This silent and invidious demographic invasion of Assam may result in the loss of the geo-strategically vital districts of Lower Assam. The influx of these illegal migrants is turning these districts into a Muslim majority region. It will then only be a matter of time when demand for their merger with Bangladesh may be made. The rapid growth of international Islamic fundamentalism may provide the driving force for this demand. In this context, it is pertinent that Bangladesh has long discarded secularism and has chosen to become an Islamic State. Loss of Lower Assam will sever the entire landmass of the North East, from the rest of India and the rich natural resources of that region will be a loss to the Nation”
–Report On Illegal Migration Into Assam, Submitted by Lt Gen (Retd) S K Sinha, Governor of Assam to the President of India on November 8, 1998
The release of the final draft of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) has rattled many people for different reasons. The issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh is a known fact, and many statements in the Parliament by responsible authorities like Home Ministers have accepted this as a menace. The Supreme Court while accepting the petitions by various patriotic voices from Assam like the elderly couple Pradip Bhuyan and Banti Bhuyan not only addressed it but pulled up the Governments on the issue for not taking it seriously. This process of updating the NRC 1951 for Assam is taking place by the tripartite agreement among the State and Central Governments and the influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), which was arrived at in 2005 to implement the 1985 Assam Accord. The Registrar General of Bharat is the person-in-charge of the entire process. Then, why are political leaders and parties politicising this issue of national importance?
The obvious reason is petty vote-bank politics. The illegal immigrants have been treated as a solid vote-bank by parties like Congress, Communists and Trinamool Congress. Identifying them and taking subsequent legal action against them would disturb their political equations on the ground. It is the primary reason for defending these illegal immigrants. Giving it a Hindu-Muslim colour is an extension of the same ‘secular’ politics based on communal considerations. The international campaign against the release of this Court monitored exercise was sadly termed as ‘deleting Muslims’, without realising the fact the original inhabitants of Assam who are followers of Islam are not facing any problems.
Even when the earlier NDA Government took a firm stand on the issues and had sent back the 213 illegal migrants to Pakistan in February 2003, the similar voices were raised.
For the parties like the Congress and the Communists, either silence or support to the illegalities is an easy way to recover some lost ground in the states like Assam and West Bengal. Accepting this Updation also means accepting the tacit compliance or open support to the fraudulent immigration happened over the period. Most of the blame will go to the Congress and Communist parties, which they do not want to bear. They will have to answer many unpleasant questions to the people about not just entry but also the acquisition of various documents through corrupt means by these infiltrators at various stages.
The issue is neither a question of politics nor of any religious identity. It is purely an issue of safeguarding the citizenship laws of the country. Bharat has already considered twenty long years for the State of Assam on humanitarian ground as for rest of thecountry the cut-off date is 1951 while for Assam it is 1971. The identified illegal migrants will have all the legal options open, including going to the tribunal. So no domestic laws or international agreements are being violated. There are many steps before the formal action is taken. What has happened in the first step itself is the illegality practised by certain parties and politicians is exposed.
The changing demography of the bordering districts of Assam and West Bengal is a reality, so is the growing menace of radicalisation and criminal syndicates. The spread of these tendencies is evident from the incidences like Azad Maidan Riots in Mumbai and Malda riots in West Bengal. The trend is also increasing in various districts of Northeastern States. Many metros are facing the problem of this illegal influx. No wonder there is a growing demand to take up such exercise at the national level. On such a sensitive issue, we need a national consensus and firm resolve and not petty politics of protecting illegality.