On the campaign trail with Independent candidate Upamanyu Hazarika
Editor of G Plus, Swapnil Bharali, caught up with Independent candidate for Gauhati Lok Sabha seat, Upamanyu Hazarika. He spoke about the illegal migrant issue and his reasons behind contesting the elections.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Why should people vote for you over the other candidates from the Congress and the BJP?
It is not a question of the candidates; it is a question of our interests. We need to see who is standing with the indigenous today. We are (the indigenous) going to turn into a minority in the next 20 years. That everybody agrees, but nobody is doing anything about it. We have to ensure that the names of all the 60 lakh foreigners, who have gotten identified through the NRC, should be deleted. Instead of which, their endeavour is to include more Bangladeshis and more foreigners. They have accepted those 60 lakh foreigners and they want to include more and that is the strategy of both the BJP and Congress.
Secondly, we have seen that the main reason for migration and illegal infiltration is that they all come in quest of land, better economic opportunities. If we can deprive them of access to such resources as is prevalent in other northeastern states... We have less of infiltration in places like Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh since they have local laws which protect and reserve land for the local indigenous people. So if we have a legal regime like that it is the manner in which we should proceed.
In an earlier interview, Himanta Biswa Sarma told me that detection is possible but it is impossible to deport illegal migrants. What is your take on that? He also made a distinction between illegal migrants which are the Muslims and refugees who are the Hindu Bangladeshis.
He makes a distinction between foreigners on the basis of religion which the indigenous people of Assam don’t accept because we want no foreigners regardless of their religious affiliations. Deportation is one aspect which I am not focussed on, because deportation is a process which has been made virtually impossible because of the earlier Congress regime. The other way is to disincentivize them. If we can deprive them of jobs, land and economic comforts then they won’t have any reason to stay here.
So your prime reason to become an MP is the illegal migrants’ issue?
Absolutely, because this illegal migrants’ issue is the primary concern of the indigenous people of Assam. The six year agitation was on this, three governments have come on this. The 2014 and 2016 elections were fought on this issue. But when they find that they have failed so they are trying to divert the attention to developmental issues and other things.
The greatest tragedy for the Assamese people is that the Congress today which has pushed us into becoming a minority by virtue of huge infiltration by encouraging the Bangladeshi vote bank, they try and act as the guardians of indigenous people. This is the greatest farce.
How differently will you work as an MP over the incumbent?
The BJP MPs came on the indigenous people’s votes so they should have put forward the issues of the indigenous. But instead of that, they have supported the citizenship amendment bill over that. Our indigenous people need protection; there are 115 ethnic communities in Assam needing protection. This is the foremost agendum which I will pursue and nobody has voiced this. NRC was portrayed by all the national parties and an agenda was propagated that we should look into the human rights of those who have not been included in the draft list but nobody focussed on the human rights of the indigenous people who these foreigners have pushed into a minority. We are a very rich indigenous ethnic diversity which needs to be protected.
Talking about the Gauhati LS seat, how did the incumbent MP Bijoya Chakravarty fare according to you?
I think she has no record. The main purpose of being an MP is to voice and Gauhati is representative of the intellectual class and entire Assam in a manner of speaking. She should have put forth issues from Assam at large in the parliament which she failed to do.
Also, flood is a major issue. Why can’t the people develop a general consensus on what needs to be done and how it needs to be done and what is the costing?
The other part is the artificial water scarcity which is ridiculous since you have one of the largest rivers next to you and everybody virtually has to buy water in Guwahati because the water supply is scarce and insufficient. Secondly, our groundwater level is declining at such a sharp rate, and rainwater harvesting is a cheap option and can be done at an individual level.
Most importantly, Guwahati is today the economic hub of the northeast but where are the jobs? Even if there are jobs they are very poorly paid.
What does the job of an MP entail?
Firstly, to speak up in the parliament because the parliament is very serious and makes laws and we can make an effective voice for Assam on all our issues. That will be my primary concern.
Secondly, local issues exist in every constituency and there is a sufficient amount of money which comes in from the MPLADS funds which can be used for addressing concerns of the youth largely.
Today, politicians from across the spectrum and political parties rely on money and flattery by various means of pleasing the high command.
Tell me one project or requirement in each constituency which would mean its development in the next five years.
Boko, Palasbari, Chaygaon: There has to be training of the local youth, all these areas are resource wise very rich, the indigenous communities over there safeguard their interests very well.
Barkhetry: It is flood prone, there are many centrally-sponsored schemes which can be used for the benefit of the farmers of the area.
Hajo: Tourism potential can be developed here.
Gauhati East, Gauhati West: Rain water harvesting can be done here to raise the ground water level.
Dispur: Here tribal people were displaced due to large government projects. If these small communities are displaced, they will lose their ethnic identity.