Assam's demographic mess engineered from outside and within: Bipin Rawat has just stated the obvious
General Bipin Rawat is right to say that it will be problematic to segregate illegal immigrants in Assam, especially since a corrupt machinery has been providing documentation to illegal migrants for decades now
At a seminar under the theme 'North East Region of India: Bridging Gaps and Securing Borders' at the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies in New Delhi this month, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat pointed out that a planned immigration is taking place from Bangladesh into the North East as part of Pakistan's proxy war against India with the aim of keeping the area disturbed. Rawat said, "I think the proxy game is very well played by our western neighbour (read Pakistan), supported by our northern border (China) to keep the area disturbed. We will continue to see some migration happening."
Referring to reports of an increasing Muslim population in several districts of Assam, the army chief observed that the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India Democratic Front (AIUDF) has grown faster than the BJP grew over the years. He said that the solution to the problem lies in ensuring the development of the region by taking a holistic approach, adding, "I do not think you can now change the population dynamics of the area. If it was five districts to eight to nine, inversion has taken place whichever be the government. (sic)"
Rawat said that efforts should be made to amalgamate the people living in the region through development, albeit those creating problems will need to be identified and segregated, which would be no easy task.
"The government is looking at the North East in the correct perspective, and if that happens, the time will not be far that we will be able to amalgamate the region and ensure development. And with development comes control of the people who are living in this area," he added.
Rawat also noted that migration is also taking place from Bangladesh because of a shrinking land space in the country for various reasons including floods.
The Opposition and the AIDUF are up in arms against the army chief, even as he stated facts very relevant to the seminar — the situation in the North East and what is affecting its security and stability. The AIUDF was formed in 2005 but has three MPs in the Lok Sabha and 13 legislators in the Assam Assembly — facts known to all. It is also known that the influx of illegal Bangladeshis is a major issue in Assam and the state government is in the process of making a national register of citizens to identify those living illegally in the state — which Rawat said will be no easy task.
But let us first examine Rawat's statement about the shrinking land space in Bangladesh. A relatively small country, Bangladesh has an area of 1,47,570 square kilometres. Its population density is among the highest in the world. But if the army chief is speaking about shrinking land space in Bangladesh now, long before the formation of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (pro-India leader in East Pakistan) wrote in his book Eastern Pakistan: Its Population and Economics that "...because East Pakistan must have sufficient land for its expansion, it must include Assam to be financially and economically strong". Get the message?
If Bangladesh was looking at India's North East, and Assam in particular, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party under Khaleda Zia with its radical base, Islamist agenda and pro-Pakistan and pro-China leanings was running anti-India terrorist camps in Pakistan with Al-Qaeda and SSG instructors as per intelligence reports.
MK Dhar, former joint director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) wrote in his book Top Secret: India's Intelligence Unveiled, "Way back in 1992-93, the process of 'transplanting armed modules' (of Pakistan) in the heartland of India had started taking cognisable shape. Some of these cells were identified in Assam and West Bengal... SIMI had already started deputing 'volunteers' to Pakistan for training along with the mujahideen, Taliban, and Al-Qaeda cadres. They established firm linkages with Islamic Chhatra Shibir, Al-Qaeda affiliated HUJI, Al-Badr, Al-Jihad and other organisations in Bangladesh and were trained in facilities located inside Bangladesh under the very noses of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BDR)."
Whether it was the greed for votes or kowtowing to their masters in Beijing, the Communist regime in West Bengal wholeheartedly facilitated illegal immigration from Bangladesh. According to two IPS officers (one later rose to become DG NDRF) attending the National Defence College course in the year 2000, a price was fixed for each adult and child illegal immigrant. Having paid "entry fee", they were shown a camping site where they could stay for two days while they were provided papers with Indian identity. This was a continuous flow for years on end and the "illegality" would obviously be difficult to establish. But that was not all. The Congress, having provided the handle to permanently destabilise Jammu and Kashmir with Article 370, struck Assam quite differently.
In 1983, the Congress regime at the Centre passed the infamous Illegal Migrants [Determination by Tribunal] (IMDT) Act. Though the act was scrapped eventually in 2005 by the Supreme Court, by that time the original demography of Assam had been drastically altered.
Article 370 gave a special status to residents of Jammu and Kashmir and no outsider could settle in the state, albeit illegal immigrant Rohingyas were colonised in Jammu by UPA II under the pretext of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The IMDT Act was applicable 'only to Assam'; in all other states, detection of foreigners is done under the Foreigners Act. Under the IMDT Act, the onus of proving one’s nationality or otherwise lay on the complainant, not on the accused — as is the case under the Foreigners Act. The excuse that Congress used was that it was protecting minorities, but that might as well have been unashamedly stated to ‘protect illegal immigrants of Bangladesh’.
The IMDT Act was perhaps as anti-national if not more than Article 370. There was no Member of Parliament from Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley when the IMDT Act was passed. Should someone examine the profile of the persons involved in drafting the IMDT Act, and more significantly the highest offices they rose to thereafter, it would be an eye-opener.
If General Rawat says that illegal immigration will likely continue then current West Bengal regime is no different from the Communists. In 2015, an English TV channel showed live a breach in the wall along the India-Bangladesh border through which illegal immigration was happening in broad daylight. When the reporter asked the security person sitting close by why he was permitting it, his response was there were orders not to interfere. The clip was taken off air in less than 10 minutes. But that's not all. According to a 2016 report, up to 3,000 cows are smuggled daily from India to Bangladesh.
The China-Pakistan sub-conventional nexus remains strong in the North East. China’s state-owned media has the gumption to say that if India pressures Pakistan on Kashmir, China can destabilise India in the northeast. But India needs to ruthlessly go after the snakes within the country. If Rawat says it will be problematic to segregate illegal immigrants, haven’t you read news reports of Aadhaar cards found lying in trash cans and even Aadhaar cards held by Rohingyas? Politicians and political parties conniving with the enemy need to be stamped out.
The author is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indian Army
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