Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bodo Land Youth Pledge

It was a quite extraordinary expression of resolve. Thousands of Bodo youth, who gathered at a function to pay homage to the world’s most acknowledged apostle of peace and non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, signed onto a pledge to shun the path of violence and use of guns.

Young boys and girls lined up at the site of the ‘People’s Assembly on Non-Violence’, organized by the influential All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) at Kokrajhar, to enlist their name in a public campaign ‘to build an arms and violence free society’.

A huge white ‘democratic wall’ was erected at the entrance of the venue, where anyone who wanted to end the cult of guns, could sign it to express his or her voice against militancy in the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council areas of Assam.

ABSU chose the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, celebrated country wide as Gandhi Jayanti, as the occasion to start off this civil society movement against violence and gun culture. The idea is to collect as many signatures as possible of people of Bodoland who are against the pervasive violence, who can then be mobilized to pursue peace.

“There is possibly no way to secure justice other than the principle of non-violence so effectively employed by the Mahatma to free our country of foreign rule. The same holds true even today,” said ABSU president Pramod Boro.

He said the Bodo society today was cowering under the shadow of the gun. A section of politicians and opportunist people are promoting this culture of violence to perpetuate their personal ambition and vested interests.

“The most distressing fact is that young people , who are lost and find themselves without any direction and hope, are being sucked into this evil design, and it's tearing apart the social peace and harmony” Boro said. As a result, a naturally peace loving, gentle and democratic society finds itself in a situation where people cannot express their opinion freely, fearing retaliation from the arm wielding men.

Bodos by the large believe in mainstream and democracy, even as a section took to arms to achieve social justice and political rights for the Bodos. After decades of violence and bloodshed, two peace accords were signed in 1993 and 2003 to achieve self rule and all round development in the Bodoland areas. Bodos whole heartedly supported creation of an autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) hoping that would bring peace and development in the violence ravaged areas. “We did achieve some semblance of peace and development in the past few years,” ABSU president said, but even this, he felt, was now in jeopardy with the spreading of corruption and suppression of democracy by brute force.

“We are now in a situation which is governed by the gun, inflicting unbearable suffering on ordinary people,” the ABSU president said. In the past one and a half years, at least 107 people died in fratricidal killing or encounters with the security forces. All together, 34 women lost their husbands while 74 children never saw their fathers again, he said.

“We (ABSU) can no longer remain a silent spectator to this mayhem; we need to come together and help rebuild our society rooted in non-violence and democracy,” Boro said. ABSU had always stood for peaceful resolution of all problems and would continue to work for that goal.

“This (call against violence) is a timely step and also a very significant development in the region, which is mired in mindless violence” said noted Gandhi worker Padmashree Natwar Thakkar, who was invited as the key speaker on the occasion.

The youth, which is often seen as the purveyor of violence, pledge to non-violence as a means to secure social justice and peace, is not only praiseworthy but also exemplary, Thakkar averred. He also praised ABSU, a highly efficient and organized student body in the region, for spearheading this silent but highly motivational campaign for non-violence.

“In fact, non-violence is not a mere slogan; it’s a potent weapon of peace which is being advocated across the world,” the noted Gandhian worker said. He suggested that the ABSU carried out a year long signature campaign against violence and use of arms launched on the auspicious day of the Mahatma’s birthday at the people’s Assembly on Friday. “Move out to village to village and enlist support for non-violence, which eventually can be used as a people’s referendum against violence,” he opined.

Speaker after speaker, including former Bodo Sahitya president Brajendra Brahma and national Sahitya Academy awardee and leading intellectual Mangal Singhj Hajowari, passionately reminded the youth of the futility of violence and armed action, which is self-destructive. They exhorted the people of Bodoland to follow the path of non-violence shown by the Mahatma, which is the only way of sustained peace and social harmony.

The new initiative of non-violence, though it failed to attract enough media attention, if sustained could have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the entire trouble –torn region.

Sanat K Chakraborty/ Guwahati
Originally Appeared in The Pioneer, October 6, 2009
Submitted by M.P. Mathai

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