Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, April 20th, 2019

Fate of over 4 million Bengalis in Assam uncertain!


Fate of over 4 million Bengalis in Assam uncertain!

Recently published citizen list in the Indian state of Assam has already pushed the fate of over four million Bangla-speaking residents into total uncertainty. This bid of creating a fresh citizen list was aimed at identifying the ‘illegal immigrants’ and cancel their citizenship. Although the Indian government did not disclose who are those ‘illegal immigrants’ but the list was done with the motive of pushing-in this large number of Indian nationals into Bangladesh territory. During 2014 general election, Bharatiya Janata Part made pledge of driving-away the illegal Bangla speaking residents from Assam.
The case of illegal immigrants has been a long-time political issue in Assam, the north eastern state in India. According to critics and political analysts, the ruling parties in Assam had accorded citizenship to hundreds and thousands of Bangladeshis through forged documents with the goal of increasing their vote bank. Following such illegal trend, a six-year long student movement came to an end through the signing of the ‘Assam Pact’ in 1985. Main point in the ‘Assam Pact’ signed between the students organizations and the government, was to ascertain a deadline and whoever had entered that deadline would be treated as illegal immigrants. Accordingly, 24th March 1971 was marked as the deadline. Following the signing of the Assam Pact, section 6A was added in the Indian constitution of 1955 and was mentioned that anyone entering Assam after March 24, 1971 would be considered as illegal immigrants.
A write petition was moves with the Indian Supreme Court in 2012 challenging the 6A section. Verdict into this writ was pronounced in 2014 in a double-bench of the Supreme Court. In this verdict, the court had given a specific timeframe to the Indian government to complete the preparation of the citizen’s list under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
During the electoral campaign in 2014, Narendra Modi, the big boss of the Bharatiya Janata Party told a rally that he would drive away illegal Bangladeshis from Assam with ‘bag and baggage’. In the verdict, the Indian Supreme Court also termed the illegal immigrants in Assam as Bangladeshi nationals.
Following this verdict, Indian policymakers had taken several precautionary measures in stopping the illegal inflow of Bangladeshi nationals to India by sealing the bordering areas and increasing security measures. Indian media also are terming the illegal immigrants in Assam as Bangladeshis.
Indian policymakers say, the issue of illegal inflow of Bangladeshi nationals to Indian state of Assam had never been raised by India in any of the bilateral talks. The issue even did not come in the diplomatic interexchange between the two friendly nations. But, Bangladeshi policymakers on several occasions had clearly mentioned that the illegal immigrants in Assam or any part of India are not Bangladeshis. Bangladesh claims, after 1971, no one had gone to India from Bangladesh.
As because India did not raise the issue officially with Bangladesh, there had never been a word during any of the Bangladesh-India talks from the Bangladeshi side on this issue. But, experts say, the silence of the Bangladesh side on the matter and this crucial issue would ultimately be counterproductive. This would ultimately turn into another major problem for Bangladesh, similar to that of the current Rohingya refugee crisis.
In 2017, an union minister in Assam, Hemant Biswas Sharma had clearly told the media that the process of registering the citizen in Assam is aimed at identifying the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and sending them back to their ‘own country’. In June 2018, United Nations Human Rights Commission wrote a letter to the Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj asking the fate of those people who would be excluded from the list prepared by the Indian authorities.
According to political analyst, the case centering expulsion of over four million people from Assam and pushing them into Bangladesh territory would not only create a tremendous headache for the Bangladeshi government, it would also bitter the existing relations between Dhaka and New Delhi. They said, India definitely has the right to identify the illegal immigrants but they should not unilaterally push them into Bangladesh.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a multi award winning anti militancy journalist and editor of Blitz, the most influential newspaper published from Bangladesh

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