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Assam violence brings illegal migration back in focus

August 09, 2012 12:43 IST

The violence in lower Assam has once again brought to the fore the problem of illegal migration and its impact on the socio-economic situation in the state, which had witnessed prolonged unrest on the explosive issue back in the 80s.

Seventy-seven people have lost their lives in the sporadic clashes between Bodos and Muslims in BTAD and Dhubri districts in the last fortnight as Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi described the situation as akin to a volcano.

Several Bodo organisations as well as some political parties maintain that the violence was the result of unabated influx of immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Muslims along with some section of political parties, however, counter it by claiming that the affected people were not immigrants, but only indigenous members of the community.

"The continuing influx has created pressure on land and this has not only threatened the identity of the indigenous Bodos, but has created lingering tension between them and the immigrants, culminating in the recent violence," President of EX-Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT) Welfare Association Jonomohan Muchahary pointed out.

"The ongoing tension in BTAD is a fight between indigenous people and illegal immigrants. The Bodos are the original residents of the BTAD and their leadership has to be accepted by the others living in the area," Chairperson of Bodo Justice Women's Forum (BJWF) Anjali Daimary said.

Political parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party, too, blamed illegal migration for the recent clashes with its leader L K Advani urging the Centre to treat the situation as a foreigners' issue and not as a Bodo versus Muslim issue.

Several organisations like the Assam Public Works (APW) have claimed that out of the 28 districts in Assam, 11 districts have become minority-dominated and these will be substantiated once the 2011 census reports, religion wise, are published by the census authorities.

Advani further demanded that the National Register of Citizens be updated by deleting the names of non-citizens from the voters' list in Assam and uphold the non-violability of the tribal belts and blocks in Bodo areas.

The All India United Democratic Front, however, counters these charges by asserting that there are no immigrants, but only indigenous Muslims who have been affected by the violence.

It said that the creation of Bodoland Territorial Council was largely responsible for the rift between the Bodos and the non-Bodos.

"The creation of the BTC only to give powers to the Bodo minorities against the interest of the majority non-Bodos was faulty as the very basis of the Bodoland Autonomous Council Treaty was not made in the interest of the majority of the people," AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal said.

It is on record that only 29 per cent of the total population of the BTAD areas are Bodos, but the majority 71 per cent of the population comprises indigenous Muslims, Adivasis, Koch-Rajbongshis and others, he pointed out.

"The BTC has not been accepted happily by the people at large. We have observed continuous anti-people activities by the BTAD administration against the interest of the majorities including indulgence to militant outfits who have carried out attacks against Muslims and adivasis in different times," he said.

The Congress, too, claimed that the clashes were not with illegal immigrants, but that the indigenous people of both communities had been affected by the recent violence.

The BTC administration, led by its chief Hagrama Mohilary, had, however, expressed concern in the past too that lands earmarked as grazing grounds had been appropriated and forest areas encroached by illegal immigrants and non-indigenous communities, leading to serious differences with the indigenous population.

Election Commissioner H S Brahma, who hails from Assam, in a write-up on the recent flare-up, had mentioned that population in the BTAD areas had been going up by leaps and bounds and "it is not surprising, therefore, that there is a clash of interest in the sharing of natural resources such as forests, grazing grounds or even lands".

"With mounting population pressure and dwindling scarce resources, unemployment, and lack of opportunities to make a livelihood, one can easily understand the problem and expect that it will recur from time to time," he said,

AASU advisor Dr Samujjal Bhattacharya, too, asserted that unless the basic issue of illegal migration from neighbouring Bangladesh is resolved, the problem was bound to recur from time to time and from place to place.

Durba Ghosh in Guwahati
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