Are we going to see a new era of development and peace in Assam? When a new government takes office, different people expect different things from the government. The most opportunist one looks for occasions to shower praises on the government and try to become close to it so that they can reap maximum benefit from it.
They are habitual supporters of the government. They always try to be on the right side of the government. Nothing unusual, this has been happening from time immemorial. Then, there are people who call a spade a spade. But, the number of such people is dwindling among the journalists, civil society leaders, authors and intellectuals.
Let us put a basic question. Are there signs of development and peace already in Assam after the coming of a new government headed by Himanta Biswa Sarma? At the time of asking this, many people raise some other questions. They want to know the status of health and education in Assam.
Apart from other things this one is considered an important criterion by which the heath of the state is measured. Sadly, very sadly in both health and education, Assam is doing very poorly. That Assam is doing very poorly in health and education is not said by anybody else but by the Niti Aayog, a central government agency. Now the next question comes. Who was handling health and education in Assam for the last one decade?
It is none but the present chief minister. Now, this is a vexing question. When people are praising the present chief minister so much for his omnipotence and efficiency why did he fail so badly in uplifting the scenario of health and education in Assam? Nobody has been able to explain this out. And most people have thought it prudent not to ask such an embarrassing thing. But I think we should raise such a question.
Except making some big announcements have we seen any serious initiatives by the new government on any front? So far we have seen none. We have seen only small things blown out of proportion, like appointing a home guard as a police constable with all pomp and ceremony. If everything is done only with an eye on optics nothing serious will be done and achieved.
Now, I would raise another question here. Factional squabbles and personal rivalries apart a BJP government will act as per its political philosophy and ideological moorings. Now, what is its political philosophy? Its political philosophy is obviously Hindutva which is also the ideology of Sangh Parivar.
The essence of Hindutva is the promotion of Hindu religious and cultural identity which is essentially divisive and non-egalitarian. It is against the spirit of secularism and democratic equality. If you apply this criterion the objectives of all the initiatives of the new government will be crystal clear.
Sonowal was a little reticent and hesitant for various reasons. But those things do not bother the new chief minister. So the Himanta Biswa government in Assam could never be different, more so, when he is required to prove his mettle to his boss at Nagpur and Delhi.
Therefore, there is no point in expecting anything better from the new government. There are already some ominous signs which will polarize our society never before. The question is- should we eulogize the myth of efficiency or speak out against the divisive agenda of Hindutva politics?
This reminds me of the eloquent essay “On Defiance and Taking Positions” by Edward Said. The essay is mostly on the role of the intellectuals and academics. I quote a portion of the essay here: “It seems to me that one of the major roles today for the intellectuals in the public sphere is to function as a kind of public memory; to recall what is forgotten or ignored; to connect and contextualize and to generalize from what appears to be the fixed “truths” let us say in the newspapers or on television, the sound byte, the isolated story, and connect them to the larger process which might have produced the situation that we are talking about- whether it is the plight of the poor, the current status of the US foreign policy, etc.
“And you understand that what I am saying is true of intellectuals on the Left or on the Right. It is not a matter of political affiliation, but it’s a general, as I say, “public” memory, for which in the generally disconnected and fragmentary public sphere, it falls to the intellectual to make the connections that are otherwise hidden; to provide alternatives for mistaken policies; and to remind an audience which increasingly thinks in terms of instrumentalization and of what is effective- I mean the great watchword in political language today is pragmatism, real politik all of those kind of things to remind the audience of the moral questions that may be hidden in the clamour and din of the public debate.
“And finally of the aspect of public memory, to deflate the claims of triumphalism, to remember, as Benjamin says, that history is often written from the point of view of the victor, and the great procession of victory trails in its wake of the forgotten bodies of the vanquished. I think it’s important that these kinds of things be part of the role of the intellectuals as a public memory in society.”
Has Said left anything unsaid?