“Declare all Bengali Muslims in Assam as stateless subjects and declare their return to their original homeland as a policy objective. They may be tolerated in India but they must not be allowed to vote or buy any property – movable or immovable. Nor can they claim any legal rights. If they break laws or indulge in violence, they should be brought to book; but the state will not do anything to protect them from anything or anyone, because they have no right to be here in the first place.” – Virendra Parekh
How societies, civilizations and nations invite their own ruin and destroy themselves is exemplified by developments in Assam over the last few decades. The problem is clear, it has been steadily worsening over the years; its lethal consequences are visible even to the blind. And yet the rulers, opinion makers, media and the public hope that if they bury their heads in the sand, the storm will blow over.
Assam with its sparse population, fertile soil and abundant natural wealth, including oil and forests, has long been eyed by East Bengal’s (now Bangladesh) bursting population. For decades it has been a victim of silent but deadly invasion of mass migration from Bengal. Way back in 1931, the British Census Superintendent expressed grave concern over the Assamese people getting engulfed by this influx.
During the Second World War, Sir Mohammad S’adaulla, chief minister of Assam, gave such a big fillip to this influx that even the Viceroy Lord Wavell was constrained to record his disapproval. During a visit to Guwahati in 1946, Jinnah boasted that he had Assam in his pocket. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto threatened to create another Kashmir in Assam. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in his book Eastern Pakistan: Its Population, Delimitation and Economics, wrote, “Eastern Pakistan must include Assam to be financially and economically strong.” Many intellectuals in Bangladesh have candidly advocated lebensraum (living space) for Bangladesh in Assam.
Assam and other eastern states have long been victims of Pakistan’s economics, politics and religion. The Muslim population in these states is growing by leaps and bounds with every count, mainly due to massive infiltration from the eastern parts of undivided Bengal.
The percentage of Muslim population in the eastern states, in descending order, is as follows: Assam (30.92 per cent); West Bengal (25.25 per cent); Bihar (16.53 per cent); Manipur (8.81 per cent); Tripura (7.95 per cent); Meghalaya (4.28 per cent); Arunachal Pradesh (1.88 per cent); Nagaland (1.76 per cent); Sikkim (1.42 per cent); Mizoram (1.14 per cent).
In Assam, districts with the highest Muslim populations include, in descending order: Dhubri (74.3 per cent); Barpeta (59.4 per cent); Hailakandi (57.6 per cent); Goalpara (53.7 per cent); Karimganj (52.3 per cent); Nagaon (51 per cent); Marigaon 47.6 per cent); Bongaigaon (38.5 per cent); Cachar (36.1 per cent); Darrang (35.5 per cent); Nalbari (22.1 per cent); Kokrajhar (20.4 per cent). Thus, six districts already have Muslim majority; four others are on the way to having it.
Two additional facts would indicate that the current situation is much grimmer. Our figures pertain to Census 2001; the composition of 2011 Census has not been published but it is safe to assume that the picture could only have worsened during the decade. Also, these figures do not include illegal immigrants without ration card or voter identity cards.
The guard who betrays is more dangerous than the burglar who intrudes, as people of Assam have discovered. For decades, they have been screaming that please save us; these alien infiltrators are gobbling up our homelands, pastures and forests; their political clout is increasing; we are being squeezed from all sides in our own home. On numerous occasions, intelligence agencies have issued grave warnings. The home ministry has prepared dozens of notes detailing the menace. All this has fallen on deaf ears. Lured by prospects of a dependable vote bank, secularist politicians in Guwahati and Delhi to their eternal disgrace have shamelessly acted as willing accomplices of Muslim politicians in Pakistan.
New Delhi’s Assam policy has been guided by three politicians from Assam: Deb Kant Barua (Indira is India fame), Moinul Haque Chowdhry, former private secretary to Jinnah and a Cabinet minister in the 1960s, and Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, another Cabinet minister in 1960s who later became President. They welcomed with open arms infiltrators from East Pakistan. They were given ration cards, and their names were quickly and scrupulously entered in to the electoral rolls. Barua declared his party would always win elections in Assam with the help of Alis (Bengali Muslims) and coolies (tea garden labour).
