Are Immigrants in Assam A Security Threat?

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!

PROF RAM PUNIYANI

PANDORA’S Box has been opened with the preliminary draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) being released lately. This list leaves out nearly 40 Lakh people from the list of citizenship. Mr. Amit Shah, the President of ruling BJP, stated that those left out are Ghuspathia’s (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 appeal of ‘left out’ people is reviewed, there hangs uncertainty on their head. The perception is that those not finding their place in the NRC are supposed to be Bangladeshi Muslims. The primary anger of Mr. Shah is against this group of people.

As such those not finding their name in the list are a diverse group and there are reports 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 by this NRC, as some members finding their place, while others missing from the list. This is bound to create lot of confusion and insecurity in the minds of those left out from the list. So the Chief Minister of neighboring state, Mamta Bannerjee, came out heavily against the NRC. The understanding being percolated is that apart from security threat and a drain on states’ resources, this group of people is a threat to ethnic and linguistic composition of the state.

On these lines, voice is being raised that such an NRC should be initiated in other parts of India also. Ethnic and linguistic aspects apart, the communal forces have been raising the issue of Bangladeshi immigrants; times and over again e.g. in Mumbai this was raised in the wake of 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 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 colonial period that British ‘Human Plantation program’ was brought in. This program 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 utilizing the vast tracts of land in Assam.

Those migrating were Muslims and Hindus both. Assam as such had a large Muslim population of Muslims 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.

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 may only be partly 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 up as being primarily due to 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 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 very inhuman. Even if we are able to take further the exercise of NRC to final draft, what will we achieve? Now the social-economic indices of Bangladesh stand higher than those of India. Bangladesh states that these are not from Bangladesh and Bangladesh will not accept repatriation. So what will we achieve by marking those not having documents? Put them in camps? At the moment they are making their meager living working at the low level of hard work in society, 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 Vasudhiave Kutumkam (World as a family), we need to remember that only those policies 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.

This article was first published in Caravan

Are Immigrants in Assam A Security Threat? — Prof Ram Puniyani