While receiving and peaceful Hindus were forcefully subjugated as minorities elsewhere, Congress polity safeguarded Muslims for petty vote bank and allowed them to eat into the rights of the indigenous people, particularly in the North-east.
File Photo- NRC Seva Kendra in Assam
History tells us that minority Hindu in any part of South East Asia has turned minuscule minority. Secularism didn’t save them in any neighbourhood
A new Citizenship Bill has been introduced by the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) Government. It aims to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to allow Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to apply for Indian citizenship.
The present Citizenship Act allows an immigrant to apply for citizenship if s/he has lived in India for 12 months immediately before the application, and for 11 of the last 14 years. On July 19, 2016, the government introduced the Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha, relaxing the 11-year cut-off to six years out of 14, for immigrants of the six religions from the three countries. Also, in 2015 and 2016, the government passed two notifications exempting such immigrants from the Foreigners Act 1946 and the Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920 — which provide for deportation — and enabling them to continue living in India if they had arrived before December 31, 2014.
Congress planted the Crisis
There is anger in North East, particularly in Assam, it is reported. The critics claim that the Bill overrides the provisions of the Assam Accord. As per the Assam Accord signed by All Assam Students Union (AASU) that later morphed into AGP, immigrants, irrespective of faith, who entered Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1971, will be deported. However, this information needs to be read in conjunction with the dubious Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) (IMDT) Act, an Act of the Parliament of India enacted in 1983 by the Indira
It was struck down by the Supreme Court of India in 2005 in Sarbananda Sonowal vs. Union of India. But, in the meanwhile, the huge damage had been done. This bill had put the onus of tracing, complaining and proving a person as an illegal migrant on the complainant. The Act provided for two individuals living within a radius of 3 km of a suspected illegal migrant to approach an IMTD, deposit a sum Rs 25 and then file a complaint. (Subsequently changed to same police station limits and deposit reduced to Rs 10/-). The earlier bill, correctly, had put the onus of proving bonafides on the suspect. Naturally, the bill failed to deliver as it was made with this intention only to save a huge vote bank. Such is the malicious nature of our politicians.
The IMDT Act and Rules had been so made that innumerable and insurmountable difficulties were created in the identification and deportation of illegal migrants. The Bench noted that though enquiries were initiated in 3, 10, 759 cases under the IMDT Act, only 10,015 persons were declared illegal migrants and only 1,481 illegal migrants were physically expelled up to April 30, 2000. This, the Supreme Court Bench said, "comes to less than half per cent of the cases initiated." On the contrary in West Bengal, where the Foreigners Act was applicable, 4, 89, 046 persons were deported between 1983 and November 1998, which was a lesser period. Thus the IMDT Act "is coming to the advantage of such illegal migrants as any proceedings initiated against them almost entirely end in their favour, enable them to have a document having official sanctity to the effect that they are not illegal migrants."
Thus, the Accord signed by the Congress Government with AASU was an elaborate charade. AASU did nothing to undo the damage as it smelled power. On the emotions of sending foreigners packing, AGP was elected not once, but twice. The end result is there for all to see from the judgement of the Supreme Court on the matter. Today, communal party AIUDF uses illegal Bangladeshis as a vote bank to dictate Assamese politics. AGP got ‘secularised’ it seems, with the taste of power. It made no efforts to send back the illegal migrants. In fact, it went back to saying such a talk is against ‘secularism’ which basically meant that illegal Muslim immigrants could be their vote banks too.
In support of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
The Bengali Hindus of Assam have a tragic history. They were compelled to leave their homeland and seek refuge in various states of India, Assam being one of them. They were victims of fate as well as victims for their faith. They are presently living in fear of apprehension and anxiety. They feel that they are heading towards a dark and uncertain future because of two factors:
(1) the NRC updating that is going on and
(2) the stalemate regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016.
Their only hope lies with the Government of India and the Indian Political establishment. The persecuted Bengali Hindus have nowhere to go. Same is the case with many other tribes such as Chakmas and Reangs. And if they don’t get justice and humanitarian consideration in India, millions of people would simply wither away from the face of the earth. It would then remain as one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind. However, these peace-loving and highly committed people have enough faith and belief in the Government and the Indian Democratic system and they are praying that their miseries and agonies be finally put an end to.
—Memorandum submitted by North East Linguistic and Ethnic Coordination Committee (NELECC) in support of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill – 2016, and other related issues.
Locals are Fearful
The locals are right in fearing that they will be overrun by outsiders. But, it has already happened! They are so strong with the backing of local politicians that they have gone on to create riots and enforce bandhs without any fear of the law. Bodos threatened with their own ouster from their habitat did retaliate once in a while.
The talk of ousting foreigners is just an eyewash to keep the controversy of foreigners alive for politics. The view that predominates discussions in Assam today is around the idea floated by a seminar held in Delhi organised by Dainik Agradoot editor Kanakasen Deka, in 2003-2004. That is to give three kinds of ration cards – those who are confirmed citizens of Assam (Green), those who need to be checked (Orange) and those who must be sent back (Red). Or the option is to give Work permits, first mooted by Atal Behari Vajpayee to immigrants without voting rights so that they cannot influence political direction of the state and the nation. This suggestion doesn’t find favour as it is politically unpopular. After all, a big vote bank will disappear.
(The writer is an author and columnist. His latest book is RSS 360 °: Demystifying Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)