Independence Day – A mirage in Assam?

If someone asks me today how I celebrated Independence Day while growing up, I have an answer, but of which I am not proud of.

assam sunrise
Sunrise, Jorhat


Ever since I can remember, Assam Bandh was synonymous with Independence Day, 15th August. Various militant outfits would often declare a dawn-to-dusk Bandh, wherein the state would come to a complete standstill. People, afraid to venture outside, would stock their homes with food supplies, specially vegetables and milk. My Mom too would mark the days before Independence day as a reminder to make sure we don’t run out of cooking gas and oil, or that my siblings don’t travel around that time. 
“I don’t remember when was the last time there was no boycott call by any militant groups during the Republic Day or Independence Day celebrations in the state. In the late 1990s and early 2000s it was worse, when the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was very active. A bandh called by the ULFA during any national day was fully observed. The residents kept themselves locked inside their houses as army men with guns in their hands guarded the roads during those bandhs,” recalls Sunil Pawan Barua, political commentator and historian. Source – OneIndia

I still remember my third year in Engineering College, when I was made the mess secretary for the month of August – the most dreadful time for anyone maintaining a hostel of 200 boarders. I had to stock the kitchen with non-perishable items for three days and buy an extra gas cylinder as the markets don’t open even on days before and after the 15th. The non perishable items tend to be more expensive so that means I was on the verge of going beyond the budget. Add in the fact that if the food wasn’t delicious, I would be facing the wrath of 200 hungry girls 😛 Well, I managed to survive the month, with few hiccups here and there.
In 2008, when I moved out of Assam and started living in Chennai, I celebrated my first Independence day outside, on the roads, with a sticker of the Indian flag stuck on my shirt. After that I never got a chance to visit the state during Independence Day, but I have heard that the situation has improved, but only slightly. 
Comparatively Jorhat, my hometown, is a fairly peaceful city. And yet in every nook and corner of the busy streets of Garali (the shopping area) you will find an Army or CRPF Soldier, armed with weapons, guarding the place. It has been years since Army was deployed in civil areas. In fact the sight is so common now that the residents walk by nonchalantly, without a second thought. 
It is only when you walk on the streets of Chennai or Bangalore or even Delhi and don’t see a Khaki uniformed soldier posted in every narrow lane, you realise the gravity of the situation.
In the past 3 days, 16 people have been killed, 15 injured in different instances by militant groups. Security is beefed up and the state is on high alert. I asked my Dad today if people still go outside on Independence Day. He simply said that even though this year there’s no Assam Bandh declared, people are simply too cautious to go out. They prefer staying indoors in case something happens.
How long I wonder, will terror reign in this beautiful state of Assam?

Related Post – 7 Facts About Assam and its people

assam rice fields


Note: Bandh, originally a Sanskrit word meaning “closed”, is a form of protest used by political activists in South Asian countries such as India and Nepal. During a bandh, a political party or a community declares a general strike – Wiki
I wrote a similar article for  The Viewspaper in 2011 – here


53 thoughts on “Independence Day – A mirage in Assam?

  1. I always have idea about this as my father is also a politician and we usually discuss about all these things, and also I was always interested about north east as that is least covered in our media.
    First time when I came to kolkata before 1 year, I had make an aim to explore whole of NorthEast, and I have done that except Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur.
    I think because of non-development and some partial treatment of the central government and some illogical demands of local groups have led to this situation.
    I always thought that the more connected the North East, the more positive the situation cab be…

  2. Oh .. I did not know that things were this serious at your end of the world ..
    It must have been sad. While the whole country celebrates, you are stuck up at home, denied your own Independence. Hope that things will be on a much brighter side in the future and thank you for bringing this to light ..

    Happy to read you 🙂

  3. I did not know the situation was this bad in Assam. I had a friend in Kolkata also from Jorhat but she never told me about this. Really sad to hear. I hope situation in the North-East becomes better soon.

  4. Is it really that bad?Leave aside Chennai or Bangalore.I have seen Independence Day celebrated in rural Tamilnadu schools with so much fervour.Hope the same peaceful situation happens in NorthEast also.

  5. That's so terrible. I had no idea. Often we just think of them as states unaware of the realities that the citizens of those states face. I really wish that all our states can find peace and normalcy.

  6. I have had this thing of traveling to places at times like these. Independence day not being independent I am aware of. But armed forces daily on streets bewildered me. Bangalore yes doesn't have that. I really hope things get better.

  7. That is the sorry state of the country. One who has not lived and experienced this will never know. But I guess it's better now. Half my family stayed in Guwahati and other parts of Assam. Some are still there. At work, I had to keep tabs on the marketing activities through out India and we always had issues in places like Assam, Tripura, etc. There's some sort of unrest all the time. Hope things get better in future.

  8. Things have improved to some extent..And I am able to say this because I have spent my last 2 Independence Day in Assam after a Gap of 7 years,but there's a long way to go..
    Now the Citizens have become brave enough to give a damn care attitude towards these outfits…Hope they die out of zero fear among the Citizens

    1. That is very nice to hear… I read how people came out this independence day but still there were few blasts … which I feel they did just to make their presence felt. People are becoming braver 🙂 thanks for reading

  9. What a sad state of affairs in some parts of our country. Militancy, separatism, terrorism are curse on any nation. And many parts of India, particularly in NE have faced it for decades. Hopefully things will turn for the better in the coming years/decades. Thanks Rajlakshmi for writing about it. So many Indians remain blissfully ignorant about this type of stuff.

  10. I was not even aware of this situation as not much is reported about this. But, it must be scary to live like this. Hope things improve for the better and people should be truly free on Independence day.

  11. Life is very brutal for the commoners in the North East and it's something we've never seen. I shudder thinking what you and your folks have gone through. It's not only sad but a human tragedy when a part of the country is alienated. We can only pray that things get better for the people of places like Assam and Manipur.

  12. Never knew this and I'm glad that you wrote about this. I hope the situation chenges and people have peaceful existence.
    P.S: Loved the new look of your blog! <3

  13. What an irony, being locked up within their houses on the occasion of Independence day! It indeed has been a sad situation for people from within our country to suffer in such a way! We, living in other parts, have been so oblivious of these things! I hope the situation changes and people get to experience true independence and freedom all over our country.

  14. This is sad. We dont get to know about these events as much as we would know about incidents if it had occurred elsewhere than north eastern part of India. Yes; you get to feel how abnormal it is to have CRPF and armies standing with automatic guns every half km in busy markets and residential layouts. I saw that in Srinagar. Hope things change for Assam soon

  15. surprise element..This is similar to Kashmiri pandit's story in J&K. We do not know what these states are going through!
    Sad but reality. Let us wish for a better tomorrow.

  16. Oh dear. I had NO idea that there is such a difficult situation around Independence Day in Assam. I hope, for the sake of our country's peaceful existence, that things change for the better soon.

  17. With deep shame, I must admit I had no idea of the past history of Assam during Independence Day. It is not just that I never read about it… I was totally clueless that such a situation even existed at all for all these years…

  18. Completely unaware of this kind of situation in our own country, Raj. How sad that our own people live in such fear on Independence Day. I do know that Bandhs create stress all over, of course, and do not venture out on those days. Sigh. Perhaps things need to improve for our kids' sake.

  19. This is so sad and I'm shocked that I've never heard about this. Like you say may be things have improved but still it's not normal. Same country but so different same day.

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