Foreigner Issue in Assam
In pursuance of a bid to make golden Assam, All Assam Students Union (AASU) launched Assam movement in 1979 demanding the detection and deportation of foreign nationals (especially Bangladeshis) illegally living in Assam as AASU assumes that their existence poses a threat to the socio-economic condition and demographic pattern of Assam and the movement had continued for six years resulting in a huge loss of life and property during the movement period as a result of violence in Assam. After six long years, the Assam movement came to an end after signing the historic Assam Accord on 15 August 1985.
One of the important provisions enshrined in the Assam Accord is that those people who infiltrated as the citizens of India will be allowed to stay. But those who infiltrated to Assam after 24 March 1971 will be considered to be foreigners to be detected and deported from Assam to their respective countries like Bangladesh and Nepal. Moreover it was unanimously resolved in the Tripartite Talk between AASU, state and central government held on 5 May 2005 to accept 25 March 1971 as the base year as fixed in the Assam Accord.
The base year (25 March 1971) fixed as per Assam Accord and the Tripartite Talk 2005 for the detection and deportation of foreigners from Assam is welcomed and honoured by all sections of people irrespective of their religion and language in Assam. And the people were hopeful that it would pave the way for solving this perennial problem eroding the unity among different communities in Assam.
Assembly election is expected to be held in the last part of next April. As the assembly election nearing, Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) tries to politicise and communalise foreigner issue by demanding the refugee status for Hindu foreigners and the expulsion of Muslim foreigners from Assam. Thus BJP aims at polarising the voters of Assam on communal line and thereby trying to derive narrow political mileage in the forthcoming assembly election in Assam. This would make the foreigner issue more complicated.
Justifying its demand, BJP reasons that the Hindu foreigners came to Assam from Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) as a result of torture and persecution meted out to them by Muslims in Bangladesh. Hence they deserve refugee status and citizenship in India. The demand made by BJP is not reasonable. Firstly if the Hindu foreigners infiltrated into Assam as a result of torture and persecution meted out to them by Muslims in Bangladesh, why did Muslim foreigners from Bangladesh infiltrate into Assam? Secondly is it justified on the part of a minority community to leave their country as a result of torture and persecution meted out to them by the majority community? In India the minority communities such as Muslim, Christian and Sikh are often killed, tortured and persecuted by the majority community in various riots and communal violence and deprived of their rights and privileges in many aspects, still they have not left the country. Rather they always consider India as their motherland and work for its welfare and development. They are proud of their motherland.
Assam government took a step to prepare the National Register Citizen (NRC) last year after the National Register Citizen was prepared in 1951. To get one’s name included in the new National Register Citizen (NRC) being prepared, the head of the family is required to fill up an Application Form providing some information relating to his/her forefather from the NRC of 1951 upto the Electoral Roll 1971 submitting documentary evidences. It is to be noted that in some districts of Assam, the NRC of 1951 and the Electoral Roll 1966 have been lost because of which the government has failed to publish them for public viewing. As a result many people have failed to fill up the Application Form providing the information because of absence of those documents in some districts.
Under these circumstances the people were perplexed and reacted to the process of preparation of the NRS by government which finally led to violence resulting in the loss of lives of four youths’ and several persons’ being injured in Barpeta district. Following the violence the government has suspended the preparation of NRC till date.
One fails to understand as to why the information from the NRC of 1951 upto the Electoral Roll 1971 is required to fill the Application Form for getting one’s name included in the new NRC being prepared. It is clearly resolved in the Assam Accord and the Tripartite Talk 2005 that those who came to Assam before 25 March 1971 are citizens of India. If anybody can prove his/her existence in Assam/India prior to 25 March 1971 through any valid document, his/her name should be included in the new NRC being prepared as per Assam Accord and the Tripartite Talk 2005. To seek information from the NRC of 1951 upto the Electoral Roll 2005 for filling the Application Form is considered a conspiracy being engineered by some people so as to deprive some people of the citizenship right as per Assam Accord and the Tripartite Talk 2005. It has already been expressed by many people that unless the new NRC is prepared on the basis of Assam Accord and the Tripartite Talk 2005, it would not get co-operation from them, especially religious and linguistic minorities in Assam.
It fact the people of Assam are fed up of the foreigner issue and they need a solution to it immediately. Besides impeding the process of socio-economic development of Assam, the foreigner issue generates a feeling of hatred and hostility by a section of people for another. Again with the start of Assam movement in 1979 some ethnic groups (tribes) such as Bodo, Karbi, Dimasa, Tiwa, Rabha raise their heads demanding statehood and autonomous councils in their respective area to be carved out of Assam. Before Assam movement this problem did not emerge in Assam. To save Assam from further division, it is essential to resolve the foreigner issue: The issue can be resolved only by preparing the new NRC based on the provisions of Assam Accord and the Tripartite Talk 2005. The sooner the foreigner issue is solved, the better it would be for the people of Assam.
The writer is Associate Professor in Commerce, P.B. College, Gauripur, Dhubri