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Assam Flood: How National Media always ignore Northeast?

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The beautiful north-eastern state of Assam is presently battling against many disasters. The recent floods, the novel coronavirus outbreak, and the Baghjan oil field fire have destroyed the lives of people in Assam.

Assam has been fighting with double disasters of Coronavirus and floods.

Floods in Assam have now claimed over 68 people, rendering tens of thousands more homeless. Over 48 lakh people have been affected. Those who managed to escape with their lives are now taking refuge in makeshift relief camps.

Assam Flood
Image Source: Al Jazeera

The situation has worsened following the heavy rainfall for the last few days.

As many as 66 animals have drowned in Assam’s Kaziranga national park. At least 48 animals are injured. Many animals got separated from their family.  According to the park authorities, around 90% of the land is submerged.

Kaziranga national park is known for its great one-horned rhinos. Four rhinos have been dead in the flood fury. 

Assam Flood
Image Source: Times of India

People of Assam blame the country’s major media houses for ignoring to report on the death and damage the floods have caused.

Every year floods ravage the lives of people in Assam. But hardly any news trickle out from the mainstream media.

India’s tea-growing state Assam is the least explored and barely understood region. Even after seven decades of independence, Assam is grappling with being included in India. All the efforts to bring it along with other north-eastern states into mainstream India has gone vain.

Does anyone remember the Dikom oil field fire of 2005? Or the most brutal floods of 2014? No, we don’t because our mainstream media cared enough to showcase celebrity news or gossips, ministers international visits, the war of words between different leaders, etc.

I highly doubt that mainland India knows anything about the culture or history of Assam or even any North-eastern state. What Assam wants is a comforting home in India’s lap. But what India do to it? Act as a step-parent?  Why National Media totally ignore the northeast? Well, this is not the first time.

The conventional media has given hardly a minute focus on recent floods and Baghjan oil field fire in Assam.

Assam’s Baghjan fire

Energy major Oil India Limited suffered a blowout in the Baghjan oil field on May 27, 2020. The emissions continued at the ground till a raging fire broke out suddenly on June 9. It spread over an area of 600 meters. The light has continued unabated since then.   

Assam fire
Baghjan oil fire (Image Source: MoneyControl)

 After the gas well suffered the blowout in May, over 9,000 people were evacuated to 13 relief camps. They have lost their homes, livelihood, vegetation, and grazing land. 

Also Read: Assam Oil Well becomes India’s Chernobyl Disaster

Baghjan oil field is located near the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, famous for several migratory birds. The region is known for its small tea, bamboo groves, and nut growers. 

An identical blowout happened at Dikom oil fields in Assam in 2005, and it took 45 days to control the blaze.

The Baghjan oil field story, just like the Dikom fire, couldn’t get much space and time in the national media.

Half Baked Media coverage on CAA

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that was passed in December 2019 became controversial and ignited a fire in the whole country. It aims to offer citizenship to minority communities, namely Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Parsis, who came to India before December 31. 2014 from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. After terming this act (now a law) as “Anti-Muslim,” the entire nation started a vigorous protest.

Assam was the first in the country where this uprising began. But it had little to do with the threat to secularism and the exclusionary nature of the bill. And more to do with the problem of immigrants swamping their land.

Assam CAA
Image Source: Deccan Chronicle

The final National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam was out in August that excluded 19,06,657 persons from the list of citizens. People of Assam were promised by the government long ago, to detect and deport illegal immigrants. They feared that their indigenous identity had been taken over by what they called  “outsiders” geographically and culturally.  

The mainstream media had spun the narrative of dissatisfaction towards the government. Assam’s tension with this law was not the same as mainland India’s consideration. The citizenship law – together with the NRC witnessed a rage in the area.

The Assamese-speaking people thought that they had been betrayed by the government, as it promised them to deport illegal immigrants.

Muslims in the region were fuming with the law because they think it was discriminatory and unjust. They would be targeted as illegal immigrants only based on their religion.

And those who have been excluded from the NRC list were concerned that India doesn’t have a precise figure of what it calls ‘illegal migrants.’

Racial Abuse against North east people

Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Chak De India’ showed two girls from the north-eastern states who were treated as ‘foreigners’ and were subjected to racial discrimination. This has been a story of many.

People from the northeast have become targets of racial discrimination. They have been insulted using derogatory remarks like “Chinki,” “Momo,” etc.

Northeast assam
Image Source: Al Jazeera

When the world is blaming China for the spread of the novel coronavirus, people in India are harassing and blaming the north-eastern for its outbreak. Many incidents of corona racial abuse have been reported all over the country.

In one incident, a man from Assam was assaulted and thrown out from a train near Andhra Pradesh’s Amadalavalasa town.

In another case, a man spat on a woman from Manipur in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar area. 

This is not the first time. Even before the coronavirus, Indians from the northeast have been enduring hatred and discrimination.

This indeed represents a sorry state of affairs. Despite addressing the issue so many times, such incidents keep on repeating.

Bogibeel Bridge shows negligence by the government

The Bogibeel Bridge in Assam is a rail-cum-road bridge over the Brahmaputra river. It is built to facilitate the quicker movement of automobiles, including defense vehicles. The bridge also provides a shorter railway route.

assam northeast
Image Source: Tour My India

However, it took decades to complete a 4.94 km bridge.

The Bogibeel bridge traces its origins to the 1985 Assam Accord, signed by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It was one of the major projects to be set up following the accord. After the government-sanctioned it, Prime Minister Deva Gowda laid the foundations of the Bogibeel bridge in January 1997.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated its construction in 2002. It was expected to be completed in six years, but the construction work didn’t start until 2007, because of a lack of attention and money. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh granted the Bogibeel bridge a national project status in 2007. The actual construction only began in 2011.

On December 25, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi bridge inaugurated the Bogibeel bridge.

Also Read: 2020 is only halfway done, know what has happened so far?

The bridge that holds so much importance for the people of Assam got delayed and delayed. Not only media, but the national government also acts indifferent to them.

Extensive misuse of central funds followed leave-them-alone policies have aggravated the already existing ignorance and isolation.

Assam has suffered so much neglect and apathy and been out of the consciousness of mainland India.

Who is to blame? What should we do about it?

What government should do is to meet the youth, listen to their sorrow, understand their problems, spread the message of good-will, and build lasting relationships.

Media should not show misplaced, half-baked, and ignorant coverage of people in Assam. And people should understand that they are as Indian as you and me.

What remains hidden in Assam is the heavenly land with artistic people, exotic tribes, and graceful culture eagerly waiting to be heard and seen.

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