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Poverty forcing Majuli islanders to take up arms

By Raju Das
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SHILLONG, Sept 21 � Isolated by nature and administration, Majuli Island is slowly tearing apart with several young islanders taking to distant jungles to sustain their poor families.

The island on the river Brahmaputra is the seat of Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture and the world�s largest fresh water Island. However, years of nature�s fury coupled with an indifferent government effort to help the islanders has led several to take drastic steps and one being: taking up arms.

�My parents are poor farmers. We owned some cultivable land, but it was gobbled up by the river. There are few alternatives for a living,� Mahesh Bora, a former ULFA cadre and a Majuli islander said.

Bora along with several others from the island joined the ULFA about six years back. Bora may have seen the futility in hiding in the jungles of Myanmar and Bangladesh and preferred to surrender before the BSF today, but there are others who aren�t sure yet.

Not long ago, the total area of Majuli was 1,250 square kilometres. Its area now stands half at 650 square kilometres. With agriculture being the mainstay of the island and each hour the island being nibbled away by the river, the 150, 000 inhabitants of the island remain hopelessly vulnerable to drift the wrong way.

Apart from agriculture, Majuli has a huge tourism potential with its ancient culture and geographical uniqueness. But, proper infrastructure and planning is yet to anchor on the island.

�Its hard to even find manual labour job in Majuli; what would one do,� questions Bora, who in his over-sized blue jeans and tight checkered T-shirt is a reflection of a confused villager. But, his eyebrows narrow down when he speaks of his parents and younger siblings he abandoned years back.

�My mother cried all the time and asked me to return home through couriers, so I had to,� Bora says scratching his bullet pendant on his neck.

He also speaks of death, pain and strange diseases in the jungles of Papong Basti in Myanmar as a ULFA cadre trained in AK series assault rifles, pistols and grenades to kill.

�Bora was involved in extortion, killing and kidnapping cases in Jorhat district,� BSF (Assam-Meghalaya) Frontier chief, RC Saxena said during the surrender of Bora and another NDFB militant, Jadhav Boro.

Both the ULFA and NDFB cadre may be rehabilitated with the government package and as Bora says, �he would start business,� but is this the way out for Majuli and its youth?

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Poverty forcing Majuli islanders to take up arms

SHILLONG, Sept 21 � Isolated by nature and administration, Majuli Island is slowly tearing apart with several young islanders taking to distant jungles to sustain their poor families.

The island on the river Brahmaputra is the seat of Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture and the world�s largest fresh water Island. However, years of nature�s fury coupled with an indifferent government effort to help the islanders has led several to take drastic steps and one being: taking up arms.

�My parents are poor farmers. We owned some cultivable land, but it was gobbled up by the river. There are few alternatives for a living,� Mahesh Bora, a former ULFA cadre and a Majuli islander said.

Bora along with several others from the island joined the ULFA about six years back. Bora may have seen the futility in hiding in the jungles of Myanmar and Bangladesh and preferred to surrender before the BSF today, but there are others who aren�t sure yet.

Not long ago, the total area of Majuli was 1,250 square kilometres. Its area now stands half at 650 square kilometres. With agriculture being the mainstay of the island and each hour the island being nibbled away by the river, the 150, 000 inhabitants of the island remain hopelessly vulnerable to drift the wrong way.

Apart from agriculture, Majuli has a huge tourism potential with its ancient culture and geographical uniqueness. But, proper infrastructure and planning is yet to anchor on the island.

�Its hard to even find manual labour job in Majuli; what would one do,� questions Bora, who in his over-sized blue jeans and tight checkered T-shirt is a reflection of a confused villager. But, his eyebrows narrow down when he speaks of his parents and younger siblings he abandoned years back.

�My mother cried all the time and asked me to return home through couriers, so I had to,� Bora says scratching his bullet pendant on his neck.

He also speaks of death, pain and strange diseases in the jungles of Papong Basti in Myanmar as a ULFA cadre trained in AK series assault rifles, pistols and grenades to kill.

�Bora was involved in extortion, killing and kidnapping cases in Jorhat district,� BSF (Assam-Meghalaya) Frontier chief, RC Saxena said during the surrender of Bora and another NDFB militant, Jadhav Boro.

Both the ULFA and NDFB cadre may be rehabilitated with the government package and as Bora says, �he would start business,� but is this the way out for Majuli and its youth?

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