CAA: View From Assam

CAA Assam

Since the mooting of CAA there has been stirrings of doubt and unrest all over the country on its necessity and intended benefits.While it happens to be a sacred responsibility of the Indian state to ensure complete security of minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh and unrestricted exercise of their rights as citizens thereof,it does not follow that there should be an open door policy to welcome an unlimited flood of immigrants from those countries.Any serious threat to the protection of their rights may be taken up both at a bilateral level and on international fora.

This is particularly relevant for regions in India where it might cause serious demographic distortion.

There was a violent upsurge of alarm and disquiet in the Northeast as soon as the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill was mooted in Parliament. In Nagaland there were mutterings of physical resistance to such immigration.Processions in Mizoram carried placards declaring “By by India,Welcome China!”.Tribal areas of Assam also expressed deep unease.Eventually the BJP  government at the centre thought it prudent to divide opinion in  th Northeast by excluding tribal states and tribal areas in Assam from its purview.

The Assamese left alone still carried on the fight against it with unrelenting determination. The night it was at last passed into law with a perfunctory discussion there was an eruption of public anger with huge crowds of unorganized crowds spilled over into the roads in protest. Inevitably it led to some violence in some places and to unrelated police firings that killed five young men.To date the police have not been able to establish that these youths belonging to different religions had engaged in any act of violence or vandalism.It is a pity that metropolitan press carried headlines next day emphasizing only  the violence in the protest,ignoring the legitimate anger and frustration at the arbitrary step of the centre.

The reason for nervousness among native communities of the Northeast was simple.Not only were they economically miles behind people of other states and more or less unaccustomed to the ways of modern capitalist business and commerce,but they had also been hapless victims of administrative experiments of colonial administration heedless of their own actual sentiments. Further,during the herculean endeavor to drag India out of the morass of underdevelopment,the claims of Assam and the Northeast were most unfairly overlooked.(For more details readers may dip into my STRUGGLING IN A TIME-WARP. Though it looks unfair to Nehru,he shares the onus.)

To pick Assam at this stage it was merged with Eastern Bengal without even some minimal consultation between 1905 and 1911,solely in order to break the back of the militant Swadeshi movement in Bengal and with an open declaration of intention to promote ‘Muslim interests’.Back in 1836 the East India Company administration had decided to promote Bengali as the language of courts, government and schools in utter scorn for native Assamese.And ages of struggle that helped shape modern Assamese nationality had followed.There was also a bitter rivalry between Bengali migrants who had arrived with British soldiers and who had initially manned the lower ranks of the Company’s administration  for scarce jobs and official services that survived well after independence.The bitter feud had also been accompanied by an unfortunate assertion of  cultural superiority by such migrants.(For the record it must be said that there had also been generous-hearted Bengalis who selflessly helped the Assamese throughout.)

People in the Northeast today usually refer to Tripura as the critical example of what might befall any people or state subject to such an influx of Bengali migrants from Bangladesh from its East Pakistan days.In the fifties Tripura still was a tribal majority state with native Tiprah community preponderant.Today it is an overwhelmingly Bengali state.When I visited Tripura during Left Front days I found that the backward state with meagre help from the Centre was inching its way forward under a Spartan Left Front government. But I was dismayed a bit by the thoroughly Bengali cultural dominance.The capital had statues in public places of Tagore, Subhash Bose,Kazi Nazrul and other Bengali icons and no public monuments with any indigenous association.

Assam being home to several lakhs of Bengalis from colonial times after West Bengal  it becomes the preferred destination for migrants from Bangladesh.Indeed religious persecution or not they make a beeline to Assam.According to a report in the local channel CROSSCURRENT at present there are 1.7 crore Hindus in Bangladesh.In a report based on official Bangladesh records of 2022 as many as 39 lakh Hindus had left Bangladesh following the announcement by BJP government that it was going to pass and implement CAA.

Already in 1998 the then Assam Governor Lt General S.K.Sinha had sounded an alarm about this mass exodus from Bangladesh.Though it was assumed that they were mostly Muslims,later the rigorous if brutal procedures of NRC proved that up to 2016 it had been Hindus who formed the majority among them.

Now the question arises as to how it affects the security of life and livelihood of native Assamese.First there are more than 30 lakh landless peasants in Assam.Once Bengalis vie with them for land their plight will not lessen.There are only a limited number of government jobs in a poor underdeveloped state.There will be increasing strain on government resources for dispensing welfare.Above  all political power is likely to slide away to the side of Bengalis in a society where faith In equality exists only in lip-service.Given the past history of the state one is also troubled by apprehensions of fresh bouts of ugly ethnic and communal violence in time to come.

These are uncomfortable but real concerns.The central government in its mania for homogenized unity shows scant concern for such local anxieties.

There is little scope in the rules now notified for even the state government to have a say in the process.Thus the centre under BJP control flouts the federal principle with contemptuous insouciance.

Now looking at the rules and the law itself it is obvious that by keeping apart the Muslims it violates the constitutional desideratum of equality.

Above all else the very rationale of the law…….suffering of religious minorities other than Muslims in certain countries…..gets short shrift in the rules.The empowered two- tier committees will be absorbed in looking at and approving at furious pace ANY kind of document of the country of origin to prove his or her origins there as well as of the date of his exit from there.The rules make it clear that even if dates had expired such document would be held valid! How on earth these committees will determine the date of  applicants’  arrival in India is anybody’s guess.In that case how can the committees and the government ascertain that they had actually fled to India as victims of persecution during periods of communal violence?

If that itself remains unclear why this unseemly and maniacal hurry to implement the act? So that those countries turn into wholly Muslim ones?One rubs one’s eyes at such wisdom dredged no doubt from unfathomable spiritual depths.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Subverting Constitution

While on Karan Thapar's show two distinguished advocates are seen arguing whether the CAA is constitutionally valid or not, it seems arguable enough that it is the actually the most…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News