By J P Rajkhowa
The top leadership of the Bharatiya Jata Party (BJP), including the Prime Minister, rendra Modi has come under severe criticism and condemtion by all non– BJP political parties, students and youth wings as well as other students and youth organizations, intelligentsia etc. across Assam and the rest of the northeast, for terming the people of the region as Immigrants, in the party’s Vision Document released to woo the voters, in the run– up to the Delhi Elections held on 7th February. The local television channels have been showing the footages of public protests, by burning effigies of Prime Minister Modi, Union Ministers of States Sarbanda Sonowal and Khiren Rijiju for treating the people of the region as ‘foreigners’, forgetting all their earlier promises to protect their interests by driving out all the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, from the region. The state BJP leaders have not been able to convincingly explain this ‘goof up’. Similarly, the central leadership of the party, including its spokespersons and even Mr. Modi, have not been successful in convincing the people of the region, Assam in particular, that, it was a genuine, unintended mistake, which crept in due to ‘oversight’. Nobody is prepared to accept the explation, that, the word ‘’immigrants’’ in the sub–heading in page 14 of the Document– “North Eastern Immigrants to be protected”, occurred due to ‘typological’ or ‘printing’ or ‘clerical mistake’.
Under the sub–headline in the text, “the usage of the term has been corrected to ‘migrant’ as the party pledges protection “of the North eastern migrants”. People of the region are not at all pacified, and not prepared to be called as “migrants” also, which sound quite derogatory, let alone ‘’immigrant’’. Insurgent outfits like the ULFA (I) led by Paresh Baruah, have got the rare opportunity to express their happiness, at the misinterpretation, as the ruling party at the Centre ‘purportedly accepted the fact of the North–eastern people as those outside India’. By such logic based on ‘illogical’ but literally ‘logical’ conclusion, these groups are trying to make some political mileage, at the cost of the Central government. While Prime Minister Modi and top BJP leaders have expressed regret over the ‘goof up,’ no unconditiol ‘apology’ has been offered by any one, which is the least, the people would be prepared to accept and the BJP leadership could have tendered, since in a ‘democracy’, the people are supreme. Sarbanda Sonowal expressed before local television channel that, the word ‘’immigrant’’ would be replaced by the words ‘’people of the North–eastern region’’, which was indeed welcome, together with an apology, but, unfortutely, this was not done by the central leadership by reflecting in the ‘corrected’ Vision Document.
“Immigrant is a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence. The synonyms for it are alien, colonist, foreigner, migrant, turalized citizen, newcomer, outsider, settler etc. Its antonyms are– local, tiol, tive, citizen, countryman etc. Origin: 1789–90, Americanism; <Latin immigrant– (stem of immigrans) … Can be confused with ‘emigrant, immigrant, migrant.” [Dictiory.com]. According to Webster’s Pocket American Dictiory, “immigrant is a person who immigrates– that is, to come to a foreign country as a permanent resident.” Immigrant means ‘someone who immigrates into a country’. The word ‘immigrate’ means to enter a country of which one is not a tive, in order to live in it permanently. [Grolier New Webster’s Dictiory]. According to Illustrated Oxford Dictiory, ‘’immigrant is a person who immigrates and ‘’immigrates’’ means to come as a permanent resident to a country other than one’s tive land.’’ To illustrate, a Bangladeshi tiol who enters India with the intention to settle permanently, can be called an immigrant, but, an Indian tiol, say, from Assam or any part of the Northeast or Bihar, West Bengal, Gujarat etc., who moves to Delhi or any other place to settle permanently, for ‘work purpose’ or for education or any other purpose, cannot be termed as “immigrant’’.
The word “migrant”, as an adjective, means ‘that migrates’ or as a noun ‘a migrant person or animal’, esp. a bird. “Migrate” means ‘’move from one place of abode to another, esp. in a different country.’’[Illustrated Oxford Dictiory]. According to Webster’s ibid, “migrant” is a person who migrates.’’ The word ‘’migrate’’ means to leave one country or region to settle or work for a period in another.’’ Dictiory.com defines ‘’migrant’’ as a person or animal that migrates. It also means a ‘migrant worker, a person who moves from place to place to get work, especially a farm labourer who harvests crops seasolly. Origin: 1665–75; <Latin migrant– (stem of migrans). Thus, the word ‘’migrant’’ would mean an alien or a foreigner, who moves to another country to live for a period of time. Obviously, it would not be applicable to an Indian tiol. A migrant could be a legal one or an illegal one, depending on whether he or she enters our country illegally, like an infiltrator without any valid travel document or a legal one, with valid documents, e.g., passport, VISA etc. This is the reason, why an Act called “The Illegal Migrants’ (Determition by Tribuls) Act, 1983 was ected by the Indian Parliament (since abrogated by the Supreme Court of India in 2005 as unconstitutiol) for detection of illegal ‘immigrants’ from Bangladesh.
Another word often confused by many as a synonym, which also carries almost the same meaning, is ‘’emigrant’’, which means a person emigrating or who has emigrated, which in turn, means ‘’to leave one’s own country or home and settle in another’’. [Grolier ibid] The Oxford ibid defines ‘emigrant’ as a person who emigrates, and ‘emigrate’ means ‘’leave one’s own country to settle in another’’. If, for example, an Indian from any part of the county, the North–eastern States included, leaves the county and legally enters another country, e.g., USA in order to work and / or settle, he will be called an ‘’emigrant’’. Webster’s American Dictiory defines ‘’emigrate’’ as ‘’to leave one country to settle in another’’ and as a corollary, an ‘’emigrant’’ as a person who emigrates. According to Dictiory.com, ‘’emigrate’’ a verb, means ‘’to leave one country or region to settle in another; migrate: to emigrate from Ireland to Australia. Origin: 1770–80; <Latin emigratus moved away.
From the meanings and definitions of the words– Immigrant, Emigrant and Migrant, as highlighted above from authoritative sources, it would be abundantly clear that, it would be absolutely wrong to call the people of the Northeast, and for that matter, from other States like Bihar, Orissa, Gujarat etc., settled / stayed in Delhi or elsewhere in India for the purpose of education, work, leisure or for any other purpose / activity as ‘’immigrant or migrant or emigrant’’. In our view, it would be appropriate, to call them as the people of the Northeast or of other regions / States of the country, as the case, may be. In the present specific case, ‘’people of the Northeast’’ should be substituted for ‘’North Eastern Immigrants’’ and as the Vision Document has already been widely circulated, wide publicity need be given on the same, so as to remove any misunderstanding, even after the Delhi elections were over.
While we appreciate the BJP’s claims of ‘good intentions’ towards the people of the region with the vision document detailing schemes creating special cells at local police stations for their protection, arranging of ‘’special guardianships with local families’’ for students of Northeast origin to safeguard them, and to implement other recommendations of the Bezbarua Committee to adequately safeguard their interests, we would suggest that, a high–level Inquiry be instituted by the top leadership of the party, in order to fix responsibility for the ‘’goof up’’ and to take punitive action against those at fault.