With less than two weeks in between for the publication of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), certain forces have geared up to scuttle the long-awaited process of identification of illegal migrants in Assam. While it was first a former Vice-Chancellor of Assam University – a university that was created thanks to the Assam Accord of 1985 – who raised certain unfounded allegations against the very process of preparation of the NRC by writing an article in a Kolkata-based Bengali daily, a few days ago it was Harsh Mander, a former Special Monitor for Minorities of the NHRC two days, who had alleged that the NRC was intended at causing displacement of a large number of Muslims from Assam, and that they would be targeted in the name of “ambiguous” citizenship. Two days ago a little-known organisation called Awaz has launched a false propaganda with clear intentions of derailing the entire effort of weeding out Bangladeshi infiltrators from Assam.
NRC Sate Coordinator Prateek Hajela, who also happens to be the Commissioner, Home, Government of Assam, however has very promptly refuted the allegations, saying that the contents of the appeal sent out by this little-known group were totally incorrect and misleading. “Some vested interests are trying to create disturbances by spreading wild rumours. It is time that we stand united in support of the NRC – our Constitutional duty towards our state and nation. The NRC is a collective dream of all the people of Assam and is an absolutely legal process,” Hajela has said. He has also asked the people to appeal to the Supreme Court of India – under whose direction and supervision the NRC preparation process has been going on – to take note of such forces with vested interest so that they do not create confusion, mislead the people of the country and derail the entire process.
It is a fact that certain forces have been in continuously engaged in a campaign – some overtly and some covertly – to include Assam and the North-eastern region in a greater Islamic nation comprising present-day Bangladesh, as well as parts of Myanmar. This campaign has been on since the early Twentieth century when the British – particularly during Lord Curzon’s time – had encouraged Muslim peasants from then East Bengal to flock to Assam and occupy as much land as they can, so that the region could be made part of Pakistan that Muslim League always dreamt of. Assam and the Northeast would have been included in East Pakistan during Partition had it not been for Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi and his fellow Congress leaders from Assam, and also for Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. In fact Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru had turned away Bardoloi and his team when they first went to meet him to point out that the British government had clubbed Assam with East Bengal in Group C with the intention of her inclusion in the proposed East Pakistan. Had it not been for the support and blessings of Gandhiji and Patel, Nehru would have handed the region to Md Ali Jinnah.
Even after Partition, Pakistani leaders like Jinnah and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto have been eyeing Assam. Bhutto is often quoted as having written that the dispute between India and Pakistan does not comprise just of Kashmir because Assam also is part of his dream. Likewise, Mujibur Rahman, whose Bangladesh dream was realised only because India extended all kinds of support to his Awami League and Mukti Bahini, too had clearly written (when he was a leader of East Pakistan) that Assam must be included in East Pakistan for that country to thrive. Former Assam and J&K governor, General SK Sinha had, in his report to the President of India in 1998 very clearly stated that there was a very well-drawn design to include Assam in an extended Islamic state around Bangladesh. He had clearly pointed out that illegal migrants from East Pakistan and Bangladesh have systematically occupied government land including reserved forests, river-beds, tribal blocks and belts, PGRs and VGRs as part of that larger design of Islamisation of Assam and the Northeast. He had also clearly said that there was a danger of the entire Northeast being cut off from mainland India at the 22-km Siliguri corridor by the expanding population of illegal migrants, with the simultaneous demand of the illegal migrants to merge Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, Karimganj and other districts to merge with Bangladesh.
With the process of preparation of the draft NRC nearing, forces that look like being part of that same larger design of inclusion of Assam in Bangladesh have raised their ugly heads again. They had done that when the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) was conducting the six-year long movement demanding detection and deportation of illegal migrants from Assam. They had done that when the Centre had signed the Assam Accord in August 1985. They had done that when the pilot project of NRC was being conducted in Barpeta assembly constituency a few years ago. They had also done that when the first part draft of the NRC was released on January 1, 2018.