|From other Publications ,Vol. 2 Issue 33-34||Jan. 22- Feb. 6, 2000|
Eminent historian Dr H. K. Borpujari must be congratulated on correctly analysing the perils faced by Assam and the North East from the unabated influx from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and presenting his views clearly and unambiguously before an elite gathering in New Delhi. One must also thank the Union Home Ministry for inviting the octogenarian scholar to apprise persons of importance and make them appreciate demographic threat to the region endangering the identity of the Assamese people. This danger is not unknown to the political leaders and the parties but they have deliberately shut their eyes to it for reasons not far to seek. Assam Governor Lt Gen (retired) S. K. Sinha who has studied the problem in depth in his report submitted to the President of India on November 8, 1998, had lucidly focussed the dangers that might arise out of such continuous influx, but it has not apparently received from the Centre the attention it deserved. The politicians of every hue are reluctant to grapple with the problem lest such attitude alienates the immigrants who constitute a formidable vote bank. The Congress and the Left parties have all along been pampering the immigrants and Dr Borpujari unhesitatingly blamed the former for depending always on the immigrants. The AGP is also doing the same thing much to the annoyance of the indigenous people.
He also expressed serious concern over the report of Rajeswar Rao, former Governor of West Bengal, that the continuous influx from across the border has given rise to a number of militant outfits like the Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam, the Muslim Liberation Front, etc. That Pakistan and its Inter Services Intelligence should take advantage of the situation to destabilize the regions polity is no surprise.That Dr Borpujari should also criticize the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act is but natural, because everybody knows that this discriminatory piece of legislation applicable only to
Assam has given almost unbriddled protection to the foreigners illegally living in Assam. For fear of alienating this section of the States population, political parties do not speak openly for repeal of the IM(DT) Act. It is relevant to recall in this context that H. D. Deve Gowda in course of his first visit to Assam as Prime Minister after studying the ground realities readily agreed to the All Assam Students Union and other organizations demand and assured that legislation would be brought forward in the next session of Parliament to repeal the Act. But due to opposition from the Congress and the Left parties on whom the United Front Government depended for its survival Deve Gowda had to eat his words. The fact that till January this year only 9599 illegal migrants were identified under the Act and only 1459 were deported shows how ineffective the law has been. Besides, what is the sense in making this obnoxious Act applicable only to Assam while in all other States foreign nationals illegally staying there are dealt with under the Foreigners Act? Fortunately for Assam the BJP as a party is in favour of repealing the Act, but judging from the stiff opposition the Government has been facing in respect of the Womens Reservation Bill and the Bill for creation of three new States, it is doubtful if the Government would be successful in its effort, particularly as the Congress is also vehemently opposed to its abrogation.
Studying the problem historically and in the present context, the eminent historian feels Governor Sinhas suggestion that the post-1971 migrants be made Stateless citizens without voting rights would not solve the problem. It would rather accelerate the process of illegal migration due to lure of jobs under contractors. Due to the pressure on land, floods and stagnant economy in overpopulated Bangladesh such migration is inevitable. So Dr Borpujaris suggestion to give topmost priority to the Psangpo-Brahmaputra-Barak Valley as a Central project for protection of both the valleys and Bangladesh from the floods should receive the Centres attention. Border fencing, increasing the strength of the BSF, registration of countryboats plying on border rivers and use of speedboats etc as preventive measures suggested by Dr Borpujari need also to be considered. But the problem is the infiltrators can easily sneak into West Bengal and catch the next available train to Assam where the IM(DT) Act will grant them citizenship. So there is need to create an authority, either State or Central, to check, and even reject, the doubtful certificates issued by neighbouring State Governments.Both in Governor Sinhas 1998 November report and Dr Borpujaris lecture there are valuable suggestions to counter the threat to Assam and the region posed by unabated influx from Bangladesh. It needs the political will of the Centre to face the problem squarely and go about resolving it determinedly.
The Assam Tribune
Good-bye to a century
Looking back from the threshold of a new year one would find that the last year of the century had been an eventful one for India. More things happened in our country than possibly any other. A general election - the third in three years - saw a BJP-led 24-party conglomeration headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee coming to power after the 18-party coalition, also headed by Vajpayee, was voted out by a solitary vote by the Congress-led Opposition. The election in September saw the 114-year-old Congress suffer the worst defeat since Independence. The party under Sonia Gandhi already split again is still in turmoil while regional parties like the Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham in Tamil Nadu, Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana, Biju Janata Dal in Orissa and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal have made their presence felt in a big way. The countrys economy too has undergone a sea change with private enterprise scoring over State enterprise. The open market policy is beginning to change the face of India. Food production has gone up and industrialisation has received a boost.
