Foreigners’ issue in Assam

By M. H. Rahman

The objective of the so-called movement against “foreigners” in Assam was actually against all non-Assamese speaking people, particularly the Bengali people, residing in the state. On the face of bitter criticism, the agitators had turned their anti-outsiders movement against Bangladeshi infiltrators into the state.

The agitators have been having close link with the Hindutva forces and their blessings since the very beginning of their agitation. The movement against Bangladeshi infiltrators is a joint venture of the parochial and the saffron outfits. In this background it is not very difficult to understand that real agenda of this venture is to expel as many Indian Muslims as it is possible from India along with a handful of Bangladeshi infiltrators.

The parochial and the saffron outfits have been campaigning that there are millions of foreigners from Bangladesh in Assam. If this would have been the case, it would not be so difficult to identify them in large number. But during the last 25 years only 2000 persons were detected and deported as foreigners.

During the period from 2001 to June 2010 the designated foreigners’ tribunals could declare only a total of 14, 856 persons as foreigners and out of them only 199 persons could be pushed out of the country. The blame for detection and deportation of small number of foreigners was given on the Illegal Migrants Detection by Tribunals (IMDT) Act, 1983. Now the Act is no more in operation. It has been scrapped in 2005.

After the scrapping of the IMDT Act, between 2006 and mid 2010, only a total of 667 persons have been declared as foreigners. Of them 580 persons are re-infiltrators and 87 infiltrators. This is the outcome of thirty-six foreigners’ tribunals functioning in Assam. With these tribunals about 290 thousand cases are pending. If there had been millions of foreigners as it is made out to be, the number of cases referred to the tribunals would have been very large. It is obvious that detection and deportation of foreigners from Assam under the Foreigners Act has not improved even after abolition of the IMDT Act. The reason is that the infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals into the state has been very small.

It appears that the issue of foreigners is a ploy to build homogenous Assamese nation. The demand for defining ‘Assamese people’ on the basis of Assamese language under clause 6 of the Assam Accord is a pointer to this. In this regard United Liberation Front of Assam’s demand for separation from India is also noteworthy.

The saffron outfits are against identification and deportation of Bangladeshi Hindu nationals from Assam. The protagonists of the anti-Bangladeshi infiltrators have been openly branding poor Muslim citizens residing in the state as Bangladeshi without making any distinction between Indian citizens and illegal migrants. This shows that their real target is the expulsion of the Indian Muslims from Assam branding them as Bangladeshi.

In view of this, it is high time for the government of the day to review the entire issue of the Bangladeshi nationals in Assam and take a very firm stand on it instead of appeasing the parochial and communal forces. The need of the hour is the promotion of communal harmony, peace, tolerance and co-existence among the peoples of the state.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2010 on page no. 14

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