Trapped in freedom

Posted on: Wednesday, August 22, 2012

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[As shared by Shri Sanjay Kumar]
Over the past few days, newspapers have been reporting that there has been an unprecedented exodus of the Assamese living in Bangalore to Assam. They have turned up suddenly, in thousands, on the railway station and seeing this rush, railway authorities had to announce special trains to Assam. This mass departure has been caused by a rumor that people from the North East will be violently targeted after Ramzan. This has happened in other cities - Hyderabad, Chennai, and Pune and now the national capital as well.

I along with a few other Art of Living teachers went to the railway station in Bangalore to talk to these people who were seemingly leaving out of panic. There was unprecedented urgency, confusion, chaos rampant there. For the next 12 hours we relentlessly persuaded people not to leave. And the answers we got made us ponder whether it was really a rumour or there was something more to it. The answers ranged from “Don’t you know what’s happening?” “I want to save my life that’s why I am leaving”to“whom we trust you or media” some even pointed out to their wounds and wanted to know whether we still wanted to stop them.

On one side people were arriving on station in groups (students, factory workers, families) one after another, rushing for tickets and bent upon leaving. On the other hand we started interacting with them hoping to persuade them not to leave. After interacting with hundreds of them, we came to know that undoubtedly some of them had been threatened. Still, we managed to convince few groups not to leave and reassured that we take responsibility of their protection. Thus we brought some of them to our Art of Living International centre in a bus. Talking to them and watching the story unfold makes it clear that all is not what seems. A working girl shared that her friends were beaten up and they left in panic. When we spoke to her on station while she was trying to procure tickets, she sounded very angry at the state of affairs. Likewise, others reported that auto-rickshaws were being stopped and the passengers questioned, “Are you from Assam? Are you Burmese?” One person from this group shared that his own colleague calmly asked and counseled him, “Are you also leaving with your friends? Because something may happen and we may not be able to guarantee your security.” In some cases, the factory owners advised their workers (belonging to north-east) to leave till the situation calms down.

Further, the news of intimidating incidents spread through word of mouth along with threatening SMSes causing panic and forcing everybody from the North East, and even West Bengal and Nepal, to run for their lives. Their landlords also asked them to leave fearing damage to their houses in case ‘something’ does happen.

What seems mysterious is that how swiftly special trains were already arranged and announced every few hours, as if expecting this sudden crowd. At the railway platform, few cabinet ministers, both from the state and Centre, were assuring people that of their security and urging them not to leave. In the middle of their speech, the PA system announced another special train on platform 4. The irony of the situation: should they listen to the announcement to board the train or the ministers asking them not to leave. In three days, over 70,000 people have left Bangalore alone on these trains.

When you connect the dots - a rumour of this nature is spread to create panic, a few incidents of violence happen that attach credibility to the prediction and some strings are pulled to schedule special trains, the whole affair seems very carefully orchestrated and executed. That so many trains were arranged without the knowledge of the state government makes you wonder who all might be involved in this plot. Some stories in the media make it appear that the railway authorities were quick and efficient in handling the ‘crisis’. One media house is calling these SMSes that created mass panic ‘mischievous’. The picture above gives an idea of the magnitude of hysteria this 'mischievous rumour' caused.
For the generation that did not get to see the partition, this is what it looks like when people are forced to flee what they thought was their own country and this is what their faces say.
They may show disappointment and helplessness for now but it is only a matter of time it turns into anger. We just heard that the first thing one group of these Assamese did on getting off the train was set fire to a bus and a car.
The suggestion that at least a part of our machinery is directly controlled by anti-India agencies is no longer mere speculation. We have begun acknowledging it openly now.

What is unfolding is a repeat of what happened in Kashmir. The Pandits were thrown out and the government did nothing. Now the place is so sensitive that Government of India can no longer call shots there. We somehow still believe Kashmir belongs to India but the world has already begun drawing our map differently.

The Assam government has shown great eagerness over decades to legalize Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam and issue them ration cards because it increases their vote bank. If what happened to Kashmir happens to Assam, we will eventually lose the entire north-east.
Let’s not jump to what-can-we-can-do type quick fire patriotic sentiment, because most people are not even aware of the scope and gravity of what is being done to their country. India is being sold piece by piece right in front of our eyes! And it would be only fair to say, we deserve it! Because when something happens in Kashmir, it’s called a Kashmir problem. What is going on is being called an Assam issue. We have regionalized and ignored so far what has undeniably become a national crisis and a national crisis can only be dealt with when we unite nationally.

The Art of Living had sent its teachers and volunteers to the Bangalore railway station to diffuse fear and panic among those leaving and encourage them to return soon. Similar teams have also been receiving them in Assam to ensure violence does not erupt when they reach there. This is a time when emotions can’t be allowed to flow out of control. We cannot allow ourselves to be impulsive yet we cannot sit idle either. The right move must be made at the right time. All that can be said for now is, it will be the right time soon.

(Shri Sanjay Kumar is one of the senior faculties of the Art of Living. He has exhibited his expertise in the area of conflict resolution and peace initiatives. Under the aegis of the Art of Living foundation, he has spearheaded Art of Living’s initiatives in the troubled areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar, Jharkhand,
Andhra Pradesh, North-East and Nepal. During his stay in Kashmir, he has the distinction of training hundreds of surrendered youths who had shunned the path of violence.)

SOURCE: Art of Living secrets