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The Northeast and its Bandhs

Another bandh: All India Students Association (AISA) activists burning effigies in Nagaon during the 12-hour bandh called in Assam over the Parag Das murder case court verdict. Photo: Diganta Talukdar

We have seen two, virtually spontaneous, bandhs in the Northeast in the days just gone by. One was a relatively-short 12-hour Assam bandh called in protest against the letting off of the accused in the botched-up Parag Das murder case. The other was a much more gruelling 48-hour bandh called in Manipur over the cold-blooded, fake encounter of a former militant.

Bandhs have been so rampant in the Northeast in the last 20 or so years that people have become inured to them. And bandhs, more often than not, are a success without the advocates of the bandhs having to drum up much support for them.

Yet, in recent times the bandh culture, as it has come to be known, has found its detractors. Public interest litigations have been filed against bandhs and those especially with an financial bend of mind, have been trenchantly vociferous against bandhs. Yet, yes yet, when these two bandhs were called and observed, there was not a murmur of a protest from the anti-bandh advocates. For the public outrage over the incidents which had led to the bandhs was obvious. It was palpable. It was widespread.

The point here is not to gloat over the successful bandhs, but to raise important issues.

Why is it that people have to think only of extreme forms of protest such as bandhs to make themselves heard? Why is it that it takes 13 good years for a murder case to fall flat? Why is it that a state government can’t act immediately after photos of the cold-blooded killing of a young man are splashed everywhere? Why is it that only the lives of politicians are of value and those of others are zilch?

I, myself, am tired of buying the argument that “oh, the Northeast has always been neglected” and “oh, the Northeast doesn’t matter to Delhi”, et cetera. It is time we were given new statements to contend with.

And of course, the bandhs did not make any difference to those in Delhi who can make a difference to the issues at hand. The bandhs made some news out there, but not big news. The nation has other things to worry and talk about, no? Rakhi Sawant’s exhibitionist swayamvar, for instance.

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