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Yet Again, Anti-Assam

In our editorial titled “Aliens must be Out” last Thursday, we had harped on the need for an error-free NRC in Assam and cited the chief reason as to why the issue of an updated NRC was so vital: “The issue is not serious because it was high time an updated NRC in technical terms was put into effect in the State; the issue is extremely serious because it deals with the very survival of an indigenous people. It is a matter of human rights, above all. One cannot leave an innocent indigenous people at the mercy of hostile and religiously absolutist marauding aliens.” Now let us add to this the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 that the BJP-led Union government seems to be desperate to convert it into a law so that illegal Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh could be granted Indian citizenship. The reason cited for such a move is persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh at the behest of Islamist forces in that country. No doubt, this is true. Hindus constituted about 30 per cent of East Pakistan’s (now Bangladesh) population at the time of Partition. Statistics available now give different figures as to their population in that country, but if averaged, it comes to around 10 per cent. That is, the diminution of the Hindu population in Bangladesh since 1947 till now is by 20 per cent! This is a whopping figure in demographic terms – ask any demographer. The sole reason attributed to such steep decline of a population – the largest religious minority in Bangladesh – is religious persecution, or their systematic elimination in their own land of birth just because they were born as Hindus in a state dominated by Muslims and the latter could do nothing as a fascist section among them went about launching brutal assaults on the former as to compel them to either surrender their faith or flee their motherland. This is substantiated by a whole lot of genuinely secular intellectuals and journalists in Bangladesh. One should read Bangladeshi writers like Taslima Nasreen and Salam Azad to get introduced to that reality.

Now, since India is a Hindu-dominated country and the only country with the largest Hindu population in the world, apart from the fact that it is India that is the birthplace of Hinduism, the argument put forward by some zealous votaries of ‘international Hindu solidarity’ is that India must take the onus of sheltering persecuted Hindus from anywhere in the world – neighbouring Bangladesh being a graver case. Even if one accepts this argument, the crux of the matter is that if given chance to settle anywhere in the country as Indian citizens, the persecuted Hindus of Bangladesh would have just two options – either West Bengal or Assam. Perhaps one would take the name of Tripura too. But the fact of the matter is that it is Assam that has borne the worst brunt of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. This demographic onslaught on the indigenous people will only compound if the Bill in question is passed in Parliament. Let us raise this question too: Will the Union government take the responsibility of sheltering the persecuted Bengali Hindus of Bangladesh across the whole of India except the Northeast because of the indigenous or ethnic factor of the predominantly tribal Northeast as also of the rapid Bangladesh-ization of Assam, with about eight districts of the State having mutated into ‘minorities’-dominated zones due solely to illegal immigration from Bangladesh?
The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) will be holding hearings in Assam from May 7 on the Bill that, if made a law, will welcome illegal Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants to Assam in the first place. The writing on the Assam wall is clear, which the AASU echoed on Friday: “No way we’ll accept the Citizenship Bill.” This is the overwhelming sentiment in the State among those who know how alarming the rate of swelling of Bangladeshi population here has been over the years, posing a very serious threat to the very identity and existence of its ethnic population. The JPC cannot pretend that it does not see anything on the Assam wall.
 
Who is doing this?
Reports of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) flags appearing in Goalpara and Nalbari districts in Assam last week point to a dangerous trend. There could be several interpretations of the development. The most natural one is that ISIS elements have intruded into the State from Bangladesh, as have elements from Islamist groups like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) too in the recent past. But ISIS is far more dangerous – notorious for beheading people far more savagely than even the Al Qaeda and the Taliban have done. Therefore, the portents are all the more ominous. Has Assam become an ISIS target in India? Has ISIS established its franchise in Bangladesh? Are some fascist forces in that country offering the outfit safe haven? Is a section of the Bangladeshi establishment involved as well? It is for the intelligence agencies to dig out the truth. But the other interpretation is more dangerous: that some in certain pockets of Assam, such as Goalpara where illegal Bangladeshis find it too suitable to settle in and breed, are using the name of ISIS to create a fear psychosis among the people of the State, especially the indigenous people. Were it to be true – which the intelligence agencies need to find out – it would be the ultimate in the design to carve out a greater Islamist state in this part of the country as part of the ISIS Caliphate agenda. These are interpretations as of now. What is imperative is to go deep into the issue and dig out the secrets behind such design. The question is: Who really is doing this, and for what? Has ISIS found its sympathizers in Assam too? If it is so, who are these people? Fingers will obviously be pointed to some among the illegal Bangladeshis here. The task for the intelligence agencies, mainly the Intelligence Bureau, is well cut out then. 

About the author

Ankur Kalita