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Is Assam going the Kashmir way?

Is Assam going the Kashmir way?

Publication: NewsonNortheast.blogspot.com
Date: August 4, 2008
URL: http://newsonnortheast.blogspot.com/2008/08/is-assam-going-kashmir-way.html

Issue of illegal immigration is nothing new for the Indian government. With increase in population and lack of job opportunities, this matter has now reached its zenith point. Besides immigration harbours causes for more terrorist activities.

The Large-scale influx of Bangladeshis into Assam has been continuing from the pre-independence times. This unprecedented migration gave rise to a historic movement, the Assam Agitation (sometimes referred to as the Assam Movement) between 1979 and 1985 to force the government to identify and expel the illegal migrants. The problem has now reached epidemic proportions with the rise of Islamic fundamentalist groups in many parts of Assam, especially those parts dominated by the migrants. It has led to a demographic upheaval with 11 out of 27 districts in Assam becoming Muslim majority districts in contrast to only one Muslim majority district, at the time of India's independence. What is more worrying is that this sudden increase in population is not seen among the Assamese Muslims, who for centuries have lived together in harmony with their Assamese Hindu counterparts.

The large-scale immigration has led to an acute unemployment problem with almost 20 lakh unemployed youths in Assam, many of whom have taken to guns. Besides, it has had a disastrous effect on the environment with the denudation of forests and killing of endangered wildlife. The state and the central government have been largely ignoring this problem, out of concern for their 'vote-banks'.

Very few of the illegal migrants are caught and even fewer are deported due to various loopholes in the law. Migrants, after entering India through Assam have moved to various Northeastern states and other parts of the country, proving to be a security nightmare. Illegal migrants now have a decisive say in almost 50 of the state's 126 assembly constituencies. The indigenous people of the state are in serious danger of becoming a minority in their own land. The former governor of Assam, Lieutenant-General (retired) SK Sinha, had warned in a report that if the demographic invasion of Assam was not tackled, the survival of the Assamese people will be at stake and their employment opportunities will be undermined.

Several Islamic fundamentalist outfits operate in Assam. The presence of lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in Assam has provided fertile recruiting and breeding ground for these terror outfits. The growth of radical Islam in neighbouring Bangladesh, has also helped these terror outfits operating in Assam. The Supreme Court had repealed the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act. However, the amended Foreigners (Tribunals for Assam) Order 2006 contains the very provisions of the IM (DT) Act, which make the detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshis from Assam so difficult.

Unlike many of the Northeastern states, Assam does not have the inner-line permit system, which makes it easy for anyone to settle down in Assam. The border fencing along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Assam is proceeding at a very tardy pace. It does not need a soothsayer to predict what lies in store for Assam and the entire North East if the 'jehadists' were to succeed. The central and states governments and the ordinary citizens have to work in unison to tackle this threat. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine.

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