B.K. Nehru, governor of Assam in the 1960s and B.P. Chaliha, then chief minister, sought to raise the issue but were resolutely restrained. In the late 1970s, when students of Assam led a very strong and entirely peaceful mass movement against foreigners, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said she did not know who the foreigners were that the students were talking about; in any case, if there were foreigners in Assam and the Assamese did not want them, they could be settled in other states! Such lofty, touching concern – not for Indians but for foreign infiltrators.
In 1998, Assam governor Lt. Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha submitted a 42-page report to the President, pointing out that these illegal migrants were not only changing the demography of Assam but posing a grave threat to national security, and made several recommendations. The response? Twenty Congress MPs from the Northeast appealed to the President to recall Sinha for dabbling in politics. Tarun Gogoi, Assam’s chief minister then and at present, criticized what he saw as Sinha’s constitutional impropriety in raking up Bangladeshi migrants’ issue and asked the Centre to restrain him. He said he was unaware of any Bangladeshi illegal migrants in Assam. With leaders like these, the country needs no enemies.
The feigned ignorance, the studied indifference, the determined effort to put down anyone who raises the issue continues unchanged to this day.
Meanwhile, the poisonous seeds allowed to be sown recklessly all these years have begun to bear venomous fruits. For one, the roles of the player and the pawn, the user and the used have interchanged. Those who came in as illiterate, helpless paupers looking for shelter and livelihood have metamorphosed almost into kingmakers. In several assembly constituencies of Assam, Bangladeshi Muslims are in a position to swing the election result. No political party can afford to ignore their electoral clout. The erstwhile asylum seekers now control their hosts, including secularist politicians. If 12% Muslim votes can make all political parties dance to their tune, certainly 31% can do much more.
The new-found political muscle is asserted in every possible way. For one, the infiltrators have become more brazen in pressing their demands. They just move in, grab the land and dare the locals and state government to dislocate them. For another, far from being grateful to the country that gave them succour and livelihood, many migrants are found to indulge in crime and anti-national activities.
What is lacking is not a solution, but clarity of purpose and courage to implement it. Manmohan Singh, who represents Assam in the Rajya Sabha, could not care less. Rahul Gandhi, projected as the upcoming youthful savior, is as clueless about this problem as about many others. In Mumbai, police commissioner Arup Patnaik forced the police to go easy on the violent demonstrators. And media was absorbed in discussing Raj Thackeray’s rally, his remarks on Dalit leaders, SMS campaign in some cities, Pakistan’s alleged involvement and so on till the focus shifted to Coalgate. Can such leaders, such administrators, such media, save the country?
The biggest failure has been ideological. The key to India’s survival as an ancient civilization within its truncated borders is clear: accept the logic of the partition and admit that what remains after the cessation of the Muslim component is Hindu Rashtra. The secularist establishment has spent six decades telling Hindus that this country does not belong to them – with consequences which are now becoming starkly visible.
All is not lost yet. A clear-sighted policy followed by determined action can still save Assam and the rest of India.
First, declare all Bengali Muslims in Assam as stateless subjects and declare their return to their original homeland as a policy objective. They may be tolerated in India but they must not be allowed to vote or buy any property – movable or immovable. Nor can they claim any legal rights. If they break laws or indulge in violence, they should be brought to book; but the state will not do anything to protect them from anything or anyone, because they have no right to be here in the first place. In the kind of violence that is going on in Kokrajhar, for instance, the state machinery must intervene openly and only in favour of the Bodos. No other country of the world punishes its own citizens for resisting alien invaders.
Secondly, electoral rolls of Assam should be purged of all Bengali Muslims and fresh elections should be held on the basis of revised rolls. Measures such as effective border fencing flanked by a clean corridor and shoot-at-sight order for trespassers, multi-purpose identity cards, updating of national register of citizens can follow once these basic steps are taken on war footing. The cost of these measures must be charged on the defence expenditure of the Government of India, for what we face is a war on the people of India.
These are extraordinary measures. But the situation is even more extraordinary. It is nothing short of silent warfare. All the consequences of losing a war will be visited upon Assam (and in a few years on neighbouring states too) if political leaders refuse to realize the grave danger to the unity and integrity of the country and think out of the box. – Vijayvaani, 11 Sept. 2012
» Virendra Parekh is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai.
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