At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2018 the Assam BJP government brought a new gift for the people of Assam on the New Years Eve. With this, the Assam government made it clear that they are serious about their poll-promise- to crush the illegal immigrant infiltration in the state. The government came up with a “part” of “first draft” of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) which includes the names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore total applicants, recognizing them as legal citizens of India. The process is still ongoing and the CM Sarbananda Sonwal had asked the “genuine citizens” not to panic if their name does not find any place in the first draft. Regarding the people who did not find any place in the list, Registrar General of India Sailesh said– “This is a part draft. It contains 1.9 crore persons, who have been verified till now. The rest of the names are under various stages of verification. As soon as the verification is done, we will come out with another draft”. Saying that the process is a tedious one, the RGI said that there is a chance that some people from a single family may not even find a place in the first draft.
The NRC draft is much awaited demand since Assam faces the threat of illegal immigrants, which is also changing the demography of the state. Illegal Bangladeshi immigrants could easily get Aadhaar Card and other required documents in Assam during the past regime. Various reports revealed that illegal immigrants purchased Aadhaar card in just Rs. 500. In a report, the NCR officials said that in Dhubri, Assam at least 12,000 Bangladeshi migrants were living as Indian citizens with fake papers, had their name on the voters list and formed a sizeable votebank. The authorities are working to ensure only legal Indian citizens are enrolled in the NRC and not a single illegal immigrant is listed.
However, some politicians are not happy with the NCR draft because illegal immigrants are beneficial to them. Mamata Banerjee is one such politician whose minority-immigrant-love is famous.
1.) The “Bardhaman madrasa blast case” happened when illegal immigrants and Jamaat-ul-Mijahidin Bangladesh (JMB) militants were preparing bombs in a house in Bardhaman, West Bengal. The militants were plotting against Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina and the mastermind was a local madrasa owner. The owner of the house was a TMC leader Hasan Chowdhury who rented the house to Shovan Mandal (deceased), Shakil Ahmed (deceased) and Abdul Halim (injured).
2.) TMC minister Sidiqqulah Chowdhury warned investigating agencies for investigating any links between local madrasas and the Bardhaman blast. Sidiqqulah Chowdhury is also general secretary of Jamat-Uleima Hind and is critical of Sheikh Hasina who is India’s all time friend and is helping in curbing regional terrorism. Sidiqqulah is against Hasina after she took on the Razakars, who committed humanitarian crimes during the 1971 liberation war. Calling Razakars as “religious leaders”, he urged all parties to support the Jamatis in Bangladesh.
3.) Sidiqqulah Chowdhury is also a member of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which is sympathetic to Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and does not believe that immigrant infiltration is rampart.
4.) During the Jharkhand election in 2014, TMC was largely relying on the “Bangladeshi immigrant voters” who are situated in the 18 constituencies of the Santhal Parganas of Jharkhand.
Mamata Banerjee appeases the Bangladeshi immigrants for political agenda and she even called for restoration of the district magistrates’ former rights to grant citizenship to Bangladeshi immigrants living in India for more than five years. Hence, when NRC came out to filter out the illegal immigrants, it was natural for Mamata Banerjee to protest against NRC, which could identify and deport illegal immigrants. However, she cannot directly say that illegal immigrants must be given rights of legal citizens. Hence, she politicized the issue by calling it divisive agenda and accused the Central government and the Assam BJP government of hatching a conspiracy to expel out the “Bengalis” from Assam.
Mamata Banerjee compared NRC procedure with the ethnic cleansing of Bengalis from Assam during 1960s, which is known as the “Bongal Kheda” movement.
Mamata Banerjee said- “People are being removed from their native land with this conspiracy of NRC. If Bengalis are attacked or expelled from Assam, we would not keep quiet”. She claimed that Bengalis are facing racial threats in BJP-ruled states by citing examples of Shambhunath-Afrzaul murder case in Rajasthan, death of Bengali labourer Madhu Bhaskar in Gujarat (which police termed as accident) and NRC draft in Assam.
Bongal Kheda (which literally means- “throw out Bengalis”) was the ethnic cleansing of Bengalis, which started from Brahmaputra valley in Assam during the 1960s and then in 1970s in which 50,000 Bengalis were driven out of the state.
Why Mamata is bringing Bongal Kheda movement?
Apart from West Bengal, there is sizeable Bengali population in Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand, etc. TMC is trying to set foot in these states by wooing the Bengali population but recently in Aug 2017, six TMC MLAs joined BJP in Tripura. The lone TMC MLA in Manipur joined BJP in April 2017. The little significance Mamata Banerjee had in North-East is slipping away. So protesting NRC by bringing out “Bongal Kheda” comparison will favor her in three ways: –
1.) By protesting NRC under the pro-Bengali garb, she is actually shielding the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants to gain their loyalty.
2.) The Indian Bengali population of other states would feel insecure and threatened and they would turn to Mamata Banerjee and she would gain their loyalty as well.
3.) The Indian Bengalis would believe that BJP and people of BJP-ruled states are against common Bengali mass
Is NRC a tool of Bongal Kheda?
In 1979, All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) started an agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants from Assam. They wanted to deport the illegal immigrants, and not the Bengali population. This led to the signing of Assam Accord 1985, which was signed between Indian government and leaders of Assam Movement. The key points of Assam Accord were:-
1.) All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
2.) Those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported; the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
3.) A parallel package for the economic development of Assam, including a second oil refinery, a paper mill and an institute of technology, was also worked out.
4.) The central government also promised to provide ‘legislative and administrative safeguards to protect the cultural, social, and linguistic identity and heritage’ of the Assamese people.
In order to get included in the NRC list, a person must submit at least one of the fourteen documents:-
1.) Copy of NRC of 1951 showing one’s own name or that of an ancestor.
2.) Copy of electoral roll up to midnight of March 24, 1971.
3.) Land and tenancy record.
4.) Citizenship certificate.
5.) Permanent Residential Certificate.
6.) Refugee Registration Certificate.
8.) LIC document.
9.) Any licence or certificate issued by the government.
10.) Government service/employment certificate.
11.) Bank/post office accounts.
12.) Birth certificate
13.) Board/University educational certificate
14.) Court records/processes.
For a woman migrating after marriage, any document issued by the Circle Officer or Gram Panchayat secretary, and/or Ration Card is applicable. Any legal citizen of India can produce any of the fourteen documents and it is wrong to accuse such a procedure of being biased towards any community.
Mamata Banerjee’s inflammatory comparison of “Bongal Kheda” with NRC procedure has sparked fire among the common Assamese people and may even ignite hatred among the people who have set aside past differences and are now living in harmony. The speech is also against the common Assamese people whom she tainted in bad light. A Guwahati High Court advocate Tailendra Nath Das has filed an FIR against the CM of West Bengal at Latasil Police station under IPC 153A (promoting hatred among different community, groups, religion, etc). The common ethnic Bengalis of Assam have confidence that their rights will not be violated in the name of NRC. The common people of Assam must give Mamata Banerjee a strong message- that her hate-politics cannot divide them.