Monday, March 15, 2021

End of road or era of new beginning in Mising ethnic politics?

The Mising ethnic nationalism has been, of late, characterized by shift in political alignment instead of mobilization. There are concerns among the hardliners and some section of middle class that the Mising’s ethnic aspiration will be muzzled with advent of majoritarian politics. Such beliefs and doubts are natural at this juncture especially as the last bastions of nationalist constituents have moved to join national political parties. This assembly elections of Assam, 2021  is crucial in the political path of Mising ethnic nationalism. The politics of participation of  Mising ethnic nationalists reflects complex equation and puzzle as a linear direction is absent. While switching alliance and support with political parties was always there  in Mising ethnic politics especially among the nationalist organizations, this election is a departure from the conventional alley of parliamentary politics practiced by the nationalist organizations and political bases as the candidates are directly contesting from national political parties cutting across ideological lines. Ideally nationalist organizations backed Ganshakti was not a failed experiment but could not become a formidable force except in one assembly constituency. The mainstreaming of Mising nationalist leaders of the former student organization leaders into national political parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress in the assembly constituencies of Dhemaji and Lakhimpur districts marks an end of the road of the Mising ethnic politics with their independent political identity for the first time in the  history of “parliamentary struggle” for realizing ethnic aspirations of the community.

The need of addressing the fundamental Mising aspirations

Majority of the Mising public are  in the dark  about the terms and conditions of the sudden shift. As the key issues of Mising aspirations are not yet addressed, there are concerns of loss of  cultural identity and potential threats to language, customs, tradition and resources in the absence of independent political assertion.

The talk of granting constitutional status to tribal autonomous councils including that of Mising Autonomous Council of Assam at the peak of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act movement  is nowhere to be seen in the political theatre now. The big dream of achieving Sixth Schedule under the Indian Constitution today is gradually dying down. Of course, it is claimed that the current phase of political alignment is part of the process of ethnic movement itself.

Flood and erosion are one of the prior concerns of the Misings. This perennial problem has triggered displacement and conflict in various parts of upper Assam districts. Natural disaster based internal displacement should get priority in resettlement and rehabilitation agenda. It is compounded by conservation based displacement and worries of eviction from their traditional habitat. In the name of wildlife conservation and expansion of protected areas especially the Kaziranga National Park, it is observed that Mising people of Gohpur and Bokakhat are one of the foremost sufferers. There is need of reviewing the current conservation approach followed by the government that constantly keep indigenous people and forest dwellers under threat of eviction and forceful relocation. There are also demands for Poba reserved forest of Jonai in Assam-Arunachal border should be declared as protected areas. However, from the evergrowing experiences encountered by the people, all these matters need to be carried forward to environment and conservation policymakers of the country . The grievances must find solution. People and conservation must co-exist, they should not be mutually excluded.

In the cultural front, the demand of state holiday on Ali-aye Lígang could not be realized even after years of movement. In the context of development of language, the issue of medium of instruction in mother tongue in Mising inhabited areas in primary schools are not yet addressed. The New Education Policy, 2020 has been welcomed by Mising organizations as it automatically stressed on providing education in mother tongue  in primary level. However, given the scenario of language politics prevailing in the state of Assam, the introduction of such language policies will face challenges. Key Mising inhabited area lacks a full-fledged university or a medical college. A proposed campus of Tezpur University which was to be set up in Jonai did not see the light of the day even after years of donation of land by local people. While rehabilitation and land crises are on the rise among the Misings, the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park residents are yet to be fully addressed. Vast majority of people does not own land entitlement certificates. Forest land inhabited by Misings should be dereserved and be accorded  as habitat tag.

In the southern bank of Brahmaputra river, the riverine belt from Kaziranga National Park to Bogibeel bridge communities  live in pathetic condition in terms of road and communication. Majority of the Mising inhabited river bank areas live a challenging life in monsoon season in districts like Jorhat, Sivasagar and Golaghat. There is a need of attention from policy makers to improve the infrastructure along the river bank to ameliorate the miserable conditions. Raised platforms for cattle are required more in the region. Embankment built in the river bank should be transformed into a highway for better communication in order to address the communication bottleneck beginning from Kaziranga area of Bokakhat to Bogibeel bridge after proper scientific study.

Will national parties be committed to Mising aspiration?

The fundamental aspects of Mising aspirations must be addressed at first while the quest for power and influence might continue like any other politicized ethnic groups. Otherwise, the remnant of ethnic mobilization will not decompose easily even after capturing power in the future. It will, of course, satisfy a section of clietilistic network of followers but collective benefits  in the form of public goods cannot be accrued for the community at large.  This assembly elections of 2021, for Misings, is nevertheless a new beginning in political participation of the Mising nationalist path. However, common Mising public will wait and watch whether the national parties honour with commitment to the fundamental aspirations of Mising tribe.

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