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As An Assamese Youth, Why I’m Now Scared Of Visiting Karbi Anglong

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By Subhajit Debnath:

It could have been me in the place of Abhijit and Nilotpal, you know. I have been thinking of going to Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao to explore the hills for almost two years now. Nilotpal had ridden a bike more than 5,300 km across India and that too has been a dream of mine. He loved music, thought of creating music by travelling around the hills and exploring. I love listening to music too, sitting near remote waterfalls and chilling.

Now they are no more but I am still here. And the only difference is I didn’t go to that god forsaken place. And this thought has been haunting me now. My father himself had poked fun at me jokingly for being a ‘nature lover’. Nilotpal’s body was full of tattoos and he had really long hair.

Tell me this – if Nilotpal had stayed back in our society with all those attributes of his, would we have considered him ‘normal’ according to societal moral standards? Wouldn’t the bhadralok and bhadramohilas of this rotten middle-class society consider him an outcast? Wouldn’t they look at his attributes as eccentric and weird and which do not belong to this society? Wouldn’t he have got quite a few judgemental looks and words because of his hair and tattoos?

This is exactly what had happened to some extent. Those who thought them to be child kidnappers based their judgement on their appearance.

We live in a society and we are breeding and proliferating in it like rabbits. But we become judgemental if one of those rabbits is not like us. Be it in terms of language, culture, religion or looks, it always has been ‘us’ versus ‘them’. It still is. Even if there is an iota of truth about the rumour being spread that way, that is not the direct cause of their murder. The direct causes of their murder is their looks and language being different from the local type. This is it – xenophobia and racism and nothing more.

We live in a society where we are taught to hate people who don’t look like us, who don’t eat like us, who don’t speak like us, who don’t worship like us. How cruel can a group of people be that they beat two men to death just by lathis and kicks and punches? Why would they not stop when Nilotpal, bleeding profusely, trued to prove his identity as an Assamese belonging to a well-respected family? He even mentioned his parents’ names and pleaded them to stop. All the while, he was crying and bleeding and begging for his life just before his death. Did it never occur to them even once that he may be telling the truth?

According to me, trying to show the child kidnapper rumour story as a cause for their lynching is utter and complete bullshit. They were killed because they didn’t speak the local language, they were killed because they didn’t exactly look like the local people, they were killed because one of them had long hair and tattoos. And how dare these rich ‘outsiders’ come and roam our hills in their SUV in the evening when we, the indigenous people, can’t go out because of various security reasons?

This is the mentality that led to their lynching – the notion of their being ‘outsiders’. Mind you, I am not blaming everyone in Karbi Anglong, rather I am talking about the society as a whole. I have seen the videos, I believe a few elders there did try to stop the gruesome incident but the drunk, inebriated youth kept on beating them. And why would the youth not be in such a state? What else is there to do anyway in such places at such time of the night?

You blame the government as failing to provide security? I will blame the society for promoting such hateful culture and making hateful discussions at dinner tables acceptable. This, in turn, has promoted an economically inefficient culture and led to unemployment among youths. We need to start questioning these incidents not as isolated facts but rather look at them from a scientific perspective and analyse them. It’s not an incident of isolated murder by an individual. Quite the opposite, actually. In my opinion, this incident does give the outside world an insight regarding remote Karbi villages, their culture, their mentality, etc.

Wake up, people, this is not an isolated incident. Look at what is happening in Shillong. A few minor words and a scuffle led to an almost riot-like situation in the city between the local Khasis and the Dalit Sikhs. And now, though things have calmed down, the people there are demanding that the Sikhs be relocated as they are situated in a prime commercial land of Shillong. Now tell me – enlighten me someone – how does a minor scuffle between a Sikh lady and a Khasi man turn into such a huge political issue regarding the absolute relocation of a community from a place they have been living in for more than 150 years? Are you really going tell me that there’s absolutely no communal angle involved?

My heart goes out for Abhijit Nath and Nilotpal Das and everybody else who have been such unfair victims of discrimination and xenophobia. I am going to attach an article. Do give that a read to understand the nature of these two young, talented boys and also how the outsider mentality still strongly persists in the northeast. Remember 5,300 kms of biking across India? It’s no wonder that his bike also broke down in various other remote areas of different states like West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, etc. But he had still reached Assam in time for Bihu.

I am not saying that other states are free of problems but rather we are so full of them. We keep on complaining about racism and xenophobia but are our own houses and states and societies and tribes in order?

I hope the police don’t come to arrest me on the basis of this article.  They have done this to quite a few people across Assam. But if they do, I shall stand my ground. I’ve not indulged in hate speech. Just think about it.

It makes me sad that now I am afraid and scared of going to Karbi Anglong. I probably will remain afraid for some time. And maybe that’s not a bad thing but it is sad.

This post has been published from the author’s Facebook post with permission.

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