AASU vandalism invites condemnation

GUWAHATI, Nov 29 – The vandalism by AASU activists at several Vishal Mega Marts across the State on Thursday has not gone down well with the citizens who feel that the student body had no business to take the law into their own hands and create a situation of anarchy and chaos.

The reaction of the people interviewed by The Assam Tribune was one of unanimous resentment and condemnation. Public opinion was also found to be against the growing practice of seeking donations on the part of different organisations – often forcefully – from business houses.

Public activist Prof Deven Dutta, while condemning the vandalism in the strongest terms, said that it was totally wrong to link the issue of Assamese self-respect or sense of respect to donation.

“The Assamese identity or its sense of respect is never in donation. It was unfortunate that the AASU dragged this unnecessarily and deliberately to the issue of donation. It will also set a bad precedent and embolden all the organi-sations to seek more donations, often coercing the donor,” Prof Dutta said, adding that that the vandalism apart, no sensible Assamese would support the subtle move of the AASU to associate ‘Assamese self-respect’ with donations that would only bring a bad name for the Assamese.

Stating that exploitation by business houses who hike prices as per their sweet will was also a fact, Prof Dutta said that the practice of donation to satisfy some organizations was further aggravating the situation with the traders using the situation to their advantage.

“A major section of the business community on one hand and many organisations operating in the name of the public on the other are in reality two extortionists of two different kinds – their common victim being the common man or the consumer,” Prof Dutta said, adding that the organisations should do transparent accounts of the huge sums of money that they collect for ‘public welfare.’ “It is highly questionable how much of the collections are actually utilized for public causes,” he said.

Author and former DGP Hare Krishna Deka was of the view that the vandalism indulged in by the AASU was untenable on any ground, as none had the right to take the law into their hands. “If they had any grievance against the business house they should have registered it through peaceful demonstrations,” he said.

Deka, however, felt that the Vishal management unnecessarily complicated the situation by politicizing it and that too at a sensitive time. “If Vishal had problems with donation and wanted to raise the issue, there were other proper platforms but instead they chose to politicize and sensationalize it. The AASU was understandably irked but even then it had no right to indulge in vandalism and destruction of property,” he said, adding that the volatile situation could have landed many of the customers inside the Vishal premises in serious trouble.

Many other citizens felt that vandalism and forceful donation should have no place in any civilized society.

“Whatever may be the AASU’s grievance against Vishal, vandalism at public place and destruction of property cannot be justified under any circumstances. Moreover, since the student body by its own admission finds nothing wrong in taking donations from business houses, why is it making such a fuss over it?” Hrishikesh Saikia, a citizen said, adding that taking recourse to the plea of Assamese self-respect was in bad taste. “It was sought to be a face-saving device by the AASU but that has obviously backfired as no sensible people will support such a stance,” he added.

People who witnessed the vandalism at Vishal stores by AASU members also questioned the role of the police and paramilitary forces in ensuring proper law and order. “It was shocking to see AASU activists enter the store and indulge in open vandalism before downing the shutters in full view of the police and other security forces. There was no intervention from the law-enforcing agencies and the mayhem continued,” an eyewitness to the vandalism said, adding that the shoppers too were given a torrid time during the vandalism.

Another citizen said that by allowing such vandalism the police and the administration were sending the wrong message to everyone and that the violators of the law ought to be booked and dealt with according to law. “What the AASU did was sheer nonsense and unlawful, and even more shocking was the fact that such lawlessness was allowed under the very nose of the police and the administration,” he said.

On the issue of ‘donations’ taken by the AASU from business houses, many felt that the line between donation and extortion was getting more and blurred with more and more organizations pressurizing business houses into ‘donating’ money.

“In order to be donation, it has to come willingly and in that case it cannot be an issue. But otherwise, it will amount to extortion and it is an open secret that various organizations do indulge in forceful donations,” a citizen said

People were also of the view that the widespread practice of donation was a major reason behind the abnormal price rise in the State. “It is the common man whose cause these organizations profess to espouse that end up bearing the brunt of unwarranted donations. The business community is hardly affected as it invariably passes on the burden of donations to the common man by hiking prices,” he said.