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Infiltration problem

Infiltration problem

Author: Biswajit Barooah
Publication: Brahmaputra Times
Date: June 15, 2009
URL: http://brahmaputratimes.com/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=119

Illegal Migrants In Assam--- Politicking Continues

It is mockery of our leadership that several parts of the Indo-Bangladesh border, both 170 k.m.land and 92 k.m. riverine kept open, the illegal Bangladeshi migrants move freely from one country to another and on the other hand various forums and tribunals, one after another are set up here in Assam to decide the fate of the illegal Bangladeshi migrants. At present the border is quite porous and one can easily move in and out without much difficulty. Should we believe that a court or tribunal set up here in Assam declares a person illegal Bangladeshi migrant directing the government agencies under it to deport him to another country will be accepted by the sovereign government in that country in absence of a bilateral agreement between the countries in political level. The international law in this regard does not provide for unilateral deportation in defiance of the views of the country to which the deportation is to take place. Lt. Gen. S.K. Singha rightly observed in his report to the President of India that with the stand taken by the Bangladesh Government, it will not be possible for India to deport millions of illegal migrants to that country. Our capacity to identify and deport over 10 million such people is questionable. So, deportation of these illegal migrants is not a practical proposition. It should have been possible to restrict the entry of illegal migrants had the border been sealed and protected in a fool proof manner and there be a bilateral political agreement between the countries to this effect. In my book ‘ETA DASAKAR ASOM’, I suggested to restrict the entry of illegal migrants in the border in such a fool proof manner, otherwise stoppage of this terrible invasion is not possible. The problem of illegal migration from one of the two dominions of the sub continent, presently known as Bangladesh is not a new one. In 1921, the first immigrant army corps of the invaders had conquered the princely state of Goalpara. In 1930-31, the second army command illegally consolidated their position in the district of Kamrup and almost completed their conquest of Nowgong. Sri J.C Bhuyan in ‘Illegal Migration from Bangladesh and Demographic change in the N.E Region’ wrote- “Kamrup district has also fallen to their attack and Darrang is being invaded. Sibsagar has so far escaped completely but few thousand of Mymensinghias in North Lakhimpur are an out post which may during the next decade proved to be a valuable basis for major operations.” In 1931 the Census Commissioner of Assam, officially sealed and signed himself as the Superintendent, Census Operations, Assam S.C. Mullar vividly described how the immigration to Assam took place at that time and how steadily it is going to change the demographic pattern of Assam. His report is now proved to be a valuable documentation wherein he remarked categorically that within 30 years Sibsagar will be the only district to the state in which an Assamese will find himself at home. The difference in growth rate between Assam and India during the pre independence period was quite significant. Assam’s population grew at the rate of 103.51% while the country’s growth rate was only 33.671% during 1901- 1941. Thus the difference of growth between Assam and India was due exclusively to migration. It is worthy to mention that the pre-independence Assam included the present north eastern region except Manipur and Tripura. However, a large part of Sylhet district of Assam was transferred to East Pakistan at the time of partition. During 1901- 1941, the population growth rate of Manipur was just over 80% but in Tripura the growth rate was the highest, 195.98 %. Most of the migrants to that state were of Hindu community. After independence the affect of migration to Assam was the highest. The rate of migration may be divided into two parts, pre 1971 and post 1971. Post 1971 period refers to the trend of migration after the creation of Bangladesh. Large scale immigration did take place between 1951 and 1971 in the entire region. During this period at least 37,57,000 illegal migrants had entered Assam from East Pakistan/ Bangladesh alone. These migrants were mostly Muslims. Lord Wavell opined- “ the chief political problem is the desire of the Muslim Ministers to increase the immigration into the uncultivated government land under the slogan of grow more food but what they were really after was more Muslims.” There is a notion in the mind of the leaders of the rest of this sub continent that Assam has plenty of cultivable waste land in comparison with the population of the state. Perhaps for this notion, Sk Mujibur Rahman declared in his victory speech - “Eastern Pakistan must have sufficient land for its huge population. Assam will give its full scope for expansion and because Assam has abundant land, forest and mineral resources, coal, petroleum etc. East Pakistan must include Assam to be financially and economically strong.” The 1961 census showed a 34.97% increase of Assam’s population against the national average of 21.64% in the decade 1951-1961. In 1965, the then Prime Minister of India made a statement on the floor of Lok Sabha to this effect on the basis of the reports of the Indian Intelligence Service. Late Bimala Prasad Chaliha, the then Chief Minister of Assam however, estimated the influx at 3,50,000 only. However, ten tribunals were set up during this period to hear the appeals of the confirmed infiltrators. Thereafter, in the year 1967, 1968 and 1969: 1,29,000 infiltrators were expelled/ deported from Assam. Thereupon, 33 Congress Legislators belonging to the Muslim community led by Nainul Haque Choudhury, Devakanta Barooah and Sarat Chandra Singha demonstrated against the Chief Minister and said that if all expulsions of the alleged Muslim infiltrators be not stopped forthwith the Muslim block of congress vote bank would be lost forever. (Illegal Migrants and Indian Muslims in Assam: M.H. Rahman). Sri Indrajit Gupta, the then Home Minister of India stated in Parliament on 6th May, 1997 that there were 10 million migrants residing in India. On 10th April, 1992, Hiteswar Saikia, the then Chief Minister of Assam stated that there were three million Bangladeshi illegal migrants in Assam but two days later he committed a volte face and declared that there were no illegal migrants in Assam. Noted Historian Dr. H.K. Barpujari described this volte-face of the Chief Minister in one line – “Saikia was indeed a victim of circumstances”. One can see for oneself what was true. The illegal migrant’s issue in Assam was raised on the eve of the independence of India and has been since then, made to dominate the politics of the state till today. The development signals that this is not a problem of Assam or North East alone but it is a national problem. The Delhi High Court in a recent case ( Rezia Begum vs Union of India and ors.) observed that influx of illegal migrants from other countries possess a threat to the integrity and security of India. Justice S.L. Bhayana in a judgment said – “The large scale influx of illegal migrants has led to large tracts of sensitive borders which has serious implication for internal security. The order of deportation is not a punishment but a method of ensuring the return to his own country of an alien who has not complied with conditions. Hence, Bangladeshi nationals who have migrated illegally have no right to remain in India and they are liable to be deported.” In another case (Kamaluddin vs State of Assam: Civil Rule 2501/1998) Justice J.N Sarmah of Gauhati High Court expressed his displeasure and annoyance with regard to the casual and cavalier manner in which Voters’ List is prepared/ made in Assam. On the basis of such an incorrect Voters’ list a person was allowed even to contest election. Court can pass order but its execution is in the hand of government machinery. The courts in India under the existing Law have been rendering yeoman service to the nation but dearth of strong political will keeps the problem alive. If proper steps are not taken in political level to detect, deport and bound Bangladesh to accept their citizens in India and arrest the flow of further immigration to Assam, in not so distant future, it will alter the demographic pattern of Assam.

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