Chief minister Tarun Gogoi has till now been the most popular leader of Assam. But his third term is turning out to be the worst. Excerpts from an interview with Teresa Rehman:
You have been termed as the most popular and acceptable leader of Assam. However, this seems to be the worst phase in your third-term tenure as the chief minister of Assam. Do you rule out the conspiracy theories against you doing the rounds?
I have not got into who has conspired against me. But similar clashes have taken place in the past as well in different places and in different contexts. But yes, this time the publicity was much more though casualty-wise it was the lowest. Even then we do not justify the clashes. It is one of the greatest tragedies. But we have managed to bring back normalcy within five days and people are now going back to their respective villages.
There are allegations of inaction or rather lack of prompt action on your part which could have averted many casualties. Was there a lack of co-ordination between the Centre and the state?
Earlier we had faced shortage of forces. Since the law and order situation was better, the central government had withdrawn its forces from Assam. Now that the central government is helping us, we have been able to avert many casualties.
The BJP has said that “Assam is Congress’ laboratory of communal experiment”. Some people have even compared you to Narendra Modi. What do you think?
This is absolutely wrong. It is not a communal issue. There are a large number of other communities who are Hindus. The clash was not between Hindus and Muslims. Here in Assam, we have been living with communal harmony since ages.
Gujarat riot was a state-sponsored riot and took months to contain it. But I could contain the violence within five days. In Gujarat it was a clash between the Hindus and Muslims and the state was involved. But we took prompt action to contain this. The question of comparison with Narendra Modi does not arise.
There were clashes in Bodoland even before my tenure. But now the casualty has come down. The internicene clashes between tribes and communities is also on the decline.
AIUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal is demanding a CBI inquiry into the whole incident because he feels the Muslims have no faith in the state government. What do you think?
We don’t mind a CBI inquiry into the whole incident. The Bodos are also demanding a CBI inquiry. It’s a good thing that all parties want a thorough inquiry into the causes that led to the clashes. Things will become clear that way.
Ethnic strife in Bodoland seems to come in cyclical phases. It took place in the past, now in the present and many feel that these conflicts will again take place in the future as well. What do you think is the root cause of such conflicts and what can be done to tackle it?
Economic development is the key to all problems. Once the economy is taken care of, law and order situation will also improve and this will lead to prosperity.
The non-Bodos in BTC areas feel discriminated in all spheres. Do you think the gap between the Bodos and the non-Bodos will widen in the future?
This feeling is there everywhere. The challenge is to reconcile everyone and this has to be done with a firm hand. Assam is one of the most complex state. Rapid economic development is the only solution.
Do you agree that this is an Indian Vs Foreigners issue as claimed by many BJP leaders?
They are all Indian citizens. These are baseless allegations. Those who are making these allegations are not aware of the history of Assam or the ground situation.
Is there continuous illegal immigration from Bangladesh into Assam which is fast changing the demography of the state? If so, how do you plan to tackle this festering issue?
There has been infiltration but it has been on the decline. We are strengthening the security along the border areas. The growth of population in 2001 has been less than 3 percent. In 2011, growth has been more than 1 percent, which is less than the national average.
There are political motives in stating that that there is rampant illegal infiltration. When L. K. Advani was the Home Minister for six years, he did not take any steps to seal the border. Now he is accusing me. In fact, we are strengthening the border and riverine security.
BJP MP Vijay Goel had alleged that “Illegal Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators armed with weapons have come from a neighbouring country”. Is it possible for organised armed groups to come from across the borders and organise such attacks?
These are baseless allegations. One or two people might have come. But there is no evidence of armed groups coming from across the border.
How do you plan to move on to the next stage of reconciliation and trust-building between the communities?
This is the most difficult bit i.e. to bring about a reconciliation among people. Conflict is there in every part of Assam. The feeling of deprivation and loss of identity is there in almost all communities. But it is a fact that they will have to live together. We will have to maintain the identity of every community. Economic development is the only solution. If they find enough means of livelihood, they will not fight for small things.
There are rumours that there are fissures within the Congress party. What do you have to say?
There is no division now within the Congress. I think some disagreements will be there within all parties. Within the Congress party, some may not agree with me. But all this is part of democracy.
Do you think you will have a smooth sailing in the rest of your tenure?
Hiccups will always be there but I am confident that I will be able to deal with any kind of situation. I could contain the violence within the shortest possible time. The central government is co-ordinating with us.
Do you see your son Gaurav Gogoi as your political heir?
My son has just joined politics. He is still learning his ABC. A career in politics is not easy and one has to tread gradually. An abrupt rise will bring downfall and is unnatural. I have seen it in my own life that those who try to jump meet with a fall. I don’t want him to commit suicide by jumping high.
A shorter, edited version of this appears in print
Three terms in office, as the framers of the US Constitution figured out long ago, is often one too many.
Gogoi is surving on the strenght of Muslim inflitrators from BanglaDesh .
Drawing Parallels of 2012 to 2002 or Gogoi to Modi are inevitable.
2012 rightly deserved a 2002 treatment and vice-versa. Oh, yes. No Congress affiliated person can ever do wrong or No BJP person can ever be honest.
He seems to be quite reasonable. Just hope he does what he talks.
Tarun Gogoi did the damage all these years allowing freely illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.They are given voting rights.A Pro Sonia --Rahul Gandhite in the recent years like Mr Kuldeep Nayyar says in his Column that theseBengali these Bangladesh Immigrants whether legal or illegal are responsible for Tarun Gogoi's Victory in Elections.
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