Assam (also spelled Asom and Axom) covers the fertile Brahmaputra valley, making it the most accessible of India’s Northeast States. The typical Assamese landscape offers golden-green vistas over endless rice fields that are patched with palm and bamboo groves, and framed in the distance by the hazy blue Himalayas rising up out of Arunachal Pradesh. In between lie manicured tea estates.
One thing I try very hard to do for my dear readers is to give you a real sense of what the places I visit are like. That means not just pointing the camera at the highlights, but at the minutiae of daily life. I tried to do that during our days driving through the state of Assam. These random pictures (and two video clips) posted below in chronological order will, I hope, form a sort of collage that provides a sense of Assam for you.
Inside India, there are several wars going on. The country is now into its fifth decade of rebel activity in the northeast state of Assam (population 28 million). Rebel violence in Assam left 439 people dead in 2007 (the last year for which I have statistics); that’s up from 242 in 2006 and 254 in 2005. Most of the dead (65 percent) in 2007 were civilians, with the rest being security forces. The violence goes back to the fact that Assam was never part of India until India was created by the British in 1947. Many of the dozens of ethnic groups in Assam did not want to be part of India. Twenty years ago, this resentment became more violent. Worse, the rebel groups sustain themselves through various extortion activities and outright theft. Corruption has always been a problem in Assam, and the presence of several thousand armed rebels makes it worse. While only 129 rebels were killed in 2007 (Again, the latest year for which I have statistics), 1,627 were captured or surrendered. There were 500 violent incidents involving the rebels, but many more cases where the rebels intimidated or terrorized people.
From 2002 to 2007, the Indian government eliminated rebel sanctuaries in neighboring Bhutan, Burma and Bangladesh. But, the rebels have adapted and continue to operate. There are four main rebel groups, each composed of different factions. Attempts to negotiate a comprehensive peace deal have failed, largely because of factions and the continuing resentment by over a dozen (of more than 50 ethnic groups in Assam) that still do not want to be a part of India. Attempts to placate these rebellious populations have failed, largely because of rebel attacks against Indian officials (which is popular among the tribal population) and corruption among those same officials. Even expanding the local police force has been difficult because of a lack of qualified (literate) recruits and threats (against police and their families) by the rebels.
For more on the insurgencies in the Northeast, I have put additional information here.
A tea plantation. Assam has many of these:
The Brahmaputra River… A bridge is being built, but for now the only way to cross is still by a ferry:
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On 8 November 2010, there were eight attacks in five districts of Assam: 13 were killed and two injured in Sonitpur district, one killed in Chirang district, one killed and two injured in Baksa district, one killed and two injured in Karbi Along Diphu district, three killed and one injured in Udalguri district.
I love your style and I particularly appreciate your effort of taking pics for giving your readers a REAL idea of what a place looks like. In this case, you really reached your goal. These images are full of life and they are able to communicate even without words or written explanations.
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Assam Ulfa leader Arabinda Rajkhowa freed from jail
Assamese separatist leader Arabinda Rajkhowa on his release from jail (1 January 2011) Arabinda Rajkhowa was greeted by crowds of supporters upon his release from jail
A separatist leader in India’s north-eastern Assam state has been released from prison amid growing speculation about peace talks between his rebel group and the central government.
Arabinda Rajkhowa leads the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa), which has been fighting for an independent homeland for more than 30 years.
Crowds of supporters gathered outside the jail to welcome his release.
He had been in prison after being arrested in Bangladesh a year ago.
He was released from jail in the state capital of Assam, Guwahati, where he was being held on charges of sedition.
Ulfa rebels have fought for a separate Assamese homeland since 1979.
Rajkhowa, 54, said Ulfa was ready for peace talks with the Indian government.
“It is the mood for peace among the people of Assam that has brought us to this situation today, where we are set to begin a peace dialogue with the Indian government,” he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.
However, other members of the Ulfa leadership are known to oppose talks.
In 2009, the government in Bangladesh launched a crackdown on Indian separatists operating out of Bangladeshi territory.
More than 50 rebel leaders and activists have been handed over to India since then, while others have been arrested while trying to enter the country to avoid capture in Bangladesh.
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