Appeal for civil society action

Centre for Policy Analysis urged for more proactive civil society after the BTAD violence writes NURUL LASKAR

A five-member fact finding team from Centre for Policy Analysis (CPA) New Delhi visited the strife torn BTAD on Saturday and met a few representatives of the civil society in Guwahati on Sunday morning prior to their return to Delhi. The team consisted of Harsh Mander, Anand Sahay, Seema Mustafa, Satish Jacob, and Prof Anuradha Chenoy. CPA believes that the ‘alternative’ is the major part of the truth which is generally not spoken of in the mainstream and there is no one mainstream in India but multiple streams.

Initiating the dialogue, Harsh Mander said what they saw and heard in BTAD was extremely painful for them and the events were traumatic for the survivors who saw their near and dear ones being gunned down before their eyes. He said that in this kind of incidents there is no ‘other side’, we all have to take the total responsibility. Specially in relation to Assam, he said that there have been repeated killing of innocent persons since the 80s but no one has been punished for perpetrating these crimes. As far as the victims are concerned, Mander said, “They will not remember the voice of the enemy in the long run, but they will forever remember the silence of friends.” By not punishing the killer, the society is setting a bad example, and tomorrow it would not have the moral right to punish a similar offender when the killing takes place elsewhere, opined Mander and stated with emphasis, “I would not like to be a part of such a society.”

Speaking on the crisis, Anand Sahay said, “The ruling disposition will always find ways to use the situation to their advantage, this is the nature of the ‘beast’. But, we in the civil society must not be complicit and become a part of those who want to do it. We have to live together and we must bring sanity back to the society.”

Prof Anuradha Chenoy, who is a social scientist, expressed the view that the incident of BTAD is not very different in nature from what is happening in Darfur of Western Sudan. Differentiating one community from the other will lead to differentiating of more communities in the days to come, and there will be no end to it. People who believe in every human being’s right to live with dignity will have to form a coalition to halt the tide of hatred, no matter even if there are two or three persons to start with, others will come forward and join in time, was the considered opinion of Prof Chenoy.

On the view of some citizens who expressed the fear that if the violence against one particular community goes on with impunity, then a day may come when the youth of the persecuted community may become radicals and take up arms. The CPA team said this can be stopped only by civil society coming forward to ensure that the perpetrators of crime do not go unpunished. They cited the example of Gujarat where the victims of 2002 genocide were overwhelmingly Muslims but no radicalism bred there only because the Muslims realised that those who brought the culprits to book were overwhelmingly non-Muslims. This, the team said, was a pointer to the civil society across the country.

Jahnabi Phookan, Prof Munirul Hussain, Smita Agarwal, Prof Abdul Mannan, Dr Anuradha Dutta, Teresa Rehman, Ashiq Zaman and Ratnadip Choudhury were among the personalities who took part in the dialogue.