The Central Government’s recent notification issued on September 7 regularising the entry and stay of minorities from Bangladesh and Pakistan has thrown already disturbed Assam into turmoil.
Assam is presently witnessing a kind of uprising against the Centre. It started with a recent notification, where the Union Government in New Delhi declared that on humanitarian considerations it had decided to ‘exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities, who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014 from the relevant provisions of rules and order made under the Passport (Entry into India) Act 1920 and the Foreigners Act 1946, in respect of their entry and stay in India without such documents or after the expiry of those documents, as the case may be’.
The instant reaction came from All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which led the historic Assam movement in eighties demanding the deportation of millions of illegal Bangladeshi nationals from the State. The AASU leaders argue that all illegal migrants irrespective of their religion must be deported from Assam.
According to the Assam Accord, which was signed by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi-led Government and the Assam agitators in 1985, the illegal Bangladeshi migrants, who had entered Assam after March 25, 1971, should be deported. Hence, according to AASU, the Centre’s notification was an insult to the historic Accord. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which was formed by the senior AASU leaders after the culmination of six years lone Assam movement, maintains the same logic. The leaders of the regional political party claim that pouring more migrants from Bangladesh in Assam would only threaten the identity of indigenous communities with curtailing their political, economic and cultural rights.
Similar voices were also raised by Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity with a number of ethnic organisations of the State, which have already demonstrated their angers against the latest move of New Delhi supporting the migrants from Bangladesh. Various political parties like AIUDF, CPI, CPI (ML), NCP etc also expressed resentments over the Centre’s latest directive.
Even a daylong Assam bandh (complete shutdown), was called on September 12 against the Centre’s notification by the AJYCP, which was endorsed by a number of ethnic students’ bodies like All Bodo Students Union, Karbi Students’ Union, Matak Students’ organization etc and it witnessed visible response in Brahmaputra valley of the State.
However, some Barak valley based organisations opposed the bandh and supported New Delhi’s initiative to give asylum to minorities from Bangladesh. All Bharat Bengali Udbastu Samannay Samity leaders even came out with the demand for permanent citizenship to minority Bangladeshi nationals (read Hindu) in Bharat as they argue that only refugee status to Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh will not solve the problem.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi also favoured for granting refugee status to those Bangladeshi minority migrants entering Assam or other parts of Bharat because of religious persecution there. However the Congress veteran clarified that Assam would not be allowed to be overburdened with those migrants. Assam Governor Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya was very specific towards the issue saying that the Hindus have the birth right to get Bharatiya citizenship. The non-Muslim immigrants from countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Muslim-majority nations come to Bharat under compulsion and hence they should be given citizenship with voting rights, asserted Governor Acharya.
Lately the Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) came out with the demand for a concrete refugee policy with a legal framework for Bharat. It advocated for the refugee status to those religious minorities from Bangladesh and Pakistan. In a statement, issued by Rupam Barua, Pramod Kalita, Anup Sarma, Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Tarali Chakravarty etc for PPFA, they pointed out that offering mere refugee status does not mean granting citizenship to those asylum seekers. The PPFA also claimed that the fleeing non-Muslim nationals of the Indian subcontinent (Bharatvarsa) can never be identified as foreigners in Bharat as they were compelled to adopt their citizenship of Pakistan and Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) without their consent.
Those residents were not responsible for the division of Bharat in 1947. Moreover, the PPFA statement reiterated that one must not forget the declaration of Bharat’s first Premier Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru assuring these families settling down in both parts of Pakistan that they can live happily there, but they may opt to migrate to Bharat anytime if the situation arises.