End terror, Guwahati’s voters urge politicians

April 8th, 2009 - 12:43 pm ICT by IANS  

By Maitreyee Boruah
Guwahati, April 8 (IANS) They have lived under the shadow of bomb blasts for a long time. Voters in Assam’s principal city of Guwahati, also known as the ‘gateway to northeast India’, are crying for an end to the terror trail as elections approach.

Blasts have almost become a way of life for Guwahatians, with the latest attacks - here and in four other parts of the state - having taken place as recently as Monday, claiming at least 10 lives and injuring nearly 60.

Right from columns in vernacular newspapers and journals to television debates to coffee table discussions, Guwahati residents have chosen to talk repeatedly on the issue, so that political parties are pressed to do something to end three decades of insurgency in Assam.

“We want an end to the bloodbath. Why does the common man on the streets of Guwahati not feel safe? We have to think twice before venturing out, to avoid becoming a victim of bomb blasts,” said popular poet and columnist Samir Tanti.

“We want the political parties to take the issue seriously. Mere rhetoric is not enough. Moreover, not a single party, neither the Congress nor the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), has spoken anything about its stand on the issue in the coming elections,” Tanti told IANS.

Youngsters, mostly college-goers, are aghast that major political parties - Congress, the ruling party in the state, and the AGP, which has ruled the state twice from 1985 to 1989 and from 1996 to 2001 have no clear cut agenda in place to tackle terror.

“It is beyond our understanding as why the political parties are silent on the issue of terror in the state. Only when a bomb blast happen, the leaders of both the parties engage themselves in a dirty game of mud slinging, instead of working on a formula to end terrorism,” said Pranab Kakoty, an undergraduate student.

Pranab’s friend, Jyoti Bora, a student of mechanical engineering in Assam Engineering College, said progress would come once terrorism comes to an end in the city.

“We’re lagging behind in economic development in comparison with rest of the country. Terrorism is the cause of all the ills in the state. The political parties need to ensure that the city and the state at large will be peaceful and prosperous,” said 20-year-old Bora.

Assam goes to polls in two phases on April 16 and 23 for its 14 Lok Sabha seats.

Septuagenarian social activist and scholar Anima Guha, a resident of the city for the past four decades, agreed with the views of the younger lot.

“The young and old alike are all tired of regular incidents of terror strikes in Assam. We need peace. Only peace will lead us to progress and prosperity. It hurts to see Assam bleeding everyday - for the last 30 years. If politicians want to call themselves our leaders, they have to end terrorism,” said Guha.

Guwahati had a brush with terror last week too, in which one person was killed and 16 were injured in a powerful explosion. The blast occurred minutes before External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee was to address an election rally, close to the blast site.

Assam experienced one of its worst terror strikes when around 81 lives were lost and over 300 injured in 12 coordinated explosions in Guwahati and the western districts of Barpeta, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon Oct 30, 2008.

Assam has long been a cauldron of violence triggered by insurgency and ethnic clashes, since the state’s first rebel group, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was formed in 1979. An estimated 25,000 people have been killed and hundreds more maimed for life since then.

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

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