Year 2007: A violent year for Assam

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Guwahati, Dec 24: As another year draws to a close, Assam stands amidst ruins witnessing more violence than ever, despite a concerted effort to improve its image, only to be tarnished forever by a single image of a stripped Adivasi woman chased by hooligans on the streets of Guwahati.

Assam might have dazzled the nation with a grand National Games in February, the government might have wooed some investors and the skyline of urban Guwahati might be changing dramatically, but mob ruled Assam throughout the year and the most blatant image remained the striping incident.

The state finds itself in a vortex where a half educated, politically motivated mob rule the state carrying out innumerable road blockades, bandhs, street violence, rail rokos and attacks, overshadowing militancy and governance issues, pushing everything towards anarchy.

Militancy continued in the state, but it diversified into more names and faces with smaller groups emerging, each running their own agenda, making life hell for both the authorities and common people, with the latter desperately trying to join the economic march towards prosperity of the rest of the nation.

The year began with the 'ritual' Hindi-speaking killings by the ULFA, which was nothing but to draw the attention of the Centre.

The ULFA ran it couple of times in the year only to bring in more companies of CRPF, but nothing tangible had happened on the peace process.

The peace process fell flat with neither the Centre, the state government, ULFA or even the civil society interested to resume it in earnest. With no real Opposition in the state, the Congress is having a field day.

The Congress used the report on the 'Secret Killing' to keep the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) a divided house. But of late, the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) emerged as a more serious headache for the Congress in the Muslim dominated areas, threatening their prospects in the Panchayat Polls.

The BJP was never a force in the state's politics and with the tribal forces rising, politics in Assam has changed forever, despite the fact that the Congress lost its bastion in the North Cachar Hills in the face of hostile militancy.

But the brightest point for the state in the year was the successful holding of the National Games in a grand way, which was seen as a realistic hope of turning the tide in Assam's favour.

The Games was a success and Assam today can boast of one of the most sophisticated sports infrastructure in the country.

But subsequent developments in politics, militancy and of late rising mob violence have undone that entire effort. But still there were visible progress in the infrastructure front, especially in health, transport and power sector. Thanks to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the health sector is making progress, so is the power sector with the commissioning of another power plant at Karbi Longpi while the highly ambitious East West Corridor of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is making slow progress, with the NHAI hoping to end it by 2010. The much hyped Gas Cracker project has taken off and is expected to be commissioned by 2009.

But the great flood of this year has caused severe damage in the entire state. It was the worst flood in nine years and except the two hills districts, the whole state was affected and not less than four successive waves of flood water left the whole state's economy reeling.

The state never got time to get up and strengthen its base. As soon as the flood water receded and winter set in, the cacophony of reservation from various groups and opposition to the demand by the majority tribes have drowned all other issues as the authorities are pushed to a fire-fighting mode.

The reservation agitation has been taken over by the mob and the darkest blot in Assam's history would remain the Beltola incident.

On the tea front, business went down as the tea plants are ageing and tea majors are focussing in retails. The Union Commerce Ministry did unveil the Special Tea Package Fund for revival of the ageing gardens, but towards the end of the year, the tea industry and the Union Government were busy fighting over the social responsibilities of the industry rather than the production related issues.

From the cultural point of view, there were some good films and documentaries like Aideu, Jatinga Ityadi and Joymoti. They did pick up laurels all over the world, but the distribution system of Assamese film collapsed to such an extent that even showing it in cinema halls had become a Herculean task.

UNI

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