Among the many charges that Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has had to face during the campaigning before the Assembly elections this month, the most important and frequent one has been the large-scale illegal infiltration of Bangladeshis into Assam. What makes the allegation a far more serious one is the fact that over the years of Congress rule in the State—especially during Gogoi’s uninterrupted rule of 15 years—this illegal migration has increased remarkably and all such illegal migrants have received excellent protection from the State police. The combined effect of the State government’s tacit encouragement of such illegal migration from Bangladesh and the black immigration law called the Illegal Migrants (Determition by Tribuls) Act that remained in force for 22 years as a perverse piece of legislation for Assam alone, was to ensure that the process of illegal migration from Bangladesh went on without a hitch, because the IM(DT) Act had taken away the powers of the district administration to detect and deport illegal migrants. So illegal migration from Bangladesh went on under the noses of the emasculated district administration and swelled the vote banks of the ruling party (mainly the Congress). And since the migrants from Bangladesh were largely polygamous, their population increase was much faster than the increase of population in other parts of the State where the demographic composition did not have many Bangladeshi infiltrators. The rapid change in the demographic change of Assam is best underscored by the fact that nine of the districts of Assam now have a Muslim majority brought about by this illegal immigration. There are many who believe that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s urge to create new districts in the State stems from the fact that in the none-too-distant future, the Congress might be able to say, “What are nine or ten districts to our tally of 45?”
For weeks before the beginning of the election campaigning, Tarun Gogoi’s stance has been: “Where are the Bangladeshis that I am accused of sheltering? Show me one.” On Wednesday, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari claimed that the BJP-led Union government had, in the last two years, identified and compiled a list of 60,000 Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam and had sent it to the Assam government, but that the latter failed to take any action. Gadkari also reminded the press conference he was addressing in Guwahati that Parliament had been told in 2004 that there were some 50 lakh (five million) Bangladeshis in Assam. He called the problem of illegal migration a “Congress gift”. He added that the vote-bank politics of the Congress was encouraging illegal migrants and fomenting influx from across the border. Gogoi’s rebuttal to this came the same day. He said, “If I am sheltering Bangladeshis, there is a breakdown in the system. Then why haven’t they dismissed my government? Why don’t they impose President’s rule?” He added that if the BJP could identify a single Bangladeshi being sheltered by him, he would quit public life. Such threats do not count for much, because Tarun Gogoi is known to be in the habit of threatening to quit politics at the drop of a hat. For him, it is a stock reaction to different kinds of accusations. But he also added the accusation that the BJP brings up the illegal migrants issue only during elections. He alleged that the BJP government, after coming to power, had never discussed the problem with him. He also wondered why the BJP was not critical of Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was Minister for Implementation of the Assam Accord.
One does not need Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to counter Tarun Gogoi’s repartees. The man in the street is competent enough to state the facts. It is possible for anyone to identify not just one but hundreds and thousands of Bangladeshis in Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, gaon, Morigaon and other districts of Assam. Anyone travelling between Dalgaon and Tezpur and passing through the jute market at Besimari will wonder if he has gone out of Assam and wandered into Bangladesh. Almost everyone there is a Bangladeshi. One does not hear any Assamese there. But one would need a security force other than the State police for protection because the police would be ordered to protect only the Bangladeshis there. Anyone who has noticed the human habitations that have come up cheek-by-jowl with the Kaziranga Game Sanctuary will readily recognize that the entire population comprises Bangladeshis. Perhaps the only person who stubbornly refuses to do so is the Chief Minister of Assam. One would like to know whether Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has told the BJP that none of 60,000 Bangladeshis on its list sent to Tarun Gogoi are actually Bangladeshis. There are no indications that he has done this. As for his criticism of Himanta Biswa Sarma’s failure to do anything about illegal migration of Bangladeshis into Assam when he was Minister for Implementation of the Assam Accord, it is a well-known fact that the Congress has been keeping that portfolio merely for show without letting any minister do anything to implement the Assam Accord.
It is very easy to dismiss Tarun Gogoi’s challenge that if the BJP can find a single Bangladeshi sheltered by him he would quit public life as being no more than a puerile and ritualistic statement. Things may not be all that simple. What if Tarun Gogoi has lost no time in making every single illegal migrant an Indian citizen apart from getting his/her me on the electoral roll. This is the possibility that chills the spine of all law-abiding Indians who are appalled at what the illegal migrant from Bangladesh can get away with in India—all because he will vote (illegally) for the Congress. The scerio is indeed bizarre. It makes us wonder if we might not be better off by somehow maging to get Bangladeshi citizenship and then coming back to our own State as illegal migrants from Bangladesh.