On April 3, 2002, a new airport was opened in Guwahati—the Loko-
priya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. The first flight (with a
fourteen-member crew and 221 passengers) was destined for Bangkok,
Thailand. The government hoped that the international airport would
facilitate travel and commerce between India and Thailand and other
Southeast Asian countries via Assam. On April 4, 2002, the Times of India
reported that bjp civil aviation minister, Shahnawaz Hussain, on the
occasion of the inaugural ceremony, stated: ‘‘This flight has assumed
added importance in view of the fact that many people in the NE region
had ancestral roots in Thailand.’’ Tai-Ahom groups were ecstatic that
the government at long last was acknowledging their history, their past.
They convened once again in Guwahati. This time it was a larger com-
posite unit that called itself Ahom Sabha. The leaders and followers of
Ahom Sabha hoped that the government would now notice them and give
them their due now that Assam’s connection with Thailand was estab-
lished. The airport was to be their landing site (in both a literal and
figurative way).
Within the government circles, however, nobody talked about Tai-
Ahom or recognizing Tai-Ahom identity. It was a forgotten story. The
government discourse was centered on the profit that could be generated
through the business and trade facilitated by the international airport. For
this to happen, the business communities had to be encouraged to invest
in the enterprise. After six months of limping along without being able to
attract businesses to invest in trade and travel to Southeast Asia, the
Assam government recently declared that it would not be able to maintain
the flight to Thailand. The flight was grounded for an ‘‘indeterminate
period’’ and the international airport is no longer international. A few
national flights come and leave the airport daily.
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