India's new state government in Assam took office amidst continuing violence and the likely reinstitution of rule by New Delhi, reports Monitor contributor Mary Anne Weaver.
One of the country's most violent, and unwanted, electoral processes thus came full cycle - with nothing resolved. More than 2,000 people were killed in this month's election process; 3,000 were seriously injured, and more than 100, 000 lost their homes.
''President's rule,'' as direct rule by the national government is called, had been instituted in Assam in March 1982. According to the Indian constitution , it cannot exceed one year unless a state of emergency is declared. But with the Assamese elections now behind her, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi can constitutionally reinstitute president's rule by dissolving the new state assembly. The only question is when.
With only about 25 percent of the electorate having voted in Assam, the new government has little legitimacy, and the two-thirds majority of Mrs. Gandhi's Congress-I Party has little relevancy. Mrs. Gandhi refused to rule out a return to president's rule in talking to foreign correspondents Friday. And with the stoicism for which she is so well known, she made it clear that she did not hold herself, or her government, responsible for the Assam violence.
According to Western observers, the stakes are now far higher than they were four weeks ago, when Assamese began to riot over the inclusion of 4 million Bengalis on the state's electoral roles.