Thousand hours Bandh (general strike), which may be unusual for the mainland India, surfaced in Assam in the last week of October. Called by Joint Action Committee for Autonomous State (JACAS), a conglomeration of several organisations based in central Assam, the prolonged Bandh hit mostly the Karbi Anglong district of the State affecting partially the normal life and vehicular movements between Assam and Nagaland (also Manipur).
The 1,000 hour Karbi Anglong Bandh, beginning on 5 am of October 27 scheduled to continue till 9 pm of December 7 and is aimed to raise voices for a separate autonomous State comprising Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao hills districts. The immediate aim of the programme is understood to pressurise the Union government for announcing a next date for talks, where the last one took place on November 6, 2013. The JACAS leadership also maintained their demand for tabling a bill in the winter session of Parliament for the creation of the autonomous State under the provisions of Indian Constitution’s Article 244 (A).
JACAS president K Teron, while interacting with the media ruled out the possibility of calling off the strike ‘until a call from the Union government to resume the talks on the Statehood issue’. It may be recalled that the Congress-led UPA government assured the leaders of JACAS for holding talks for amicable solution to various grievances and demands.
The Bandh, though not visible in any parts of Dima Hasao, it made significant impact on business establishments, educational institutions and most of the government offices of Karbi Anglong. Karbi Anglong district police chief Mugdha Jyoti Mahanta informed that the Bandh was passing off peacefully and his police forces were escorting the vehicles plying on the National Highway 39 which connects Assam with its neighbouring State of Nagaland (also Manipur).
Karbi Anglong is governed by an autonomous council, which has 30 executive council members. Among them 26 members are elected by the people and 4 members are nominated by the Governor. The present Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council has 17 elected members from the Congress party. The district magistrate Prasanta Buragohain even served a legal notice banning the Bandh citing the order of the Supreme Court of India. Reacting to the Bandh, Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) expressed serious concern claiming that it would adversely affect the people of Nagaland. Earlier Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang urged the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to look into the matter as it would affect his State severely. Manipur CM, Okram Ibobi Singh also echoed similar concerns while intimating the Centre on the Bandh culture growing in the trouble-torn region. The authority, chamber of commerce & industries in both the States made official declarations that there was nothing to worry about the probable shortfall of fuel and essential commodities because of the Bandh in Assam.
The Sangai Express, a Manipur based popular newspaper, editorialised the issue saying that JACAS may have all the reason to feel disillusioned with New Delhi and Dispur for there is no way in which a talk can be kept under suspension for nearly a year. However a rethink is needed on the strategy they have adopted to put the pressure on the Government,” added the editorial. Arguing that the prolonged Bandh will never affect the people and bureaucrats of New Delhi and Dispur, rather the common people of Karbi Anglong and those living in Nagaland and Manipur, it asserted that it is unfortunate and unacceptable.
—NJ Thakuria from Guwahati