April 04, 2020
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The Immigrants And The Islamists

A brief history of radicalisation in the north-eastern state

The Immigrants And The Islamists
The Immigrants And The Islamists

Where It Began

  • Sharp rise in voters on the electoral rolls observed between 1977 and 1978 during Mongoldoi LS byelection
  • AASU led the ‘Assam movement’ to stall the poll until ­“foreigners” removed from roll
  • Thousands of Muslims were ­massacred in Nellie (Nagaon ­district) in 1983
  • Accord signed in 1985 between the state, Centre and Assam movement leaders; March 25, 1971 made cut-off date for citizenship

Why The Urgency To Update NRC

  • Festered for four decades without closure
  • Pressure on land
  • Political mileage from the issue
  • Poor numbers of detection & deportation
  • Continued suspicion based on ­religio-linguistic identity

Origins Of Bengali Muslims In Assam

  • People moving due to pre-and post-Mughal conflict
  • Colonial settlement of tea-estate workers
  • East Bengal peasants settled to tackle food shortage
  • Economic migration from East Pakistan
  • Refugees fleeing state violence in East Pakistan till 1971

Ways Of Detecting Illegal Immigrants

  • Basic “probe” by border police
  • Doubtful or D-voter classification by election officials
  • Both types referred to “foreigner tribunals”for adjudication; scant deportations
  • NOW: NRC updation, monitored by Supreme Court

Citizen Records

  • 1948-51: National Register for Citizens (census)
  • 1951-66: Electoral rolls, land records
  • 1966-71: Electoral rolls (but 10 years disenfranchisement from date of detection)
  • 1971: March 25 is cut-off date for citizenship as per Assam Accord (1985)

How To Prove Your Citizenship

A. Legacy data documents

  • 1951 National Register of Citizens
  • Electoral rolls till 1971

B. Link documents* (Govt doc linking claimant to ancestor on legacy data)

  • standard ID proof
  • school certificate, birth certificate
  • land documents, education certificates
  • LIC policy, bank documents
  • gram panchayat certificate

*list not exhaustive

Hurdles In Establishing Links

  • illiteracy
  • environmental migration
  • lost/destroyed documents
  • slight discrepancies in legacy documents

Politics Of Numbers (Of Illegal Bangladeshis)

  • 1992 CM Hiteshwar Saikia: 3 million (U-turn after 2 days: “There are no illegal Bangladeshis in Assam.”
  • 1992 PM P.V. Narasimha Rao remarks on “influx of Bangladeshis” as “root of Assam’s instability“
  • 1997 CPI leader Indrajit Gupta: 10 million in Assam
  • 2003 Defence Minister George Fernandes: 20 million in India
  • 2004 MoS (Home) Sriprakash Jaiswal: 12 million (U-turn after controversy erupted)
  • 2005 Assam Governor Ajai Singh: 6,000 per day

Graphic by Saji C.S.

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