Governance · Public Policy

Guns: Power to the People?

Not a year since India started to wash its hands of the blood from Muzaffarnagar riots, they’ve again got stained with some fresh bloodshed. This time it’s not the most popular rioters of India – the Hindus v/s the Muslims; it’s the less famous Bodos and the Bengali-speaking Muslims in the North-Eastern state of Assam.

As the news of 32 people being killed by heavily armed militants in Assam came up, political parties began the blame game, with Tarun Gogoi rubbishing any possibility of a independent Bodoland and to wow the voters the BJP responding with, “we will re-examine the demand for a separate state of Bodoland.”

The Bodos have clashed with Muslims on four occasions since 1950. The differences began escalating when in the early 1970s the competition for basic needs and political power led to conflicts between the two. While the Muslims claim they have always been a part of Assam the Bodos believe there has been a big rise in the Muslim population especially since the liberation of Bangladesh. These frequent clashes have caused resentment towards the Central Government not only from Bodos or Muslims but from all other tribes for failing to deal with the problem of migration and to avoid the conflicts.

Who are these militants then? To cut a long story short, back in the 80’s, some radicals among the Bodos formed the Bodo Security Force (BdSF) in 1986, which was later renamed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) in 1994, working for a sovereign state of Bodoland,. This armed separatists movement has always been in conflict with the Indian Armed Forces ever since with repeated ceasefires and repeated violation of ceasefires.

Over the years NDFB got divided into three factions due to ideological differences – NDFB(Pro-talks) led by Dhiren Boro, NDFB(Ranjan) led by Ranjan Daimary and hardliner group of NDFB (Anti-talks) led by Songbijit Ingti Kathar, all working for independent Bodoland but the hardliners indulge in ethnic and religious killings.

Then the Bodoland Territorial Council was established after The Bodo Liberation Tigers Force (BLTF) laid down their weapons on December 6, 2003 under the leadership of Hagrama Mohilar. The BTAD consist of four contiguous districts – Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang, all consisting of 70% non-Bodo people together.

These systematic killings that have happened in Baksa and Kokrajhar are a grim reminder of the 2012 riots between the Bodos and Muslims that killed around 80-100 poeple and created 4,00,000 refugees in 270 relief camps after being displaced from approximately 400 villages. The mass exodus of Assamese from other parts of India due to getting targeted by Muslims and threats of a fresh retaliation by Muslims after Ramadan created panic.

The Government of Assam has handed over the probe into these attacks to the NIA (National Investigation Agency), as the bodies of those killed were recovered. Many people see this as a conspiracy to flair up communalism and divisiveness. Meanwhile, the CM has been pondering about a very American solution to solve this problem once and for all i.e. giving arms to Muslims so they can ‘protect’ themselves, so they won’t need the police, the Armed Forces, so everybody can turn on their ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ mode and go on a rampage.

It is perplexing how providing arms to citizens can help avoid ethnic violence. If there are fears of repeated attacks, we have a very capable military which has become the most professional Armed Force on this planet in the last 67 years at handling religious and ethnic riots. Infact, after the Central Forces walked in holding flag marches, established a curfew in the affected districts and began targeting suspects there have been no incidents of violence. Today the curfew was even relaxed in some areas.

What does providing arms in this scenario classify as – protection given by state or acceptance of the failure of the government machinery? Any leader of a democratic republic, wherein gun control is strict, decides to hand out weapons with ease to a group under wrath at any given moment from another group infact accepts that he has failed to fulfill the duties put upon him by the state in accordance to the Constitution of India. If that truly is the case then Mr. Gogoi should resign and let a capable goverment get voted in.

You cannot just hand out guns to people seething in hatred, be it religious, ethnic, socio-economic that exist internally, in a country that is a democratic and secular republic. If the solution was this after all, why have we wasted so many years in cracking down on armed outfits, detaining any person possibly with a weapon during such unrest (who may have got it to protect himself by Mr. Gogoi’s logic.) Later do what? Play Sectarianism like the Syrians are having a good time with right now? Alright, why even shoot the militants? They have weapons, let the war begin!

Arming groups while you eat popcorn and watch, leaving it to them to settle it is not the real solution, nor is it smart. Use the state machinery intelligently Mr. Gogoi, that should suffice.

About the Author

Vaibhav Joshi

920426_577924405577003_1511776993_oVaibhav is a law student with a passion for politics and international affairs. He is a voracious reader with a never ending desire to gain new perspectives, which makes him an enthusiastic and aggressive debater.

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