|AASUS' demands communally motivated
M H Rahman
The demand of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) for the determination of the state’s indigenous people, repealing of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, and deportation of Muslims branding them as ‘Bangladeshi’ is not justified under the Assam accord.
The AASU demand for definition of the indigenous people on the basis of the NRC 1951 and the electoral rolls of 1952 is beyond the scope of the Memorandum of Settlement of 1985 which is popularly known as ‘the Assam accord.’ The term ‘indigenous people’ is not used in the Assam accord. The NRC 1951 or the electoral rolls of 1952 are also not mentioned in any clause of the said accord.
What the clause VI of the Assam accord says is that ‘Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assameses people.’ According to this clause, what is needed to be done is to define the term ‘Assamese people’ not the indigenous people for the purpose of the reservation of seats in Parliament, state legislature and local bodies. For this, the cutoff date should be 24 March 1971 as mentioned in clause 5.8 of the Assam accord. The names figuring in the 1971 census and their descendants should be defined as Assamese people irrespective of their religion, caste, race and language. After defining the Assamese people thus, the reservation should be done for all groups of the Assamese people in proportion to their population.
According to the 1971 census, 61 percent people speak Assamese, 19 percent speak Bengali and 20 percent speak other languages. Out of 61 percent Assamese- speaking people, 32 percent are Hindus and 29 percent are Muslims.
AASU’s demand for the repeal of the IM (DT) Act also does not fall within the scope of the Assam accord. Nowhere in the accord it is mentioned that the Act will be repealed. AASU’s demand for the amendment of the Act is already fulfilled in 1988 as per clause 5.9 of the Assam accord which says: ‘The government will give due consideration to certain difficulties expressed by the AASU/AAGSP regarding the implementation of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983.’
The demand of AASU for detection and deportation of Muslims alone as foreigners is illogical and, therefore, untenable. Statistics now available show that during 1951-1971, 247,900 Muslims and 1,510,000 non-Muslim foreigners had infiltrated into Assam. But during the period from 1952 to 1983, 800,000 Muslim citizens against 247,900 non-sMuslim foreigners were ‘detected’ and deported from Assam as foreign nationals under different Acts without giving them chance to prove their citizenship in a court of law. According to Hem Baruah, during the communal riots of 1948-1950, 500,000 to 600,000 Muslims were compelled to leave Assam for Pakistan in order to save their lives (The Red River and the Blue Hills, p.129). Moreover, the Assam accord has not made any distinction among foreigners on the ground of religion.
During the period of AASU’s agitation from 1979 to 1983, thousands of innocent Indian Muslims were cruelly killed in Nellie, Barpeta, Kokrajhar etc. In Nellie alone 1800 Muslims were massacred on 18 February 1983 by the agitators. Even infants and children were not spared. From all these facts, it can easily be imagined what will happen to the Indian Muslims of Assam, if the IM (DT) Act is abrogated.
There has been no influx of Muslims into Assam from Bangladesh. The percentage of the Muslim population growth in Assam is decreasing. Their percentage of growth was 79.97 during 1951-1971 and 77 during 1971-1991. This clearly indicates that the Muslim population of Assam is reduced by 2.97 percent during 1971-1991 and is in decreasing trend. This is due to the deportations and killings of a large number of Indian Muslims living in Assam.
The AASU’s demands are communally-motivated and support the ideology of the Hindu fundamentalist organizations. Therefore, the BJP, the political wing of the Hindutva forces, is, in return, propagating that 38-39 constituencies of Assam out of 126 are Bangladeshi Muslim-populated areas. RSS chief KS Sudarshan has appealed to the Assamese Hindus to unite with the Bengali Hindu including the illegal Hindu Bengali migrants from Bangladesh in order to prevent the growth of the Muslim population in Assam. It should also be noted here that a report of the Union Home Ministry has identified 36 Muslim concentrated constituencies in the state as foreigner-populated areas ignoring all historical facts and census records.
It is important to note here that no concrete proof has been furnished by any quarter till date to establish that there are large numbers of Bangladeshi Muslims in Assam. All arguments put forward so far on the matter are fabricated, biased and baseless. Even the report of the Assam Governor SK Singh, on the problem of foreigners is based on his personal prejudices and false assumptions. They collapse like a house of cards when subjected to scrutiny on the basis of census records and other statistical documents of the government.
In these circumstances, if the AASU’s demands for determination of indigenous people and abrogation of IM (DT) Act are conceded by disregarding the Assam accord, it is feared that the Hindutva elements among the indigenous people will subject the religious minorities to harassment, torture and even genocide and Assam will be made to undergo another holocaust of the worst kind. In the process, Assamese people will be the worst sufferers.