Recently, the Chief of Mising Autonomous Council Dr. Ranoj Pegu joined the BJP in Assam. Dr. Pegu has till yet been spearheading the campaign of the Mising Community for protection under the sixth schedule. His decision, to me not only highlights an ideological vaccum but also dare I say, an obsessive quest for personal political power, albeit risking the struggle and goals of the community he represents.
To understand the evolution of the political struggle of the Mising community, we have to understand, how the community got into electoral political space in the first place. The Misings, second largest tribe in Assam in terms of population, has been struggling for territorial protection and autonomy under the sixth schedule of the Indian constitution since the early 70s. Earlier the struggle for the same was led by various organizations like Takam Mising Porin Kebang (TMPK), Mising Mimag Kebang (MMK) and Takam Mising Mime Kebang (TMMK). Dr. Pegu, joined the TMPK in the 80s and soon rose into its ranks, and have been leading the struggle ever since. But these organizations could not make much headway due to differences within the community, where other similar fragments emerged. One such example was MADC (Mising Autonomous Deemed Committee), which along with another organization, Mising Bane’ Ke’bang (MBK) accepted a boundary less autonomous council for the community. Several instances of infighting within the organizations, rather weakened the struggle. After much debate and discussions on the mode of struggle, the Misings concluded that they would participate in elections, right from panchayat level to parliamentary elections and try to give impetus to the struggle for autonomy.And the organizations who till then had been leading the democratic peaceful struggle for autonomy would also focus on winning the elections. Dr. Pegu, himself had claimed that, after such a stage, in this case, sixth schedule is achieved by the Misings, these organizations would withdraw from active politics and leave it to the political parties. (Almost like the line of Communist Party of India). The Misings believed that the parliamentary struggle, combined with a democratic peoples movement in the ground would enable them to achieve sixth schedule status. However, it has not been so till yet.
In addition, the decision to join active electoral politics has backfired. It has not only diluted the movement but even harmed the community’s struggle for Autonomy. And Dr. Pegu’s decision to join the BJP, many say, might prove to the last stroke, ending the struggle itself. Participating in elections itself was not a problem, but the inability to delineate it from the existing struggle was. Today, we find all the organizations, including the TMPK, which is essentially a student organization, so merged in election campaigns that they somewhere seem to have forgotten the struggle itself. The decision to join politics also have had the TMPK and its leader form alliances with other parties which have often been against the struggle itself. There has been instances when in Jonai constituency, the AGP had openly highlighted that the struggle for sixth schedule of the Misings would be harmful to the other communities. In fact, the current MP from Lakhimpur Constituency, Mr. Pradan Baruah have won MLA elections from Jonai constituency with this line of campaigning. The organizations who are leading the campaign, I believe should rather have focused on generating awareness about the struggle among the masses and assuring other communities, living in the Mising dominated areas, about complete support, even after a sixth schedule protection would be achieved, if at all. But the open declaration of these organizations, highlighting that their objective in joining active politics was to achieve Sixth Schedule, not only created a situation of animosity against the community but also the other communities making active attempts to harm the autuonomy struggle. Clear evidences of it lies in candidates like Bhubon Pegu and Ronuj Pegu, losing various elections. Moreover, the number of Bandhs, called by various organizations, opposing the Mising autonomy struggle is also on the rise.
Electoral Politics is a number game. So to believe that they would bring forth sixth schedule by contesting elections as ‘independent candidates’ and god forbid winning a few seats, was in itself a bad idea. The Misings, in the initial times, believed that they would form their own parties and participate in elections and capture various seats, at least from the Mising dominated areas, which in turn would help them in achieving autonomy. But, it was soon realized that it was not happen soon, as the Misings, like any other community, had their own electoral interests and did not vote homogeneously to a single party. Thus, came the phase of forming alliances with other parties in return for support etc. Such attempts enabled them to win a few elections here and there but none of it actually has helped in giving the struggle the decided force that they wanted. (Of course, there has been various Mising candidates, who have contested and won elections, by joining other parties. But they have never been interested in the struggle for sixth schedule itself). Candidates like Ranoj Pegu and Bhuban Pegu etc. of course claim to be an exception. According to them, they are contesting elections,so that they can carry forward the autonomy struggle. Have they been able to do so is of course up for a critical analysis.
The decision to join BJP in that sense is an exception to the existing methods in the parliamentary struggle. But to believe that a party whose objectives are to bring forth a larger Hindu Nation, would support an identity struggle is a very long shot. Moreover, to believe that they would take up active efforts to protect the Mising culture would be asking for too much. And additionally to believe that Dr. Pegu’s would be able to influence the decisions in the Party obsessed with Hindutva nationalism is futile.
And above all, to believe that this decision is to actually give the struggle for autonomy more momentum… I am not sure….!!!
(Opinions expressed here are personal)