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Identifying Aliens in Assam

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  4 March 2017 12:00 AM GMT

The statement made by the State’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in the Assam Assembly on Thursday about the process of identification of foreigners having picked up pace in Assam is bound to be taken with a large pinch of salt. People are unlikely to lose sight of the fact that large-scale illegal migration into Assam (mainly from former East Pakistan and present Bangladesh) has been going on since the early 1960s. And present Bangladesh being a theocratic country with a Muslim population in excess of 90 per cent, it is inevitable that a sizeable percentage of migrants from Bangladesh are bound to be Muslims. This fact is underscored by nine districts of Assam becoming Muslim-majority districts within just a few years. It is also underscored by the percentage of Muslims in Assam having increased substantially according to the census figures of 2012. We are also aware of how difficult and time-consuming the task of identifying foreigners living illegally in Assam has become. This is evident from the fact that the State government had lately made a song and dance about 10 or 12 illegal migrants from Bangladesh having been identified and deported twice in recent months. One fails to understand why there should be so much publicity about the State government having maged to officially evict about a score of illegal migrants from Bangladesh when the census figures of 2002 and 2012 clearly reflect the huge number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh who are living in Assam. A sinister facet of the entire business of detecting and deporting illegal migrants was in evidence when a member of a foreigners tribul (FT) in Goalpara was recently assaulted by a few advocates. What the authorities must keep in mind is that the task of identifying and deporting illegal migrants is bound to become more and more difficult and hazardous with the passage of time largely because those who migrated from Bangladesh and elsewhere did so because living conditions in Assam were known to be far more congenial than in their highly overpopulated country. What the authorities must contend with is that none of the migrants from Bangladesh who are in Assam can be induced to return to Bangladesh without the application of force after they have been identified as foreigners. This is going to be a virtually impossible task considering that we are dealing with not just a few hundred people but with lakhs of foreigners we have already discovered that life is much easier in Assam than it is in their own country. And regardless of what ministers might say about making the State free of illegal migrants, this is unlikely to happen mainly because of the size of the problem and the fact that all elected governments of Assam have chosen to ignore the problem over the decades. If the problem defies a solution today, it is largely because of what the government failed to do over the years. In fact, there are clear indications of expansionist ambitions of Bangladeshis in respect of territory of their neighbouring country where the administrators have been very casual about discharging their responsibilities keeping the State free of illegal migrants. We need to look at just two things in order to make a fair assessment of how impossible the task of deporting illegal migrants has become. The first is that more than 76,000 people in Assam have been identified as foreigners. Will the State government or the Centre tell us how they propose to deport these 76,000 people to Bangladesh? There are about four times that number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh in Assam. We are also aware of more than 66,000 hectares of Assam’s territory occupied by galand. Over the decades, the Assam government has done nothing at all about reclaiming this territory lost to galand. In the eyes of the people of Assam, the efficiency of the State government is bound to be measured by its performance in protecting the territory and the people of Assam along the Assam-galand border. The experience of seeing statements on the future action of the government being restricted to wishful thinking is not a new one for the people of Assam.

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