Following the shock of the Kokrajhar carnage of July-August and the after-shocks, caused by Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence’s (ISI) mischief aimed at creating a panic exodus of northeast people in other states, both the Assam government and the anti-talks faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) are caught in ironic jams. On September 17, 2012, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi assured that “No genuine Indian citizen will be harassed in the name of being a foreigner,” and accused the BJP and the state’s main Opposition Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) of trying to divide the society. “We are not protecting foreigners. But we will not allow anyone to describe any genuine Indian citizen as foreigner.
We will not allow harassment of any Indian citizen,” he said. His claim that out of the five lakh people displaced in the recent clashes, three lakh have returned home and the remaining will be rehabilitated “once their identities are established and land records verified.” This itself needs to be verified as according to sources in Assam, no rehabilitation has been successful in the face of strong opposition by the Bodo people. The ULFA anti-talk faction under Paresh Barua has urged the people of Assam to continue with their agitation against illegal migrants in the state to protect the interest of indigenous people. This faction’s self-styled Chairman Abhijit Asom declared: “Assam must be free from foreigners so that indigenous people are protected or else their very existence will be wiped out.” It may be recalled that:
- ULFA, which came into being following the Assam agitation’s issue of foreigners (erstwhile East Pakistanis/Bangladeshis) illegally migrating and settling in Assam, turned traitor to that very cause by escaping to Bangladesh and thereafter at the behest of ISI posted there, gave a massive boost to this very illegal migration.
- Leaders/functionaries of the Congress led governments in Assam reportedly doled out ration cards from their briefcases generously to many of these migrants converting them vote-banks.
- How ULFA, as widely reported, helped Gogoi’s government to repeatedly remain in power by ‘influencing’ the electorate.
In the aftermath of the July-August ‘12 Kokrajhar riots, re-settlement of displaced persons in Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) is proving to be fraught with complications, as the Bodo leadership has claimed that only 3,000- odd families have land holding records, while the rest were found without any land records at all. When Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde appealed to the Bodo leadership to allow rehabilitation in BTAD, the latter had agreed to accept 12,000 of the displaced people families with land holding record certificates. While the Centre is in a quandary, Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) Lok Sabha MP, Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmutiary called Shinde to stress on fulfillment of his 20-point charter of demands, a list of which were submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the recent Monsoon Session of the Parliament and recently to President, Pranab Mukherjee.
The demands include sanctioning `10,000 crore for safety and security to the indigenous people and protection and preservation of the tribal belts and blocks. The charter of demands is reiteration of the same demands. BPF, which has one MP in the Lok Sabha, is an ally of the Congress-led UPA. Bwiswmutiary pressed the centre take immediate measures to implement the government’s order (Nos. RSD/6/80/Pt-3/73A dated December 10, 1982 issued vide letter no. RSD/16/82/10 dated Dispur, December 30, 1982 and Order No. RSS/417/2006/64 dated Dispur, March 31, 2006) to check the illegal transfer and mutation of lands within tribal belts and blocks and evict unauthorised occupants from them. The Bodoland Senior Citizens’ Forum (BSCF), comprising Bodos and non-Bodos including people belonging to linguistic and religious minorities, staged demonstration at Jantar Mantar on October 12, demanding fulfillment of their 12-point charter of demands. Admitting that it was agreed that about 12,000 families would be taken back and re-settled in the first batch, Bwiswmutiary said that on verification, it has been found that at least two families were using the same patta number and clarified that patta holders and not the Bodos were opposing rehabilitation of the displaced persons. “There is a misconception that the Bodos are opposing,” he is reported to have said.
The BSCF has demanded deportation of Bangladeshis from BTAD, protection of tribal belts and blocks by implementing chapter 10 of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulation Act (ALRRA) of 1886, clearance of illegal encroachers from khas (Government owned) lands, revenue areas and village grazing reserve (VGR), forest lands, implementation of Bodo Accord in letter and spirit, besides update of National Register of Citizens. Facing much heat over the foreigners issue Gogoi, released a white paper on October 21, 2012 and claimed that problems of unemployment, providing healthcare and education were more serious ones for the State than the issue of “cross-border undocumented migration.” Describing the White Paper as a “historical document,” Gogoi said that undocumented migration from erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had been an issue agitating the minds of the people for a long time and up to 1971, the State recorded large-scale migration. However, from 1991 such migration started declining, he claimed. He said that Assam witnessed decadal population growth higher than the all-India average from 1911 to 1991.
