It was on 12 July, 2005, the Supreme Court struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983 that was in vogue only in Assam among all the states in the country, in response to a petition filed by then an Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader Sarbananda Sonowal, the incumbent BJP chief minister in Assam.
As the Act was virtually working as a shield for suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh residing in Assam in the process of detection and deportation of these migrants, the petitioner demanded the scrapping of the IMDT Act and make use of only Foreigners’ Act 1946 for the purpose as is the case in rest of the country.
So scrapping of the IMDT Act led to kneejerk reactions from about a dozen minor political parties in Assam which had been crying foul of harassment of minorities in Assam in the process and detection and illegal migrants as per Assam Accord and had considered IMDT Act as the saviour of minorities against such harassment.
Assam-based perfume mogul, Badruddin Ajmal then came to the forefront of the state's politics for the first time projecting himself as the messiah of religious minorities (Muslims) who were apprehending harassment in the wake of the scrapping of the IMDT Act.
Resourceful Ajmal took lead in amalgamation of over 12 minority-dominated political groups to form Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) in October 2005 to champion the cause of minorities in Assam and fight for protection of their interest in the state where problem of unabated illegal migration from Bangladesh has been threatening the identity and political rights of indigenous communities.
The AUDF was later relaunched as All Indian United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in February 2009 in New Delhi to acquire an all-India standing of the party so that it is no longer considered only a party active only in Assam which it still is anyway.
There started the journey of Ajmal and company in the political arena of Assam. The party gradually gained base among the immigrant Muslim population in the state at the expense of Congress. Ajmal and his party launched a tirade against the Congress stating that the Congress despite being in the seat of power failed to prevent the scrapping of the IMDT Act thereby exposing the minorities (mainly immigrant Muslims) to harassment in the process of detection and deportation of illegal migrants in Assam. The AIUDF also made inroads into the Congress' traditional base among the immigrant Muslim community by launching a campaign that all along the Congress has been interested only in the votes of the community but not in their welfare and protection. The growing clout of the AIUDF made some of the Congress leaders in Assam jittery which wanted to have a tie-up with the Ajmal-led party in 2011 Assembly polls, but the then chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi whose famous quote: "who is Badruddin" still rings, put his foot down and ruled out any ties with AIUDF reasoning that it would lead to wiping out of Congress among immigrant Muslim population for good.
Gogoi’s stand was vindicated as Congress came back to power for the third time in a row in 2011 even though AIUDF emerged as the principal opposition party by winning 18 out of the total 126 Assembly seats in the state. The newly-formed AIUDF had managed to win only one seat in Assam in 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
Today, AIUDF has 13 MLAs in the current 14th Assam Assembly and three MPs from Assam in the current Lok Sabha. In the last Assembly election on 2016, AIUDF won lesser number of seats basically because of the division of minorities votes between the Congress and itself and resentment within the party over the selection of candidates in some of the constituencies.
Many AIUDF leaders over the years joined Congress on being peeved at the way of functioning of Ajmal whose words are final in the party.
In the wake of the army chief, General Bipin Rawat linking AIUDF’s rise in Assam’s political arena to the design of external forces inimical to India to keep the country's North East on the boil by facilitating and patronising illegal migration from Bangladesh, it has to be taken note of that because of the fast-growing clout of the AIUDF, the BJP has been able to make quick inroads among ethnic groups and majority Hindu population in the state. These groups consider BJP as a formidable force to counter AIUDF’s design to protect the interest of illegal Muslim migrants whose numbers have been increasing by leaps and bound posing threat to the identity of the indigenous population in at least six districts.
In the last Assembly election, the BJP understandably adopted a belligerent posture against the AIUDF projecting Ajmal and his party as the messiah of illegal Bangladeshi Muslim migrants. This happened at the same time when the Congress alleged ‘tacit understanding’ between the BJP and Ajmal to defeat Congress in the state. As the confusion led to a division of immigrant Muslims’ votes among the AIUDF and Congress, the BJP-AGP alliance had the last laugh by bagging the votes of majority ethnic population and Hindu community.
Realising that the ‘messiah of illegal migrants’ tag would not augur well for the future of the AIUDF in Assam especially after BJP coming to power, the party lead by Ajmal has taken a stand in favour of the on-going process of updating of National Register of Citizens (NRC). The AIUDF has maintained that once the NRC is updated with 25 March, 1971 as the cutoff date, it will be clear as to who are illegal migrants from Bangladesh and who are genuine Indian citizens. This will lead to the eradication of the apprehension prevailing in the minds of the bona fide Indian minority population in the state who are often branded as 'Bangladeshis'.
Going a step further the AIUDF accuses the ruling BJP in Assam of trying to delay the process of updating the NRC to fulfill its intention to grant citizenship to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh residing in the state. It may be noted that as per Assam Accord illegal migrants coming to Assam after March 25, 1971 must be detected and deported irrespective of their religion.
Updated Date: Feb 24, 2018 16:50 PM