Tension is rising in Assam over the Hindu migrants issue and is likely to rise further. Joining hands of nearly 30 ‘jatiatabadi’ (nationalistic) groups is a strong signal for the troubles looming over Assam. Neighbouring states of Assam would not be spared too when Hindu migrants, especially who came in recent years, would start getting citizenship as per the government policy. The problem will aggravate as the government, at the same time, would not give the same treatment to Muslim Bangladeshi migrants, who are many more in numbers that that of Hindus. More, if there is any step to deport the Muslims while giving red carpet to Hindus, the situation will definitely go out of control.
There are several lakhs of Hindus settled in the North-east, mostly in Assam, in over a century. Many of them have come even after 1971, the year which according to the Assam Accord is the deadline for accepting any settler from Bangladeshi in the state. While the Muslims migrated to India due to economic reasons, most Hindus came either after facing religious persecution in Bangladesh or to be near their brethren, who had already settled in the region. Most of the migrants – both Hindus and Muslims – have assimilated with the local culture. But a huge section, especially those who came after Independence and Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, almost remained untouched by the local culture, which is why the concern over demographic change is gaining more takers.
If the country as well as Assam and the North-east have to bring out a solution to the influx issue, granting citizenship to the Bengali Hindus is an easier option for the government than to deport them. On the other hand it is easier for the pressure groups to oppose their citizenship than to convince their ‘own’ people that there is no other alternative. If their demand for deporting the tens of lakhs of Bangladeshi migrants – Hindus and Muslims – had to be met, there will be a mass migration which is not possible without large-scale violence. North-east cannot afford such a situation.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 30, 2016)