It will be relevant to refer to excerpts from Karsevak India’s report in http://www.assam.org/news/howbangladeshi- muslims-wiped-assameseout- their-own-land: In the absence of any definite policy of the government, the infiltration gradually assumed an alarming proportion and aliens became politically so strong that no political party in this state is in a position to form the government without their support. British annexed Assam in 1826 and placed it under the administrative unit of Bengal Province. They brought educated and English knowing Bengali to assist them in its administration. After partition of Bengal in 1905 the geo-political reconstitution of the region increased the flow of Bengali speaking population particularly the Muslim peasantry from the over populated East Bengal to sparsely populated fertile lands of Brahmaputra and Surma valleys of this isolated northeast corner of India. The formation of AIML) in 1906 at Dhaka also hatched a political conspiracy to expand its numerical strength in Assam and initiated organised migration of Muslims from East Bengal. Nawab Salim Ullah Khan, a prominent Muslim leader and one of the founder members of AIML in his public meeting after the concluding session of the League, “exhorted the Muslims to migrate to Assam and settle there”.
The alarming forecast of Census Superintendent CS Mullan in his Census report of 1931 validated the political conspiracy of All India Muslim League (AIML) in Assam: “Probably the most important event in the province during the last 25 years — an event, moreover, which seems likely to alter permanently the whole feature of Assam and to destroy the whole structure of Assamese culture and civilisation has been the invasion of a vast horde of land-hungry immigrants mostly Muslims, from the districts of East Bengal. Wheresoever the carcass, there the vultures will be gathered together” (Politics of Migration by Dr Manju Singh, Anita Publications, Jaipur, 1990, Page 59). By late nineteen thirties the AIML turned its expansionist design into a confrontationist Muslim politics in Assam. It encouraged the Muslim migrants to settle in Assam and since then the immigrants have become a chronic problem in the provincial politics of the state. Influx of Muslim peasantry in Assam converted its wastelands into cultivable fields and helped in development of its economy. But exposure of this otherwise closed society to new socio-political environment adversely affected its socio-cultural scenario. After 1937 election, Gopi Nath Bordoloi headed a Congress led coalition government in Assam and tried to stop the unhindered flow of immigrant Muslims.
But his government had to resign in November 1939 to respond to the Congress High Command’s call for resignation of all its Provincial Governments in protest against the War policy of the British. This decision of the party however facilitated the formation of an alternative coalition government in Assam headed by Sir Saadullah of AIML. “During the period between 1939-1941, Saadullah government allotted one lakh (1,00,000) bighas (little less than an acre) of land in Assam valley for the settlement of East Bengal immigrants” (Political History of Assam – Edited by A. C. Bhuyan and Shibopada De, Vol. III, Publication Board of Assam, 1999, Page 262). He ignored the protest of Assam Congress leaders like Bishnuram Medhi and others on the plea that the Muslim exodus from Bengal to Assam was necessary for the success of ‘Grow more food’ scheme in the state. Noted former founding editor of The Sentinel, DN Bezboruah, writing in a regional newspaper stated that Gogoi’s paper was “so full of inaccurate and biased information” and that some of his statements are “quite stunning in their departure from the truth”. He further explained that the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983, struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005 because it “created the biggest hurdle and the main impediment or barrier in the identification and deportation of illegal migrants” is preceded by the Foreigners Act of 1946, which “The state government resolutely refuses to implement… as it would significantly reduce their vote banks”.
ULFA long and treacherous role needs to be reiterated. The entire outfit including its pro-talks leaders since 1990 a major tool of ISI was actively involved in anti-Indian terrorist activities and not only a strong catalyst for boosting the illegal migration from Bangladesh, but also effectively settling the migrants by terrorising Assamese people whose rights and well-being they were supposed to champion. So it is ridiculous for ULFA to issue statements like the anti-talks faction’s self-styled chairman Abhijit Asom gave that “The ‘verbal certificate’ given by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Kokrajhar and Dhubri that all inmates in the relief camps were Indians indicates that there is a conspiracy to wipe out the existence of the indigenous Assamese…” because that is precisely what the ULFA did for two almost decades, till the Awami League came back to power in December 2008. Solutions to this problem are not at all easy, but New Delhi and Dispur must rise above votebankism and begin doing something before the volcano erupts again. The cost of playing the ostrich or pulling wool over peoples’ eyes may prove to be unaffordable.
— The author is the editor of Sword Word Features