The creation of a new State of Telangana has triggered a sense of hope as well as despair among the people in the Autonomous District of Assam who have been agitating for decades for a separate State.
After the Congress Working Committee (CWC) adopted a resolution in favour of Telangana State, the largest district in Assam was rocked by disturbances as political parties and groups took to the streets.
However, in the last few weeks all the groups in support of a separate State are reconciled to the prospect of a long struggle. The sense of resignation is evident from the fact that the demand is not the central theme of the general election campaign.
Part of the reason is the lack of unity among the plethora of groups that claim to be championing the cause. Virtually every sixth signpost in Diphu town, the administrative headquarters of the tribal district, belongs to some political or social group.
Elwim Teron, advisor, Hill State Democratic Party (HSDP), laments: “The Union Government has taken advantage of fissures within as well as the fact that unlike other places people here have not taken to violent methods in support of our demand.”
He complains that Karbi people have been deprived of the status granted to people of Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland who till the Assam Reorganisation Act were treated on par.” We belong to the same socio-economic-cultural background. Following bifurcation of Assam, Mizoram and Arunachal were made Union Territories and Meghalaya was granted semi-autonomous status. The so-called Autonomous Council here is a sham as it is at the mercy of Assam State”.
Interestingly, the BJP which is circumspect has done a political coup on the Congress by getting the party heavyweight Joyram Engleng into its fold.
His entry into saffron party in March has created ripples in the political circles of the district which was once a bastion of the Left. He is the BJP candidate for the Lok Sabha seat.
Among others who have jumped on to the BJP bandwagon are Rupon Sing Ronghang, former Education Minister, Bajong Tisso, former chairman and EM, KAAC, Bhupen Hasnu, former EM, Sing Teron, former EM, Singnoth Kro, former EM, Maina Rongpipi, former VDC chairman and Amreng.
Congress District Committee Secretary Pralay Kumar Chaudhowry is, however, confident that the party candidate Biren Singh Engti, who is a sitting MP, would win hands down.
What is the Congress stand on a separate state? “Of course, we want a separate state. If Telangana can be made a separate State why not us?” he asks. When reminded that his party is opposed to the demand, he reasons, “Congress is a national party. It has to take decisions keeping the broader picture. Surely, our high command would help us gain a separate state”.