Searching for Peace in Assam
The origin of the problem of illegal settlers in Assam owes to the
creation of Bangladesh but there was no mechanism put in place to
solve this problem. It would be naďve to expect Bangladesh to take
back the illegal settlers. Blaming them would also no
The Assam violence between Bodos and
Muslims, alleged by many to be Bangldeshi infiltrators, has a long
chain of repercussions. The number of dead is nearly eighty.
Killings are continuing and the people who have been displaced
have been over 4 lakhs. There is no exact statistics to tell us
how many of the displaced are Muslims and how many are Bodos,
still roughly some investigators have put the figure of Muslims
80% and Bodos 20%.
The few reports which have come out tell us
that the condition of the all refugee camps is abysmal, much worse
of those where Muslims are living. Meanwhile many a voices have
come up to express their own opinions.
The BJP leaders have
strongly asserted that the whole violence is due to the Bangla
Deshi infiltrators, whose number is estimated as per the flight of
one’s imagination ranging from 10 million to 20 million or even
more. It is alleged that they have encroached, taken over the land
of the local natives, which is causing the dissatisfaction and so
the hate for them. This hate in turn is at the root of violence.
This is one case where displacement overshadows the violence.
The Election Commissioner H.S. Brahma, a Bodo himself, went to the
extent of saying that these infiltrators have gone up in number
and so have become aggressive and attacked the local Bodos. The
other point of view is that despite the formation of Bodo
Territorial Council, the Bodos did not surrender their arms, which
was one of the conditions for accepting the demand of this
There are voices from BJP stable that this is an
issue of Nationalism, the one of Indians and the other of
Bangladeshis. Some of them have voiced that these Bangla Deshis
should be disenfranchised and not be permitted to vote. As such
already many of them are not allowed to vote by putting them in
the category of ‘D’ voters, i.e. doubtful voters.
As per the BJP and
company it is Congress, which has been encouraging the
Bangladeshis to infiltrate so that they can be used as the vote
bank by the Congress. Not to ignore that since major number of
those in relief camps is that of Muslims, some Bodo groups have
warned that the Muslims should not be permitted to return to their
National Minorities Commission in its report has pointed out that
there is no infiltration of Bangla Deshis as such and the issue is
that between the Bodo ethnic groups, on one side and the Muslims,
who have settled here from a long time, on the other.
come to the issue whether these are Bangladeshi infiltrators,
Bangldeshi migrants or the Muslims settlers from Bengal over a
period of time, lets register that the Assam episode had a very
painful after events. There were Hate emails, Hate web sites which
warned the North Eastern people that revenge of Assam will be
taken against them and this caused a mammoth exodus of North
eastern people from all over, more particularly from Bangalore.
The Web sites which did this dirty job, many of them have been
blocked, it is said are from Pakistan, some 20% of the blocked
sites are the one’s run by Hindutva groups also. Through leaflets
and other mechanisms VHP and other groups are propagating that
Hindus are being attacked by Muslims, the Bangla Deshi
Not to be left behind some orthodox, fanatic Muslim groups
organized a protest rally in Azad Maidan of Mumbai, in which a
pre-planned act by a section of Muslims attacked the OB vans of
media and the police officials. The restrained and effective
leadership of Arup Patnaik was not to the liking of the communal
elements and those politicking on the issue within the ruling
party and so Mr. Patnaik has been punished by being kicked up, As
such secular activists and large section of Muslims are in deep
appreciation of Mr. Patnaik’s handling of the episode.
Coming back to the propaganda of Bangla Deshi infiltrators, many a
researchers have proved on the basis of demographic data of last
century in particular that the Muslims in the region are settlers
from pre partition Bengal to begin with, later at the time of
partition in 1947 and lastly at the time of Bangla Desh war in
1971. Assam accord of 1985 recognizes all those living in this
area as the legal setters, most of the Muslim fall in that
category. Not to deny that that some small number of illegal
immigrants, the one’s forced to migrate for economic reasons is
The change in demographic profile of Assam has taken place over a
period of more than a century. It was mainly the British policy to
release the pressure from the then Bengal province that they
encouraged the Bengalis to settle in Assam. The last major
migration has taken place around 1971, the Bangla war. After that
the trickle has been there but the alleged infiltration is not
Assam accord does recognize that all those who have settled
before 1971 are legal Indian citizens, which most of the Muslims
in Assam are. This is shown by the pattern of decadal growth in
the region more particularly from 1950 onwards. The census figures
clearly point out that after 1971; there is no major increase in
the population of the area.
The decadal growth in India, Assam, Dhubri, Dhemaji, and Karbi Anglong from 1971 to 1991 had been
54.51, 54.26, 45.65, 107.50, and 74.72 respectively. While the
same in the decade of 1991-01 became 21.54, 18.92, 22.97, 19.45,
22.72 and in the decade of 01-11 it became 17.64, 16.93, 24.40,
20.30 and 18.69 respectively.
Shivam Viz in Myth of Bangla Deshi
and Violence in Assam (http://kafila.org/2012/08/16/the-myth-of-the-bangladeshi-and-violence-in-assam-nilim-dutta/)
shows that the migration has taken place over a period of time and
the increase of population stops after 1971.
If we just look at the decadal growth rates of population in two
other districts of Assam, Dhemaji and Karbi Anglong, we will see
that their growth rates in comparison have been more than twice
that of Assam and substantially higher than even the ‘Muslim’
majority ‘border’ district of Dhubri. Yet, the Muslim population
in Dhemaji and Karbi Anglong is minuscule. The Hindu population in
these two districts is 95.94% and 82.39% Hindu respectively.
Muslims constitute merely 1.84% and 2.22% respectively of their
total populations, in spite of having consistent high decadal
growth rates – Dhemaji touching 103.42% between 1961-71 and Karbi
Anglong having a similar high of 79.21% between 1951-61.
should be testimony enough to show that there could be reasons
apart from illegal immigration of Muslims behind a high decadal
growth rate of population. In Assam there is a decline in the
population in Kokrajhar, which is the seat of Bodo Territorial
Council. It hasthe lowest population growth of 5.19%, from the
earlier 14.49 per cent in 2001.
Understanding the truth and deeper analysis of the demographic
pattern of Assam is very essential to understand the nature of
present carnage, which is more of a sectarian nature, a group
trying to assert ethnic domination in the region. The underlying
causes, lack of development of the region, absence of jobs, is
creating more pressure on the land, and the ‘sons of the soil’
politics is being brought up in a very painful manner.
Not only do we need to assuage the
present violence, there is a need to bring in amity between
different communities with proper development of infrastructure,
which gives the opportunities to all the citizens of the area.