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India hardly gains from Myanmar change

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By EMN Updated: Aug 08, 2013 11:05 pm
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Subir  Bhaumik

The decision to carve out the new state of Telengana has hit Assam with a bang. West Bengal also faces two revived statehood movements-Gorkhaland and Kamatapur but they don’t affect the core of the state.That’s not the case with Assam. The renewed Bodoland movement along with those in Karbi and Dima Hasao districts will affect the Assam’s linkage with rest of the country and the link between the Barak and Brahmaputra valley. That hits at the very spine of Assam. Assam has been the pivot of Northeast despite its many fragmentation in the past. Any further breakup of
Assam will render the state unviable or at least dangerously tottering.
Much as the demand of separate statehoods by Assam’s battling ethnicities is rooted in the insensitivity of Assam’s ruling elite, the renewed demand for Garoland proves that creation of a tribal state like Meghalaya is no guarantee that everything is settled after that is done. In fact it only proves that once a multi ethnic state like Assam is broken up, there seems to be no end to it.
2 million Bodos will always feel they have a valid reason to ask for a separate state because 1 million Nagas have got one-or half a million Mizos have got one. Piecemeal acceptance of separate statehood demands will only create a lot of Oliver Twists asking for more.
But states like Assam and West Bengal, whose linguistic driven ruling elites have always sought to impose their will on the tribes, people can only blame themselves for ending with the Oliver Twists. They never tried to create a distinct ethos for a multi ethnic state by pushing an agenda of ethnic reconciliation. They tried meeting autonomist demands of the tribes people by force, police action, divide-and-rule or
downright cajolery. Now they have to bargain with a prospect of endless fragmentation. The fact that all these renewed statehood demands, some tending to be more violent than the others, are located on either side of the strategic ‘Chicken’s Neck’ which links India to its troubled Northeast. Can Delhi accept the inevitable destabilization of such an area which borders on several foreign countries, some with a history of fishing in our troubled waters. The choice for Delhi is straight and simple – either announce a new Reorganisation Commission that looks into these statehood demands over a 2-3 year time frame and pacifies these movements for the present or bargain for violent eruption in the strategic area.
Having opened the Pandora’s Box in Telengana, Delhi will need to be decisive in handling its fallout in the sensitive East and Northeast of the country.

The writer is former
BBC East India Chief

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By EMN Updated: Aug 08, 2013 11:05:11 pm