An indelible question mark had always surrounded the celebration of Independence Day in Assam, which usually is declared as dawn-to-dusk bandh by the separatist groups like ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) – a name imprinted with blood in the minds of people from this region.
It has been more than a decade since I attended a flag hoisting ceremony. The only memories that vaguely resemble a celebration are those of watching the parade and a bunch of patriotic movies by the Deol brothers.
Punctured by blasts and curfews, the state has become numb. On the I-Day eve, my mother would be mechanically involved in household activities that primarily include stocking the refrigerator with edibles and making sure we don’t run out of LPG.
The reason stems from the fact that due to road blocks resulting from bandh, transportation of vegetables and other goods almost comes to a standstill, leading to scarcity for around 2 days, during which the prices would often shoot up. Another reason is, of course, Fear. With the thought of a freak explosive lurking somewhere, it is but natural to expect the local population to confine themselves indoors.
So much for living in an Independent country!!
This may sound outrageously cliché but 3 years back when I roamed on the streets of city miles away from North East, proudly displaying the badge of flag on my t-shirt, it was the first time I realized how freedom feels like. No strict orders to stay indoors, no apprehension in planning a vacation around the I-day. Back home, unfortunately this was a part of life and we had stopped giving it much thought too, but a striking difference I could see when I came down to the mainland.
Among the myriad of colorful dresses, a khaki uniform could always be spotted at every nook and corner of busy areas specially the market places. The Army and CRPF Jawans, deployed 7-8 years back, till today safeguard our cities, each day – every moment.
Though an appalling number of blasts have rocked the state, there have been instances where many major blasts were thwarted by the vigilant police department, but it is unfortunate that their efforts never seem to be enough.
Tolerance is an essential factor in stabilizing a nation, but when heinous crimes like cold blooded massacre of thousands of innocent people are forgotten within 48 hours and people take pride in springing back to their lives as if nothing happened, indicates there’s seriously something wrong with our attitude.
The questionable effectiveness of the government combined with nonchalant behavior of the citizens form a deadly combo, catalyzing the corrosion of a beautiful state.
With the inefficiency of the government to curb down a crime which is chronically stabbing the state of Assam, future seems to be fogged by grim shadows. The negligence of the central government doesn’t help, but to think of it, it couldn’t prevent blasts in the business capital of India either.
If I am asked how I celebrated my Independence Day, I do have an answer, but of which I am not proud of.
Winner – 30th July 2011 – The Viewspaper Express Yourself Week