Poriborton = demographic change, mind it!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

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Poriborton = demographic change, mind it!

Swapnil Bharali | May 12, 2018 12:17 hrs


We have fresh trouble brewing for Guwahati and the harbingers of the same have a name – Joint Parliamentary Committee or JPC. Thoroughly biased from the immediate looks of it despite the seemingly fair constitution of the group, its agenda is clear. It is here to create its vote bank even if it means granting citizenship to a large chunk of aliens in the name of rescuing them from religious persecution. While the pressure is on entire Assam, Guwahati in particular will be the worst affected and let me tell you why.

Remember the recent Amchang evictions? Remember who these evicted people are? They are an indigenous lot of Assamese people mostly hailing from the north bank of the Brahmaputra River. They arrived in Guwahati to encroach upon its forest lands because their farmlands were eroded and washed away by floods rendering them landless and homeless. And so to them, their pot of gold lay in Guwahati and not in any other town or city of the state. After all, Guwahati offers unique avenues for survival. From 1999, they started their perilous existence within the confines of Guwahati’s forests slowly progressing to build houses and schools on this encroached land.

Heard about the Majuli erosion? It is often touted with much dismay that the largest river island in the world will cease to be so given the rate at which erosion is taking place there. And talking of erosion, the smaller rivers like Pagla Diya in lower Assam continue to unleash their fury breaching farmlands all over rendering farmers landless with no other option but to literally set up shop in Guwahati purely to survive. The ever increasing numbers of street vendors and the ever increasing residential areas that are becoming market places sans any administrative approval bear testimony to this.

Seen the “new Amchangs” sprouting all over the hills of Guwahati? No? Take it from me that another big humanitarian disaster is waiting to happen even if we discount the smaller disasters like landslides and earthquake related accidents that we keep hearing from time to time.

Heard about the large number of slums in Guwahati? These are large tracts of land within the city – some belonging to the railways and some to the government – where squalid settlements have taken place over the years simply because the city, bursting at its seams as ever, cannot offer proper “human” accommodation thereby giving rise to this dirty picture. Given this, it is actually frightening to realize that all the PMAY schemes for urban housing do not stand a realistic chance to redeem this situation.

What I am trying to reiterate is that Assam is losing land to unforgiving Mother Nature and at an alarming rate. This loss of land is creating a massive human displacement that is going unnoticed resulting in pressure on the land of Guwahati. In this situation, we have a government that is blinded by the parochialism of its vote bank politics. The machinations involved in pushing its agendum of granting citizenship to aliens are to be seen to be believed. The entire BJP government system, right from its governors to its ministers, has become attuned to push this agendum that is bound to have frightening repercussions on our hitherto beleaguered land – land that is already fast shrinking. And Guwahati is set to take the brunt of it saddled as it is with an administration that is enmeshed in its own variety of inertia.

It is a craving that one gets of wringing some necks and giving a shake-down to some shoulders. It is a sinking feeling of having been truly hoodwinked. All this while, I had thought that the cry of “poriborton” from two years ago meant development and progress. I had not bargained for “poriborton” to mean drastic demographic change!

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