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Assam is on a time bomb


And the clock has been ticking for a long time.

Assam was originally home to a number of indigenous tribes, who had been living there for centuries.  A few years after independence, the government of India, while giving Scheduled Tribe status to these indigenous inhabitants had divided the region in tribal belts and blocks.

That land was marked to be held only by tribals. However, due to occupation of land by the ever increasing stream of immigrants, the number of tribal belts and blocks has reduced to nearly half the original number now. Besides, non-tribals continue to occupy more and more land in these areas. Furthermore, many of these tribes were given unequal ST status, creating divisions among them, even though they have the same cultural background.

The Dimasa people, for instance, who are one of the earliest settlers in the region have been divided into areas that fall under Assam and Nagaland. The administrative classification is such that they are a minority in both states. Moreover, due to use of weapons and threats during elections, they are not politically represented. In some places, their historic monuments were removed by bulldozers and the areas turned into markets.

On the other side, the government has turned a blind eye to decades of unchecked infiltration from Bangladesh. The infiltration has been so unchallenged and undocumented that the muslim refugee camps themselves have been housing over double the total muslim population on record in those areas. The immigrants initially came and started settling with Indian muslims and married into their families.

On one hand, the aborigines were divided by the ST classification while on the other, the Bangladeshi immigrants joined the Indian muslim inhabitants with familial bonds, and began laying claim to rights and privileges.

The Central government turned a blind eye to these developments allowing minority to turn into majority and threatening the identity of these indigenous tribes in their own land. The Assam assembly has about 20 representatives of Bangladeshi origin.

Due to government apathy, the issue, which was originally about land occupation, today has unfortunately assumed a distinctly political and communal colour. And the ripples of this communal conflict are being felt all over India now. It is the short sighted and narrow minded strategy of vote bank politics that is now threatening the security of the whole country. This should be a lesson for all of us not to elect any candidate or party indulging in vote bank politics.

The rules of engagement for our security forces on the Bangladesh border are very different from those on the Pakistan border. On noticing any suspicious activity at the Bangladesh border, all that the patrolling soldiers can do is blow a whistle or flash a light, which in turn makes them a vulnerable target. Due to administrative callousness and reduced security, the region is functionally very conducive for anti-India agencies. As a result, a number of terrorist organizations have sprouted in the region. Weapons and anti-India links are found regularly in arrests, encounters and surrender of militants in the region. Let us not forget the 2008 multiple bomb blasts in Guwahati.

There is already talk of Greater Bangladesh, which hopes to include Assam, West Bengal and other north eastern states of India. A large number of immigrants and have even trickled down to Bihar and Orissa. This is a step-by-step repeat of what happened in Kashmir. The demography of the region was changed by driving Kashmiri Hindus out by force and the region made volatile by spreading violence and terror. There is a clear lack of political will even to address grave security issues in our country. Corruption and greed has blinded us to such a degree that we do not mind conceding pieces of our own motherland – the same motherland for which, just a few generations ago, our forefathers sacrificed everything, including lives.

A democracy functions in its true essence when its people are awake and aware. When narrow and selfish mindsets take over, it loses all direction and becomes distorted. We have been a ‘sleeping giant’ for too long. We need to wake ourselves because the explosions we’ve been hearing all around us are not merely alarm bells but battle cries.

– Nakul Dhawan

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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in About Art of Living, Art of Living Projects

 

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Ex guerillas get a new life with Art of Living


The 250 calm faces, deeply immersed in meditation, belie the fact that everyone in this group belonged to armed militancy that has claimed thousands of lives in the North East of India.  An amazing transformation is unfolding currently at the Art of Living International Centre in Bangalore where over 250 surrendered militants from Assam, belonging to various outfits, are undergoing a month-long rehabilitation training programme.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with former ultras in rehabilitation training at Art of Living International Centre

“It’s a new life for me. I find a lot of enthusiasm and determination to lead a new life,” these simple words coming straight from the heart of Shyamanta Handique, 45, met with instant applause and nods of approval from the group of former insurgents during an exclusive session with Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji at the Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore. The words echoed the sentiments of almost everyone present.

Former insurgent groups from Assam receiving arms training in jungles of Myanmar and Bhutan

The quick and definite transformation of these men, whose major expression of life was laced with violence, into higher versions of themselves — happy, sensitive, respectful and responsible has been quite dramatic. Surely, the group hadn’t anticipated this kind of turnaround when the government sent them to Art of Living Ashram for a training. A senior intelligence officer, assigned to keep a tab on the trainees, was so touched by the change in former rebels that he has decided to join the Art of Living after retiring from paid service in two years and further this work of inner transformation.

A majority of the former rebels had been baptized into guerrilla warfare in the Kachin jungles  of Myanmar and Bhutan. A couple of them received their training in China. The former militants now feel comfortable dropping the guns and explore non-violent ways of resolving the problems of life.

So what is the secret of transformation? Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living explains, “Most rebels are good human beings with a lot of dedication and commitment for the country. If they could do a little bit of understanding of spirituality, they could do what others cannot.”

The commitment was palpable, when a few of them shared with Sri Sri that they have renewed commitment for the betterment of their people after training at the Ashram. To quote one of them, “Earlier we were lions. Now we are bigger lions!” Realizing that vested interests used them by putting guns on their shoulders, they vowed to continue working for the betterment of Assamese people not through bullets but through the ballot!  22- year-old Ratul Boras said that he would join politics, win the hearts of people and bring about a development in his district. Amarendra had similar plans. Sri Sri blessed them saying Art of Living would provide full support to such self less endeavors.In the past, he has commended such youth for their strong commitment, which needs to be channelised appropriately to bring about a positive change in society.

It is remarkable that in a few weeks of the training, that ends of August 4th, the youth are ready to return to the mainstream society and are clear about what they want to do. Many of them, who own land back home, want to practise organic farming and dairy farming. A few are looking forward to further training and become yoga teachers to spread the inner peace they have experienced for the first time in their own life. As part of rehab training the group was taught yoga, pranayams, Sudarshan Kriya, meditations, various life skills and vocational training in mushroom cultivation, paper products and electrical maintenance.

Surrendered militants sell paper products made by them at Art of Living International Centre

Former Ulfa members Maqbool Hussain and Monuj Roy have made a common promise, “We will change our society for the better.” Well they have already started walking the talk. In a heart rending gesture, the group of surrendered militants donated the proceeds from their first sale of paper products to the victims of the current riots in Assam.

“The condition of our life and that of our state Assam, would have been better off had we received this kind of training and met Guruji 30 years ago, ” the group shared. Well as they say, better late than never. Once begun is half done!

Our very best wishes to the new members of the Art of Living family to start a new life back home in Assam 🙂

 

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