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Elected from Jania Constituency (Barpeta district) to the 13th Legislative Assembly of Assam in 2011, Rafiqul Islam is a young MLA with clear objectives. Educated both in madrasa and modern universities, Rafiqul Islam passed out from the famed Darul Uloom in Deoband in 1999 Before he went on to obtain a Bachelor's degree from Jamia Millia Islamia. he did a diploma in English Language and Literature from Markaz-ul-Ma'arif Education and Research Centre. This was followed by a Master's degree in Arabic literature from Guwahati University with Gold Medal. After M.A. he joined a college as lecturer and took active part in the 2006 Assembly Elections campaigning for the newly formed Assam United Democratic Front (now All India United Democratic Front). From madrasa he moved to contemporary educational institution and then to politics. What inspired Rafiqul Islam to take up such varied roles? Here are excerpts of an interview.

By Manzar Imam - A freelance journalist Manzar Imam is a research scholar at MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

What inspired you to join politics?

My father had left school to join politics. He had worked with Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed [1905-1977]. Thus I have a political background. My father fought panchayat elections, won and became panchayat chief. The interest for politics rose in me partly because of the plight of people. Muslims, tribals and other minorities in Assam are deprived.

Congress is an old party with a strong base in Assam. Instead of joining the grand old party of India, you chose to join a new party, AIUDF, why?

Congress is no more a Gandhi's Congress. There's not much difference between BJP and Congress today. AIUDF was a new party with fresh ideas and new sentiments. AIUDF was for the deprived. Congress has done minorities more harm than AJP and BJP especially in Assam.

What has been your achievement so far?

Issues are too large to be solved in just one and half years. I want to be the voice of the weak. If I have succeeded in doing one or two things, I think I am successful. There are a lot of things to do, and miles to go.

What are your major concerns in Assam's political landscape?

Erosion. Government has no clear policy to protect people from erosion caused by the Brahmaputra and other rivers. I have raised this concern in the Assembly. They are acknowledging it. Citizenship and employment are very critical issues in Assam. There are some three to three and half lakh people in the D (Doubtful) list. We have raised this issue.

You studied in madrasa. Do you think madrasa graduates should join politics?

Some of them should come into politics. There is need for honesty in politics and madrasas produce men of honesty and integrity. Politics has become polluted in absence of good people. Today we see corruption everywhere from top to bottom.

Madrasas do not have a course designed to seek politics as a career. How would madrasa products fit in there?

Deoband's [Darul Uloom] environment teaches more than the subjects to their students. Although a very difficult task, Darul Uloom should teach modern subjects to a limited extent and other madrasas should follow it.

Violence has swept Assam. What went wrong? What are its implications?

Assam has a long history of peaceful co-existence of various communities. But things are getting worse now. It's very sad. Some 80 to 85 people are dead according to government figures. Actual figures could be more than few hundred. More than five lakh people have been rendered homeless. Their houses have been torched. This is a Bodo versus non-Bodo conflict. BTAD (Bodo Territorial Area District) is the problem. Bodos are extracting taxes from non-Bodos in BTAD. With less than 30 percent population, Bodos have greater number of seats reserved for them. Others with a much larger population get only 30 percent reservation.

Do you believe non-Bodos are not responsible for the present spate of violence?

If you hit someone, the other one will also hit back or at least try to protect himself. It's a 29 versus 71 in which the Bodos form only 29 percent of the total population in the Bodo land area. Despite forming 71 percent of the population the non-Bodos have been constantly opposing a separate Bodo State, whereas the Bodos are less than one third of the total population and are demanding a separate state. They are therefore targeting non-Bodos with the aim to increase their percentage in BTAD area. They pick up different communities at different times in order to avoid collective reaction of all the 71 percent people at a time.

Could not the violence be prevented? Who would instigate a minority Bodo to turn hostile towards a majority community?

There is a power. There is a force behind it. A government in power has not done anything to control the forceful migration of 5 lakh people. It's a shame for democracy. The government has been silent. We want the Assam government to rehabilitate the people, give them full security and punish the guilty.

Whatever happened has happened and whatever is happening is happening. But what message would you like to give them?

Whatever has happened is very bad. People should try to live peacefully with each other. People of different origins live in Assam. They should take care of each others' rights.

Do you think AIUDF will succeed in future?

In first elections in 2006 we were 10, in 2011 we are 18, in next elections we will be more. We have public support. People are joining us.

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