Friday, October 5, 2012

Linking riots to reforms

Frontline did a cover story titled, "Behind the exodus", and put a picture of scores of people trying to push themselves into a train compartment. So you would expect that this story is about the recent "exodus" that happened due to rumours spread through SMS (and not the social media). However, the story was on why people from North East migrated to other parts of the country - in other words - this has got nothing do with the gruesome riots that are happening in Assam (Frontline had a cover story on these riots in it's earlier issue, but to study at this juncture, the migration of NE folks to other parts in the past 2 decades seems very weird). 

They give us a quick summary in one para on the riots and the subsequent fleeing of NE folks; then dedicate a small para to the "forces of political hindutva" (whatever their relevance is here) and also conclude that the "confused and often contradictory responses of State governments and the Centre aggravated the situation". Too many accusations there, but nah let's bother about the facts right now. The article is about why NE folks migrated out of the region in the first place! 

This article had a long quote from Professor Sudhir Kumar Panwar. The first line: 

“Any objective assessment of contemporary migration would show that this is linked to increasing urbanisation triggered by the pursuit of neoliberal economic policies and globalisation."

Whoa - quiet loaded no? Too many strong words linking many events! 

Let's take a quick look at the above statement - "Any objective assessment....would show..." essentially means that "whatever I am saying is right. Period.". "...increasing urbanisation triggered by the pursuit of neoliberal economic policies and globalisation" - essentially means that increasing urbanisation is happening because people are moving out in search of better opportunities. But if they write in such simple words, they cannot become intellectuals no? 

The choice of words is interesting - "triggered", "neo-liberal economic policies" etc. It's almost as if they were absolute wrong things to happen. And it sounds like those choosing to utlize available opportunities are being selfish! The conclusions are sweeping too – “neo-liberal policies” mandate low or no investment in rural infrastructure it seems! Since the article was trying to get into some root-cause analysis, they should have digressed and tried to explain why the "pursuit of neoliberal economic policies" were necessitated!  

And then the professor ends up deriding the political parties for not linking the "current problem" to the "larger picture" of migration. Now, that leaves the reader mightily confused! The "current problems" in Assam are due to illegal migration from Bangladesh. This article was supposed to be about migration of folks from NE to other parts of the country. Would it be fair enough to conclude that Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is also a result of the neoliberal blah blah blah?

The article ends like this: 

"Undoubtedly, what we have seen in the two months since early July is the result of this negligence and the absence of a coherent and comprehensive approach to migration and related issues."

The "negligence" the author talks about is the "negligence" of the government in not coming up with laws that are friendly to migrants. So essentially, the riots in Assam and the subsequent "exodus" of folks from other states back to NE had nothing to do with illegal migration or rumours of threatening SMS but by the lack of friendly laws! Note the usage of the word "undoubtedly" - which means you and I should not contest this conclusion. 

That is not it - there is another article to back up this cover story. Titled "Push factors" the article quickly tries to explain factors such as partition, agriculture, slow industrial growth etc etc that led to mass migration from the NE states. The wicked "wave of liberalisation" led to increase in demand for security force in infrastructure rich cities - and hence migration further increased. And then we are warned about the danger of  "reverse migration" and a brilliant solution is offered. Hold your breath - the solution is that the NE state governments have to talk to all those employers (like security agencies etc) and negotiate on behalf of all these "young" employees. You read it right - the government has to negotiate on behalf of all employees with all employers to ensure that a proper wage structure is in place for them! 

Very quickly, we moved from the Assam riots to social media ills to "neo liberal globalisation" jargon. So quickly that we have begun to forget that Assam is still burning. Lakhs of people are still displaced, with no guarantee that this spate of violence will stop once they return back. But then, let's blame "globalisation", shall we?

Tail piece: The CM of Assam, Tarun Gogoi apparently made a comment that the population of Muslims increases because they are illetrate. Rajdeep Sardesai wondered -" If Modi said what Gogoi did, the Cong would go for him. What of their own chief minister now?" I asked him back the same question, and just replaced Cong with "sections of media". Three days later, both didn't happen. 


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