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'Don't want Assam to become another Kashmir'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
August 03, 2018 08:48 IST
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'There is a design of fundamentalists that the north east must become an Islamic country.'

IMAGE: People wait to check their names on the final draft of the National Register of Citizens at a NRC Seva Kendra in Assam's Nagaon. Photograph: PTI Photo

Prafulla Kumar Mahanta led the All Assam Students Union -- AASU -- and signed the Assam Accord with then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985.

It is this accord which Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Anilchandra Shah referred to in Parliament on Wednesday, August 1, when he said that the National Register of Citizens of India is the soul of the Assam Accord.

Mahanta -- who was later elected chief minister and now serves as a leader of the Asom Gana Parishad party, an ally of the BJP which rules Assam -- has called for a pan-India update of the 1951 National Register of Citizens and a repatriation deal between India and Bangladesh at the earliest.

"Why should Assam take more burden of refugees? All foreigners' names must be deleted from India. They must be treated as stateless people," Mahanta tells's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.


You signed the Assam Accord in 1985. After 33 years, the NRC has come into effect. Why is there such uproar over the issue?

The Congress played a double role in the Assam Accord.

When Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister, he signed the Assam Accord, but never implemented it.

The Congress had so many chances from 1985 to 1989.

During P V Narasimha Rao's and then during Dr Manmohan Singh's time (too).

But they never implemented it.

The foreigners's problem can only be dealt by the central government and not by the state government.

It was also decided in 1985 that the central government will take up this refugee problem with Bangladesh, but the Congress did not do that.

In 1986, we tried to implement the Assam Accord by registering the names of Indians residing in Assam, but some tribal organisations opposed it.

They said we are the original people of Assam and asked why the government wanted them to register their names.

After which the whole system was struck down as the central government did not come forward to help us at that time.

When Pradip Bhuyan and his wife went to the Supreme Court, there was a long hearing that went on, after which the NRC was implemented.

Do you feel the Congress cheated on the Assam Accord for three decades?

Not only did they (cheat), but also used the Bangladeshis as a vote bank.

Be it Hindu Bengali or Muslim Bengali.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has warned that the NRC in Assam could lead to civil war...

This is a wrong assessment.

She also said there was an attempt to drive Bengalis out of Assam.

This is not true.

Everybody who came from Bangladesh, they speak Bengali, so they are in the list.

But again her statement is not true.

There are Assamese too who are not included in the NRC list.

One of my party secretaries is not included in the NRC.

Five members of his family were also not included.

The late President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed's family's names were also not included.

What do you do with the 40 lakh people who have been left out of the NRC list?

These numbers will reduce. This is only a draft list.

Many indigenous people of Assam are also not included.

When you signed the Assam Accord in 1985, what was your thinking? Where would illegal immigrants be sent once they were detected?

It was clear that they need to be detected and deported to Bangladesh.

All the people who entered Assam after March 25, 1971 need to be deported to Bangladesh.

Why have you called for a pan India NRC?

All foreigners's names must be deleted from India.

They must be treated as stateless people.

If you check the Bangladesh population, it is decreasing.

Now compare that with the population of each state in India.

You will find that our states's population are increasing vis a vis Bangladesh.

In Assam, in particular, the population has increased very unnaturally in the last three decades due to infiltrators from Bangladesh.

People who support the refugees say India and Bangladesh share a border on meandering rivers and as the rivers shift course, there is no boundary between the two countries which can be demarcated. So how can you call people on India's border Bangladeshis?

You know at the time of Partition (the current) seven states were one state, and that one state was Assam.

In 1965, when there was war with Pakistan, lots of people from the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) came to India and settled in Assam.

We also paid refugee tax then.

In 1971, when Bangladesh was liberated, lots of people came to Assam and stayed in refugee camps and got assimilated here.

Now, why should Assam take more burden of refugees?

Assam is already divided into seven states like Tripura, Meghalaya and the others.

Even the numbers reduce from 40 lakh to say 20 lakh, what do you do with these 20 lakh people?

The Government of India must speak to Bangladesh.

There is a design of fundamentalists that the north east must become an Islamic country.

If you read the ISI (Pakistan's spy agency) report and other intelligence (from other) countries, you will find out this is happening.

Already, in 14 districts of Assam, Bangladeshi Muslims are now in a majority.

Therefore, their commitment is with Bangladesh and not with India.

We do not want Assam to become another Kashmir.

In Kashmir, being Indian, you cannot buy land.

You cannot do that in Assam.

Why do you think Assam can become Kashmir?

During Partition, Pandit (Jawaharlal) Nehru wanted to give Assam to Pakistan.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi objected to it and only after that did Assam come to India.

In 1962 also, when the Chinese occupied Bomdila, Nehru said that his heart goes out to the people of Assam.

He gave up Assam at that time.

Therefore, the people of Assam suffered from very beginning.

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar borders Nepal, there are many Bangladeshis staying (there) and till this date, their names are not included in the voters' list and they are not citizens of India.

In Assam, they have got their names included in the electoral list.

They have purchased land and started doing business like other citizens of India.

So you think if the NRC is not strictly implemented, Assam can become another Kashmir?

At least we will know that such and such people are Indian citizens.

You are saying there is a design to convert Assam into an Islamic state. But there are others who say these are hungry and poor people. Why target poor people?

(Laughs.) Everyone in India is hungry.

Who is not?

There is already lots of unemployment.

Bangladesh is also encouraging this influx of their citizens into Assam.

Army chief General Bipin Rawat said Badruddin Ajmal's All India United Democratic Front grew faster because of Bangladeshi Muslims.

That's right.

But not all Muslims. A section of Muslims are from Assam. They converted from the Hindu religion.

Are you also opposing Bangladeshi Hindus in Assam?

They live in Bangladesh, their language is Bengali.

I attended a conference in Dhaka last year and we met Hindus, Sikhs in Bangladesh and they do not want to come to India.

Are Hindus not being persecuted in Bangladesh?

Not now.

They were persecuted during (former Bangladesh president Hussain Muhammad) Ershad's time. But not now.

Even during (former Bangladesh prime minister) Khaleda Zia's time, Hindus were persecuted as she made Bangladesh an Islamic State.

Some people went to the supreme court against her decision and the court gave the ruling that Bangladesh is a secular country.

You see, this is the beauty of India. It accepts people of all faiths.

It gives freedom to everyone.

Do you think Arab countries would take Indian Muslims as their citizens?

No way.

They will be thrown out after their visas expire.

How will the NRC change India?

Lots of people came to India from neighbouring countries.

Rohingya Muslims from Burma (now Myanmar) crossed the border and entered Bangladesh.

They were given shelter in Bangladesh and after which they silently found their way to India.

Now if this happens in India, we will suffer more.

Now these Rohingya have reached Jammu and Kashmir too.

If you have some kind of NRC card, then it will be easy to detect who is an Indian and who is not.

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