On the darker side India had suffered a serious infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir by militants aided and abetted by Pakistan. Thanks to world opinion the intrusion wasvacated and Indias stand vindicated. Orissa suffered an unprecedented tragedy in the shape of a super cyclone that took more than 15,000 lives and devastated vast areas. During the last week of the year an Indian Airlines plane on a flight from Kathmandu to Delhi was hijacked by terrorists. The trauma was continuing at the time of writing this as the hijackers have put forward very exacting demands difficult for the Indian authorities to meet. The incident brings home to the international community the supreme need of fighting terrorism more effectively all over the world. Though India had to undergo armed intrusion, natural calamity and terrorist activity, what Pakistan
has undergone is a severe blow to democracy itself when Gen Pervez Musharraf took over the reins of power by ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It is not known when military rule will end or what fate awaits Sharif. There have been troubles elsewhere also. Turkey experienced one of the worst earthquakes in history which wrought havoc besides taking more than 40,000 lives. Russia is not rid of the Chechnya problem while Indonesia too had its share of problems with revolt in East Timor. Sri Lankas woes are not over. Chandrika Kumaratunga not only escaped an attempt on her life but also won the election to become the President of the island republic. In Nepal the Communist-led Government has made way to a Nepali Congress one.
So far as the north-eastern region of the country is concerned, violence and militancy appear to be the dominating feature, mainly in Assam, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland. Politically, Meghalaya continues with the same Chief Minister but with a different (non-Congress) coalition. Mizoram has changed from Congress to regional party rule while stability in Manipur remains a question mark. But the biggest political upheaval took place in Arunachal Pradesh where Indias second longest serving Chief Minister Gegong Apang was ousted from power and Congress rule reinstalled with Mukut Mithi as Chief Minister. There has not been any political change in Nagaland and Tripura, but both the States are in the throes of militancy and violence. In Nagaland notwithstanding a tenuous ceasefire agreed to between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) the situation is still not peaceful. In Assam the Asom Gana Parishad is still in power but its popularity is definitely on the wane as signified by results of the two Lok Sabha elections of 1998 and this year in which the party came a cropper. But the Unified Commands operation seems to have subdued the insurgency somewhat and the ULFA and the Bodo militants appear less active. The outlawed outfits, however, have not shown any sign of giving in and the ULFA, in particular, has been spurning all offers of a dialogue. It is therefore anybodys guess as to when peace will return to the State.
As the end of the year is also in a sense end of a century as well as the end of a millennium (although there is a controversy as to whether the new millennium will begin with 2000 AD or 2001 AD) it is a vantage point to look back at the past hundred years. The century saw two World Wars, the rise of communism, division of the world into East and West and many an upheaval in almost all parts of the world. The last World War saw the end of colonialism and the British empire where the sun never set, has been reduced to the island they live in. It also saw the granting of freedom to many countries of Asia and Africa. Among the beneficiaries were India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and Myanmar (Burma). India had to pay a heavy price for independence as part of the territory had to be given up to form Pakistan. The partition was preceded and followed by communal disturbances on a wide scale. The trauma was however soon over though Pakistans greedy eyes on parts of India brought about three skirmishes which have strained the good neighbourly relationship to a considerable extent.
What marked the 20th century, however, is the scientific and technological advancement mankind has achieved. The century saw great feats of space travel and man landing on the moon. The world has become smaller as one can nowadays travel to distant countries in only a matter of hours. Advancements in medical science and the world of medicine have extended the average longevity of man. At the same time the weapons of destruction invented during the century hold the potential of destroying the world in a matter of minutes. The developments in electronics, computers, man-made satellites have so changed the world that it has become difficult for the average man to keep abreast of them. Things are already mind-boggling. Nobody can foresee what shape the world will take in the coming century, let alone the next millennium. But what mankind sorely needs at the moment is peace and in bidding adieu to the 20th century we can only hope and pray that peace will descend on earth and war and pestilence will have no place in the 21st century.The Assam Tribune
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