wonder if Bengalis care about their mother tongue any more. But, it needs no wondering that Bengalis living in Barak Valley are selfish as they are quietly watching the language go out of reach from their fellow Bengalis in Bramhaputra Valley.

A Bengali living in Guwahati.

The author of this article requested us to keep his/her identity anonymous due to security and privacy reasons. Counter argument to this opinion piece is most welcome, please write at [email protected]

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