Sweeping the Deep-Rooted Infiltration Problem Under the Carpet Is Not Its Solution

Wednesday, 03 March 2021


Sweeping the Deep-Rooted Infiltration Problem Under the Carpet Is Not Its Solution

Prakreetish Sarma | January 04, 2021 19:31 hrs

The issue of encroachers invading Assam is not new. It is like a permanent dent or a scar in the history of Assam. This issue has however not been taken seriously by the neighbouring Bangladeshi government. This can be understood from the fact that the recent BGB (Bangladesh Guard Border)- BSF (Border Security Force) of India’s meet did not raise the alarming issue and instead made a mockery of the same by denying the issue on bogus grounds such as stating the high GDP of Bangladesh as compared to India. PM Sheikh Hasina had also denied infiltration of citizens of her country during the NRC exercise. 

However, the recent incident in Hojai district where an old (indigent) woman was constantly facing threats from a Bangladeshi infiltrator was alarming. The issue had come to the notice of BJP MLA Shiladitya Dev who rushed to the rescue of the woman and her family members who were being constantly harassed by the said infiltrator and had even managed to make the said infiltrator confess that he was an ‘illegal immigrant’ from Bangladesh.

This kind of an illegal infiltration threat is not new for Assam. Recently a farmer from Sipajhar who was receiving threats from such infiltrators to evict his land had also gone missing. The problem has prevailed even before Independence as visionaries such as Gopinath Bardoloi had termed the policy adopted by Saadulla’s successive governments as a “policy of invitation” of new immigrants. For this he blamed the Saadulla Ministry, as encouraging these immigrants. In the budget session of 1940 he stated, “Saadulla wants to satisfy indigenous people requiring protection and at the same time provide room for settling landless immigrant population. The difficulty is that there is no end to the number of landless immigrant population.”

Even members of the Muslim League such as Maulana Hamid Khan Bhasini attempted to garner support through public opinion and had tried to eliminate the line system (which was meant to uphold the interest of Indigenous population). Although some of the immigrants were evicted from places such as Mangoldoi, they were encouraged by stakeholders of the Muslim League to return. 

Although there are various safety valves in the form of Tribal Belt, Autonomous Councils etc, what we see is that these immigrants have literally wrecked havoc in the lives of the mostly economically-socially backward indigenous people. Even after independence as had been put forward by Indraneel Agasty when Akbar Hydari was elected as governor of the state of Assam wanted to settle the immigrants in the North Bank of Brahmaputra which was already inhabited by indigenous tribal population.

These were mostly appeasement policies which were championed by the Congress government for their ‘vote bank.’ Thirst of the immigrants was quenched by rehabilitating them in mostly schedule area lands. Hence the plain tribal people had faced such a step-sisterly treatment meted out to them as can be seen in places such as South of Gauhati city which originally belonged to tribals, but were taken away from them on the pretext of development and for this and that reason.

In spite of the NRC process what we see is that nothing much has changed as most of such immigrants are well stocked with the requisite documents such as voter ID, ration card, passport etc and hence the recommendation of the Clause 6 committee to alter the cut-off date of the Assam Accord, which was 1971 previously to 1951 should be implemented at the earliest. Although, it might not solve the entire issue in general but it will definitely help mitigate it. It is not possible for people such as BJP MLA Shiladitya Dev, AASU members or even the Bajrang Dal or RSS members etc to rush everywhere and provide safeguards to such people in trouble. Hence, it is important that the authorities take stock of the situation and form rescue teams in different districts. However, such a rescue team will face stiff resistance from various stakeholders such as pseudo intellectuals, political parties etc but it is the need of the hour. 

The BGB-BSF personnel should try to find out solutions to deal with this issue, rather than thinking about ways to protect their skin. The inhuman cow transfer (trade) over the barbed wire of Indo-Bangladesh border is a prima facie evidence and moreover the recent deportation of the 48 Bangladeshi nationals makes it crystal clear. The personnel should try to beef up the vigil. 

It is crystal clear that Bangladesh will not accept the immigrants, therefore both the governments (Indo-Bangla) should try to look at alternatives such as rehabilitating them in fallow lands near the border and making it suitable for living, because Bangladesh has done it for Rohingya refugees by settling them in Cox’s Bazar, they should be more than happy to rehabilitate their own citizens.       

(The author is currently practicing as an Advocate in Gauhati High Court. The views expressed in the article are his own.)

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