On top of it, ongoing riverbank erosion has been slowly and steadily eating up Majuli, leaving thousands of families homeless within the island and forcing thousands others to outmigrate.
From a landmass of 1,255 sq km in 1901 (although this figure is contested since it was not based on scientific survey), the island was reduced to 751.31 sq km in 1917 (Survey of India report), and today it has an area of only 520.26 sq km (Brahmaputra Board report, 2011).
Many places of historical significance, including several Sattras or Vaishnavite monasteries and dozens of villages have disappeared.
Overall, traditional rural livelihoods on the island are in deep crisis today.A sizeable agrarian population is switching to wage-labour, as are the communities that have lived off fishing for generations.Other forms of livelihoods such as pottery, livestock-rearing, and handicrafts are in a similar crisis due to the depletion of natural resources.A growing section of the youth is migrating to far-off cities in search of semi-skilled or unskilled labour.Thus, the island urgently needs the following: flood prevention, protection from erosion, strengthening of rural livelihoods, and employment opportunities.
During his 15-year-long tenure, the incumbent MLA has made some attempts to address these crises, but they are not enough.
The very existence of the island is in threat today, and that needs to be addressed foremost.
In this context, it is important to see what promises his rival Sonowal makes to Majulians.
The upcoming Assam state Assembly election is a high stakes one – both for the ruling Congress party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, but especially for the latter.
A victory in this election would bolster the BJP’s presence in the entire Northeastern region, thus far one of its weakest links.
Hence, the party is leaving no stone unturned to win, including forming alliances with a number of regional parties to prevent the Congress from gaining power for the fourth successive term.