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Fate of the Indigenous

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  24 May 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Not very long ago, Assam Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal had made a plea for positive thinking. He had expressed the view that no real development was possible with negative thinking. This is a very familiar view. However, what does not get emphasized well enough is that politics and positive thinking do not always go together. In the eyes of the non-partisan citizen, positive thinking is what is concerned with the greatest good of the greatest number. But as far as the politician is concerned, positive thinking ends where interests of the political party begin. In such cases, positive thinking becomes a very subjective affair, even though it is generally accepted that positive thinking cannot be allowed to make room for anything unsupported by sound logic. One area where positive thinking has been gravely jeopardized is the change in perception of even very fundamental matters like large-scale immigration to Assam from other countries, mainly Bangladesh.

For decades together, there was a very clear perception in the minds of all citizens of Assam about what category of migrants from other countries were legal migrants and what category comprised illegal migrants. In fact, for 22 years Assam had an immigration law that was different from the immigration law in force in the other States of the country. And this black immigration law was called the Illegal Migrants (Determition by Tribuls) Act, clearly indicating that the State and the laws of the land made a distinction between migrants that were legal and migrants that were illegal. Unfortutely, Assam had a very large proportion of illegal migrants. The black law, mely the IM(DT) Act of 1983, made it impossible for the district administration to detect and deport illegal migrants that other States, with the help of the Foreigners Act of 1946 in force, could do without any difficulty. The separate immigration law for Assam had been ected deliberately to facilitate large-scale illegal migration from Bangladesh. And were it not for the Supreme Court that struck down the IM(DT) Act in 2005, the State would have been hamstrung by a perverse immigration law that clearly went against the interests of the State and its people. What is indeed confounding is that now, well after the quashing of the IM(DT) Act by the Supreme Court, we should have the very political leader who had filed a PIL against the IM(DT) Act and had it removed in 2005, claiming now that all migrants from Bangladesh should be treated as legal migrants and that their children born in Assam should be granted Indian citizenship. This political leader is none other than Sarbanda Sonowal, the present Chief Minister of Assam. Any citizen of India is aware of the kind of immigrants who are deemed to be illegal migrants. They are those migrants who cross the intertiol border without any travel documents or visas. As such, Assam had more than three million illegal migrants from Bangladesh even before the cut-off date for migrants from Pakistan (or former Pakistan) set specifically for Assam in the Assam Accord. We now have a situation where a total failure to keep out illegal migrants from the State has been coupled with a perverse ratiolization that insists on treating illegal migrants as legal migrants all of a sudden. This is something that one does not normally encounter anywhere else in the world because such legitimization of what was deemed illegal is something that no one expects of any government worth its salt.

As a result of this bizarre situation—of suddenly declaring the illegal to be legal—we have the rather extraordiry case of a government committing collective hara-kiri with the lives of indigenous citizens. We have the bizarre case of illegal migrants to Assam becoming its first class citizens overnight merely because they have become the majority in 11 of the districts of the State. We have our own elected government telling us, in an oblique and dishonest manner, that it has been obliged to legitimize the presence of all illegal migrants merely because it has failed to prevent the large-scale illegal migration over the years. It has thus blatantly involved itself in an illegal act by arbitrarily deciding to legitimize the presence of all illegal migrants by taking away the appellation ‘illegal’ in referring to them. An extension of this dishonesty is to refer to the illegal migrants even in the 11 districts of Assam where they are a majority as “the minorities”. What is most poignt is what has happened to the indigenous population of Assam—both Hindus and Muslims—in their own homeland because of the betrayal of the indigenous population by its own elected government. The illegal migrants now have control of 50 of the 126 Assembly constituencies of Assam. In 27 of the 50 Assembly constituencies that have gone to the control of immigrants, no indigenous candidates can ever win an election. Apart from the 50 Assembly constituencies lost to the migrants, 42 constituencies are in the control of linguistic minorities. In other words, in 92 of the 126 Assembly constituencies of Assam, the immigrants are in real control. That leaves just 34 Assembly constituencies. The crucial question is whether political power can really remain in the hands of the indigenous people who have control of just 34 of the 126 Assembly constituency seats. The figures would indicate that the day is not far off when a migrant (regardless of what his religion might be) becomes the Chief Minister of Assam. It would be useful to keep in mind the fact that this is not a situation that someone else has created for us. True, the pressure of the illegal migrants from Bangladesh has been relentless. But they have maged to come in a clandestine manner because successive Assam governments have made it easy for them to do so. Over the decades, our own government has done nothing to stop this large-scale illegal migration. The indigenous people of Assam are now fast heading towards a minority status in their own State that is of their own making.

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