Are the ‘supposed’ immigrants in Assam a security threat?
The perception is that those not finding their place in the NRC are supposed to be Bangladeshi Muslims. The primary anger of Shah is against this group of people
Pandora’s Box has been opened with the preliminary draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) having been released lately. This list leaves out nearly 40 lakh people from the list of citizenship. Amit Shah, president of the ruling BJP, stated that those left out are ghuspethias (infiltrators), they are a threat to our security and due to them there is a competition in the resources of the state and the natives are suffering due to that. After the final draft, once the appeals of those who are left out are reviewed, there hangs an uncertainty on their heads. The perception created is that those not finding their place in the NRC are supposed to be Bangladeshi Muslims. The primary anger of Shah is against this group of people.
As such those not finding their name in the list are a diverse group and reports suggest that a large number of these are Hindus as well, from Nepal, West Bengal and other parts of the country. Interestingly many families have been torn apart by this NRC, as some members are on the list, while aren’t. This is bound to create lot of confusion and insecurity in the minds of those left out. So the Chief Minister of the neighbouring state, Mamata Banerjee, came out heavily against the NRC. The understanding being percolated is that apart from the security threat and a drain on states’ resources, this group of people is a threat to ethnic and linguistic composition of the state.
Voices are being raised that such an NRC should be initiated in other parts of India too. Ethnic and linguistic aspects apart, the communal forces have been raising the issue of Bangladeshi immigrants — in Mumbai this was raised in the wake of the Mumbai carnage of 1992-93. In Delhi this issues has occasionally been brought up; at another level related to immigrants recently we came to know of the burning of Rohingya Muslims colony in Delhi.
As far as documents on which NRC is basing itself, it is interesting to note that while some legitimate people may not have proper documents, some non ‘citizens’ might have forged the documents
As such the core point of the composition of the religious linguistic composition of Assam has been in the flux due to the many historical and political reasons. One recalls that first time around, it was during the colonial period that the British ‘Human Plantation programme’ was brought in. This programme encouraged people from over populated Bengal to migrate to Assam and till the land, with a duel aim of releasing the population pressure on overpopulated Bengal and to increase the production of grains to solve food shortage by utilising the vast tracts of land in Assam.
Those migrating were Muslims and Hindus both. Assam as such had a large Muslim population to the extent that at the time of partition of the country, Jinnah demanded that Assam should be part of Pakistan. Later with genocide launched by Pakistan army in East Bengal, many migrated to Assam to escape the persecution by the army. Later, as the condition of Bangladesh was economically backward, some economic migration might have taken place too.
As far as documents on which NRC is basing itself, it is interesting to note that while some legitimate people may not have proper documents, some non ‘citizens’ might have forged the documents. The argument that the migration has been encouraged for vote bank politics cannot hold true as people choose to stay or migrate under extreme situations; it is a matter of their whole life. These children of ‘lesser gods’ are also human beings trying to make their living in this cruel world, where haves can buy the citizenship with their money, or some can escape India with large booty to chose the country where they can peacefully enjoy their loot from our country. Poor of the world have no choice!
True, Assam has been a case of massive mix up. It has been looked as primarily a case of Muslims coming from Bangladesh, posing a threat to Indian security. Even earlier Government has deported many such people. What should be done to those who are making their living by lowest of the lowest type of work in the society? We do not have social security which may lure some to come over here! Similarly we are seeing the horrid plight of Rohingya Muslims being dumped in different countries, suffering ‘statelessness’. The communal forces are presenting Rohingya as a threat, presenting all Bengali speaking Muslims and Hindus as Bangladeshis!
India, so far, has been a country with compassion and a heart. We have accepted the Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans and the Buddhists from Tibet. The proposal to treat Hindus coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh as refugees and Muslims as infiltrators is inhuman. Even if we are able to take further the exercise of NRC to the final draft, what will we achieve? Now the social-economic indices of Bangladesh stand higher than those of India. Bangladesh states that these people are not from Bangladesh and will not accept their repatriation. So, what will we achieve by marking those not having the ‘supposed documents’? Put them in camps? At the moment most of them eke out a living through physical labour, so what will be the net achievement?
And the talk of extending this exercise to other states of the country is meaningless. What is needed is the revival of compassion for these people which was operational when Tamil speaking people were accommodated or Buddhists from Tibet were accepted. India has seen changes in its population profile after partition due to massive migrations and economic migrations. We claim to believe in Vasudhiava Kutumbakam (World as a family); we need to remember that only those polices will succeed which are based on compassion for weaker sections of society. To think that they pose is threat to our security is a misplaced way of seeing the issue. We need to evolve the principles where exclusivism gives way to empathy.