TWO VITAL NATIONAL INTEGRITY ISSUES

Decades of illegal migration from erstwhile East Pakistan, later Bangladesh, into Assam eventually led to the bloody anti-foreigner agitation in 1983 in which at least 2,000 people were hacked to death at Nellie, a few hours from Guwahati. Those killed were Muslims accused of being illegal migrants and occupants of land that belonged to Lalung tribals. The agitation culminated in the Assam Accord signed by the central government and representatives of All Assam Students Union, which was largely an economic package.

Also in 1983, the ruling Congress, clearly driven by the political agenda of vote banks, replaced the Foreigner’s Act of 1946 with the Illegal Migration Determination by Tribunal (IMDT) Act, which virtually regularised illegal migrants from Bangladesh who migrated into India up to March 1971 and even beyond. The IMDT also ensured that the status-quo prevailed in terms of even accepting Bangladeshis who migrated before March 1971 as Indian citizens. The vote bank was saved. The constitutionality of an accord between a students union and the central government was never questioned.

The agitation produced a political party called Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), and an armed wing called United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which, by late 1980s had penetrated all departments of the state government and had developed into a deadly menace, extorting money and killing with impunity. In late November 1990, when President’s rule was promulgated and the army launched against it, its boss, Paresh Barua and close cohorts fled to Bangladesh, thereby betraying the very cause of the agitation.

Coming under the strong grip of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) stationed in Bangladesh, Barua and gang soon became an effective tool of ISI for pursuing its aim of anti-India operations, including inducting and settling illegal Bangladeshi migrants in various parts of Assam, making them outnumber the Assamese in 11 to 12 districts over two decades. Congress leaders in Assam were actively legalising the Bangladeshi migrants by issuing them ration cards from their briefcases, with the aim of substantially enhancing the Congress vote bank in the state.

On 30 July 2018, the Assam state government published a draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), aimed at identifying Indian citizens and legitimate residents, which reportedly excludes 40,00,000, many of whom are Muslims. Identification of illegal Bangladeshi migrants must be done and they should be disenfranchised to ensure that Assam remains Assamese and Indian and not an extension of Bangladesh.

The other major impediment to India’s integrity and security is Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, which has again come to the fore after the matter of Article 35A was referred to Supreme Court. According to senior advocate of the Supreme Court and former additional solicitor-general of India K.N. Bhat, invoking Article 368, which is plenary, Parliament can simply delete Article 370. Article 368(1) reads: “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Constitution, Parliament may in exercise of its constituent power amend by way of addition, variation or repeal, any provision of this Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down in this Article.” So long as the basic structure of the Constitution is not altered, Parliament’s amending power is unlimited — what is the Constitution’s basic structure is not defined, but a temporary provision like Article 370 cannot be part of it. No agreement or treaty can restrict the scope of this constitutional provision.

The assertion by any citizen that J&K or any other state is not governed by the Indian Constitution may amount to an act of sedition. “The seemingly unending Kashmir problem was born out of a single folly of a single man — Nehru stopping Sardar Patel from dealing with Kashmir. Through a series of more such follies, a Frankenstein of a state has been created that dares the nation even to discuss an issue relating to it. With the passage of time the problem may only get aggravated…try to win the cooperation of the Kashmiri politicians and MPs from the rest of India to suitably amend and attenuate Article 370; failing this repeal it.” Mr. Bhat stated.

Far overdue, Articles 370 and 35 A must be repealed now, before separatists completely sever Kashmir Valley from India.

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