When Mary Kom stares down at Narendra Modi

Apr 05 2014, 02:57 IST
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SummaryA new willingness to go out into India and compete rather than stay back and sulk is the most significant writing on the Assamese wall today. It’s changing equations, social and political, and explains why this election will mark the demise of the AGP and the rise of the BJP as the second political force in the state

Writings on the wall is a metaphor that emerged from travels across India, particularly, but not necessarily, during elections (for earlier writings, see goo.gl/v83OBh, goo.gl/5lkWMW). Writings on the wall, because, as you drive across the countryside, your eyes open, it’s what is written on the walls that tells you the story of what is changing, and what isn’t, what is on top of people’s minds and what’s been junked. It reminds you of how this changing new India never fails to surprise you. Particularly, how logically people have moved from grievance to aspiration, and now ambition and assertion.

OR, in the case of Assam, from static, lazy sulking to old-fashioned, virtuous migration to where better opportunity might be. Over nearly four days of travel through the Brahmaputra Valley, an old-timer, honorary Asomiya like me is so utterly astounded by the complete absence of bitterness, talk of injustice, discrimination, of how our resources are being vacuumed by mainland India and how we are treated as a colony. On my second day, however, I do hear some angry complaints. And soon they become a chorus. But wait, this isn’t my Assamese friends returning to their old normal. I, along with Samudra Gupta Kashyap, our brilliant Northeast correspondent for 23 years, are feted by local student activists at a roadside stop on the outskirts of Kaliabor, where Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s son, Gaurav, is contesting, or just easing himself into a seat warmed by his father (three times), and his uncle (twice victorious).

The complaint is not about bad roads: we sit next to the newly four-laned national highway (now called Asian Highway 1, as it is supposed to connect Istanbul with Tokyo ultimately). It isn’t about exploitation or lack of jobs, which is a problem. Most significantly, it isn’t even about the “invasion” of Bangladeshis. It is about rhinos.

Two more rhinos have been killed in the past week, taking the toll to 11 in adjoining Kaziranga. At this rate, 2014 will break the record of 48 killings by poachers in Kaziranga in 1998. “Do something about this, sir,” says Moni Madhav Mahanta, AASU student leader in Kaliabor. “Your voice in Delhi can help. Our government just can’t handle it.” These are leaders of the same almighty AASU (All Assam Students Union) that led the most stirring popular movement in independent India’s history. They blocked crude to the mainland, boycotted an election

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