Recently a Bodo social organization of Assam made a significant comment which no Assamese-speaking or, for that matter, any indigenous people of the Northeast should ignore. Reacting to Axom Sahitya Sabha president Rong Bong Terang’s comment at a function in Barpeta that Assamese could serve as the lingua franca for all peoples of the Northeast since it was understood by the majority of the people here, the Bodo organization said that it felt outraged that the Axom Sahitya Sabha chief could even suggest such a thing to other non-Assamese people. It said that accepting Assamese as the lingua franca of the Northeast could only mean hastening the process of Bangladesh-ization of the entire Northeast. The Bangladeshis have been colonizing Assam through the instrumentality of Assamese language, it warned. One could ignore what the organization said on the simple ground that it is a nondescript organization. One could also ignore the reaction of the organization because, prima facie, it is too far-fetched verging on the outrageous, since even suggesting Assamese having been made the instrument by the Bangladeshis to colonize Assam is itself unbelievable. After all, have not the protests and the movements plaguing Assam since the past decades to demand detection and deportation of Bangladeshis being made essentially through the Assamese language? But the fact is that since the early seventies successive governments in Dispur, with the active support of the Centre, have allowed the influx of Bangladeshis on the latter’s assurance that they would adopt Assamese as their language. The deal seemed to be: while the polity in Assam would let the Bangladeshis practise their religion, they would not demand Bengali as their medium of instruction or whatever, but identify themselves as Assamese. This explains why the politics and governance of Assam started revolving so much around the wholly alien concepts of ‘minorityism’, leaving the basic issues and problems of the indigenous tribes and other groups of people on the back burner.
The result of this political skulduggery too has been obvious: today no indigenous people of Assam respect Assamese as their mother tongue; the majority of the people send their children to English-medium schools; the language is fast losing its sheen, while the government has simply stopped patronizing it as the State’s official language and medium of instruction in educational institutions. On the other hand, the language is being religiously taught and adopted in Bangladeshi-majority districts and areas of Assam. In fact, no Assamese newspaper or journal can ignore the vast readership they get in these areas, so much so that they have had to dedicate specific columns and feature sections to cater precisely to this segment of readers. This has been as much convenient to the government to express helplessness in detecting a Bangladeshi on the plea that one cannot tell a Bangladeshi from an Assamese. While fears are being expressed about a Bangladeshi becoming Assam’s Chief Minister in the next five to ten years, one is also apprehensive if a Bangladeshi too would preside over the Axom Sahitya Sabha in none too distant future. These are real fears, reflecting the reality of Assam that the Bangladeshis have succeeded in colonizing Assam primarily through the instrumentality of Assamese language. This is certainly not to suggest that the Assamese should drop Assamese like the hot brick. This is essentially a call to the Centre, the Assam Government and the greater Assamese society to sit up and take notice. THE SENTINEL