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EDITORIAL

Will Assam Burn Again?

AGP

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s reported assurance that the Sixth Schedule areas of the Northeastern Region would be kept outside the ambit of the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill cannot in any way assuage the fears of the indigenous communities of the region about the potential impending danger that the controversial piece of proposed legislation contains. Shah has reportedly told delegations from the region that the proposed CAB would also not cover those States which have the Inner Line Permit system, apart from those in Sixth Schedule areas. While the proposed Bill itself is grossly against the basic tenets of the Constitution which does not differentiate citizens on the basis of religious faiths, once passed, it will blatantly discriminate citizens – and of course illegal migrants – on the basis of religion. It is very strange that the BJP-led disposition at the Centre has continued to fail to understand the basic problems faced by Assam and the Northeastern region –  that of the dangerous impact migration and illegal migration from erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh have been causing to them.

It is also very strange to note that the BJP-led government has failed to go back and understand the issues that had emanated out of the British almost agreeing to the inclusion of Assam and the Northeast with proposed East Pakistan on the eve of India attaining independence. Who will remind and explain to the BJP-led regime about how Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi and his team of leaders from then undivided Assam had gone from pillar to post to save Assam from being clubbed with East Pakistan? Who will remind the Centre of the sacrifice made by hundreds of young people in Assam to protect the identity of the Assamese and other indigenous communities of the State? Who will tell Amit Shah & Co about how the Assamese and other indigenous communities of the State have been struggling to protect themselves from the onslaught of illegal migrants, be it on linguistic lines or on religious lines? Who will remind New Delhi what the Supreme Court of India had said in the historic judgment of July 12, 2005, in which the apex court had so unambiguously stated that Assam was facing “external aggression and internal disturbances” on account of large-scale illegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals? Who will ask the Government at the Centre that the Supreme Court had very clearly stated that it was the duty of the Union of India to take all measures for protection of the State of Assam from such “external aggression and internal disturbances” as enjoined in Article 355 of the Constitution?

Who will read out that particular paragraph of the above-mentioned Supreme Court judgment of July 2005 which had said that “the presence of such a large number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh, which runs into millions, is in fact an ‘aggression’ on the State of Assam and has also contributed significantly in causing serious ‘internal disturbances’ in the shape of insurgency of alarming proportion, making life of the people of Assam wholly insecure and the panic generated thereby has created a fear psychosis”? Yes, it was in the same judgment that the Supreme Court had also clearly stated that illegal migration had not only affected Assam, but had also affected sister States like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland etc. What is more dangerous, now that the Union Home Minister has reportedly proposed to exclude all areas covered by the Sixth Schedule and Inner Line Permit mechanism, is that it will be those areas/districts of Assam which will be worst affected once the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is passed.

With the above-mentioned areas and States being reportedly kept out of purview of the proposed Bill, all those districts of Assam, barring the four BTAD districts and the three hill districts (which are covered by the Sixth Schedule provisions) will be severely affected,. One, because it is in these districts that the Hindu illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are already present. And two, because these are the districts to which hordes of more such migrants are in all likelihood to make a beeline. One must remember that the rest of India has never come forward to share Assam’s burden when the State had agreed not to expel the pre-1971 immigrants. If the Centre is so bent on passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, why can’t it also make provisions for the rest of India to take responsibility of the illegal migrants which it proposes to grant Indian citizenship? Who will take the responsibility if Assam burns again?