Chief of Indian Army, Bipin Rawat’s recent statement about the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has seemingly stirred a hornet’s nest in Assam, particularly among the politicians. The General while speaking at a semir in New Delhi linked the illegal infiltration from Bangladesh to Assam with the growth of political party led by Moula Badaruddin Ajmal. The Chief of Army Staff said that there is a party called AIUDF and that they have grown in a faster time-frame than the BJP grew over the years. The General while quoting statistics said that while the BJP could win only two seats in Assam in 1984, the AIUDF formed in 2005 have so far three members in the Lok Sabha followed by 13 Members in the Assam Legislative Assembly. The General also touched upon the issue of inversion of population dymics in Assam due to this illegal influx and said that eight to nine districts population of religious minority has grown unturally. While different political parties, particularly the Opposition Congress took this as an opportunity to attack the ruling BJP government at the Centre as well as in Dispur for failing to take steps to stop the infiltration, AIUDF chief has accused the Army chief of making political statements, which he is not mandated to. Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi took the opportunity to attack the BJP government and said that the BJP government under the leadership of Prime Minister rendra Modi has failed to stop infiltration from across the border even though BJP has completed four years in office. The AIUDF chief expressed his shock at the ‘political statements’ made by the Army Chief and accused the Army chief of Indulging in politics. Ajmal has also brought the matter to the notice of the PMO and the Rastrapati Bhavan through social media. Some sections have also questioned the intention of the Army Chief behind making such a statement, particularly at a time when the saffron party has been making its presence felt in the northeastern states.
Army Chief, Illegal infiltration & AIUDF
However, what the Army Chief stated in the semir is nothing new, rather he was only reaffirming the fears expressed by the then Assam Governor Lt. Gen (Retd) S.K. Sinha in 1998 in his report to the President of India saying that ‘illegal influx has posed a grave threat both to the identity of the Assamese people and to the country’s tiol security’. Illegal influx to Assam from Bangladesh is a fact— Assam had witnessed a six year long movement against illegal influx from Bangladesh. Over 800 young men and women had lost their lives during the six years of movement and hundreds of others have been maimed for their lives. Illegal influx from Bangladesh is a fact and more harsh fact is that the successive governments at the Centre and in Dispur—irrespective of their political affiliations—have failed to stop the influx as well as to detect and deport the illegal foreigners living in Assam. The BJP government, who came to power in Assam in 2016 promising to secure the Jati, Mati aru Bheti (meaning the indigenous people, land and their rights) has gone even one step ahead to propose to grant citizenship to the Hindu Bangladeshis. While the Lt. Gen (Retd) SK Sinha’s report has exposed the magnimity of the influx from Bangladesh, according statistics tabled on the Assam Legislative Assembly the state could deport only 29,712 migrants since 1985 till 2015.
The General was right in pointing out the threat of illegal influx from neighbouring country and about the ‘proxy war’ being played by our western neighbours. Of course, the political parties as well as the civil society in the country are right in questioning the ‘political statement’ coming from an Army Chief, who is not mandated by the Constitution of India for such statements but more important is to make out political class aware about the issue of illegal influx and the threat it carries for the security of not only Assam but the whole country. The citizens must take a pledge not to let the illegal infiltration be a mere political issue used to the maximum by the political parties during elections to garner votes but to remind them every time that the citizens of the country cannot and will not allow them to do politics over an issue of tiol security.