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EDITORIAL

Foreigners in Own Land

Prof S P Bhattacharyya
(Retd. Principal, Assam Engineering College, Guwahati, can be contacted —9435301416)

In 1947, before independence, I was a student of class VI in Sylhet (an erstwhile district of Assam which is now in Bangladesh) and in political parlance, I was a ‘tive’ and ‘subject’ of the then British King as were all other Indians irrespective of their language or religion. On 15th August 1947, we had our ‘tryst with destiny’ when our British masters, in the me of giving us independence, divided the country (which was not theirs to divide) into two mutually antagonistic states; the larger of the truncated parts retaining the origil me of India and the others med as Pakistan which was an odd combition of two smaller parts, viz. East and West Pakistan separated by 1500 miles (This incongruity, however, partially resolved itself in 1971 when East Pakistan came out of Pakistan through a bloody war of cessation to become a new sovereign country called Bangladesh). The people of the newly constituted Indian part became citizens (formally in 1955) of a secular, socialist democracy called India with equal political rights irrespective of race or religion, while those who happened to be residents of East (present Bangladesh) and West Pakistan parts became citizens of the newly formed Islamic state of Pakistan where the non-Muslim sections of the people became second class citizens overnight and which compelled many owing allegiance to ‘Indianness’ to migrate to India for safety and security and in the process becoming refugees in their own land.
    Seventy years down the line, the affect of this ill-conceived partition in the me of religion is there for every one to see. Apart from the blood-spilling of millions of innocent and hapless people on both sides of the border through politically engineered commul riots, this division successfully created two sworn enemies out of one people who have been constantly at each other’s throat ever since their creation with no prospect of this enmity being resolved in the foreseeable future (it is another matter that when this vivisection of ‘Bharat-Maata’ was taking place hardly anyone is known to have come out in the streets to save her person at that critical juncture although there appears to be plenty of such devotees around us now). Instead, there is a reasoble apprehension that if the present trend of polarisation of the society is allowed to continue for long then a situation like the one in the middle-east may get created however much it may seem unlikely at this point of time. In case of such an eventuality, people in other parts of the country may not be affected so much in a direct sense (and a section of opportunists amongst us may even welcome it for selfish reasons) but the majority of the people of the eastern and northeastern part of the country irrespective of language and religion will have to pay a heavy price in terms of unrelenting social strife and unrest.
    It is perhaps the greatest irony of any freedom struggle anywhere in the world that many of those people (and their progenies) who had paid the price of freedom by their bloody sacrifices are today dubbed as refugees and foreigners in the very country which belonged to them from time immemorial by even those who came to this country much later in the historical timeframe as invaders or immigrants. For no fault of theirs except that they happened to be residing in that part of undivided India which was ceded as Pakistan/Bangladesh, they are being subjected to indigtion and harassment (the latest in the me of NRC) as if they have entered this sacred land of India the other day from distant places like Africa or Antarctica. Over the years, an impression has been created in the society as if these people, mostly Bengali-speaking, from across the border are the real enemies (silent invaders!) of this great country where ironically 1% of the population has come to possess 73% of the country’s wealth by not so silently invading the rights and privileges of the remaining 99% of their compatriots.
    The partition of India stands out as one of the greatest mischiefs perpetrated by any colonial power in the me of giving independence. It was a political master-stroke to cripple this country for all time to come (much like setting a bonded labourer free after cutting off his limbs) with the real intention being promotion of their own interest in the changed geo-political condition post world war II. Though a section of people would like us to believe that the ill-advised partition was the result of pandering to the persol ambition of leaders like Nehru and Jinh, this suggestion hardly stands to reason. For, it is difficult to imagine that the British were so ive as to be uble to anticipate the consequences of such a division on commul lines (with almost an equal size of Muslim population remaining in India) and agreed to create two warring tions in a highly sensitive zone in Asia unless it served their own ulterior motives. After all, it was not Nehru-Jinh but the Britishers, the invaders from across the seven seas who were our masters and decision makers at that point of time! Instead, many historians see it as the result of an obsessive fear psychosis against communism in the minds of the western powers after the communist take-over of Russia in 1917. Ever since then encouraging and instigating commulism, be it on racial or religious lines, has been the best bet against the spread of communism because commulism and communism do not gel together. ‘Divide and Rule’ has remained the golden policy of exploitation through the ages both in tiol and intertiol ares (the recent happenings in our neighbouring state is an example of how commul division and disharmony can be created out of nowhere in the me of religious rites celebrations by vested interest groups). Lastly, politics is the me of the game played with mind, money and muscle in which religion is often used as a starter. Mind loves to live in a world of fantasy and clever politicians and political parties can always play this mind-game to sway public opinion the way they wish which can sometimes lead to disastrous consequences for the country,—a task which has become all the more easy now after the so-called digital revolution (facebook, whatsapp etc) by taking advantage of the ignorance, superstition and economic backwardness of the common people.

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Ankur Kalita