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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Assam Muslims and IMDT Act

By Muhammad Hasibor Rahman

East Garo Hills: The Hindutva family, All Assam students’ Union and their supporters have been campaigning to brand the Indian Muslims living permanently in Assam for centuries as “foreigners” with the help of a section of the local print and electronic media sympathetic to their cause for a long time. Since the publication of the census statistics on religions in September 2004, they have become more vocal than ever before in claiming that six out of twenty-three districts of Assam have become “Muslim majority districts” because of illegal infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims into the state. In support of their argument, they cite the following population figures of the recent census report:

1991

2001
District Hindus Muslims Hindus Muslims
Goalpara 2,66,499 3,35,275 3,14,154 4,41516
Dhubri 3,82,817 9,38,789 4,05,065 12,16,455
Barpeta 5,79,201 7,76,978 6,62,066 9,77,943
Nagaon 9,79,395 8,93,322 11,06,354 11,80,267
Karimganj 4,14,731 4,06,706 4,70,708 5,27,214
Hailakandi 1,96,269 2,46,016 2,23,191 3,12,846

But the fact is that prior to independence of India in 1947, Assam was a Muslim majority state. After the independence, Muslims were made minority in the state by transferring the Muslim majority district of Sylhet to Pakistan, compelling over eight lakh Indian Muslims to leave the state for East Pakistan and granting safe haven to about two million foreigners consisting of Hindus, Buddhists and Christians, as refugees in the state. Five to six lakh [hundred thousand] Muslims were compelled to leave the state during the communal riots of 1948 – 1950 and about three and half lakh Muslims were deported as immigrants, undesirable elements and foreigners from 1950 to 2003. Over and above these, thousands of Muslims were murdered in cold blood during the last five decades and names of 0.375 million Indian Muslims were dropped from the voters list arbitrarily as doubtful citizens.

In the six districts mentioned in the above table, Muslims have become majority not because of infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims but because of the creation of new districts out of the old ones. For example, four districts such as Dhubri, Goalpara, Kokrajhar and Bongaigaon were created out of the erstwhile district of Goalpara and three districts – Barpeta, Kamrup and Nalbari - were created out of Kamrup district. It is notable that the districts under reference are historically Muslim-concentrated regions. But chauvinistic and communal forces inimical to communal harmony have been misleading the world by depicting the Muslims of Assam as foreigners by suppressing the truth.

The high growth rate of Indian Muslims living in Assam is due to their high birth rate, which is again due to their socio-economic backwardness. There has been no infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims into the state in recent years.

The RSS, BJP and AASU are known by different names, yet their objective is the same. They have been defaming the Indian Muslims in Assam as foreigners in the same spirit and working to reduce them to an insignificant minority by deleting their names from the electoral rolls and deporting them to Bangladesh.
In view of this sinister design, it has become essential to retain the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act as it is and extend it to whole of India. This is to prevent communal and divisive forces from harassing the religious and lingual minorities as “foreigners” and denying their constitutional right to move throughout the country and settle in any part of it without fear of harassment and persecution.

IM (DT) Act is a valid piece of law. It is passed by the parliament and recognized and accepted by the AASU and the state government by signing the Assam Accord in 1985. But AASU is creating confusion and mistrust in the minds of the people by making contradictory demands: repeal of the IM (DT) Act on the one hand and the implementation of the Assam Accord on the other in a manner as if the Accord is greater than the Constitution of India.
IM (DT) Act is, unlike other Indian laws which can be used for detection and deportation of foreigners, a secular law and free from communal bias. While paving the way for detection and deportation of foreigners through judicial process, it has safeguarded human rights and values of the Indian citizens and satisfied the norms of civil and democratic society.
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