Illegal Migration in Assam and the North East
Chinmoy Kumar Sarma Baruah
PART – I
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was admitted by the Central Government in Parliament in 2004 that there were 50 Lacs illegal Bangladeshis in Assam in 2001, whereas between 1985 and 2012 only 2442 have been supported according to official figures in the white paper of Assam Government of October, 2012. This publication is an endeavor to understand and gain insight into the continuous illegal migration from Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) into Assam and the North East. The continuous influx of illegal migrants has visibly affected the lives of the people. It has displaced indigenous communities from the lands that they have inhabited since centuries and today, poses a threat to the identity of such indigenous people. It has been admitted by the Central Government on affidavit before the Supreme Court that there are “interested religious and political elements encouraging immigration “(judgment of 12th July, 2005 in Sarbananda Sonowal versus Union of India anr.)” Prior to Independence, migration was encouraged by the All India Muslim League along with British Government to settle immigrant Muslims from the district of East Bengal. However, not a single district in Assam was Muslim majority at the time of Independence and 6 out of 23 districts had turned Muslim majority by 2001. From 1971 to 2001the percentage of Hindus in the population of Assam declined from 72.5% to 64.9% and correspondingly the percentage of Muslims increased from 24.6% to 30.9%. The share of Muslims in the year 2011 census has been estimated to have gone upto 32.40%. The share of Muslims has gone up in the border districts; over 10 percent in Dhubri, 12.2 in Goalpara, 10.8 in Barpeta, 11.6 in Darrang, over 7 percent in Morigaon and over 8 percent in Karimganj from 1971 till 2001. The rate of growth of the population in Assam between 2001 and 2011 is 16.93 percent lower than the national average of 17.64 percent for the same period 2001–2011. The rate of growth in the border districts have been far higher in Dhubri it is 24.40 percent, Goalpara 22.74 percent, Barpeta 21.40 percent, Hailakandi 21.44 percentage and Karimganj 20.74 percentage where migrants have settled. Correspondingly for other districts the rate of growth was significantly lower, in Sivasagar 9.37 percent, Jorhat 9.21 percent and Golaghat 11.88 percent where the indigenous communities inhabit.The implication of the growth rate in terms of demographic composition in the future has been analyzed in a paper by Nath and Nath, which predicts on a statistical analysis that by 2040 Hindus will be in a minority. Another study by Indrajit Barua estimates Hindus becoming a minority by 2047. In 1992the Chief Minister of Assam, Sri Hiteswar Saikia admitted that there were 33 Lacs illegal migrants and on 14th July, 2004 union Minister for Home in a statement in Parliament estimated the total number of illegal migrants in Assam to be 50 lacs in 2001. During the period prior to 1971, the Government undertook proactive measures to tackle immigrants. Between 1961 and 1966, 1.78 lacs infiltrates were deported 1961 and 1966, 1.78 lacs infiltrates were deported as revealed by the white paper of the State Government. The same white paper also reveals that between 1985 till 2012 only 2442 migrants were deported over a period of 27 years.
The biggest safeguard for the migrants was the IMDT Act of 1983, eventually set aside by the Supreme Court in July, 2005 which effectively stalled any deportation of foreigners. The Supreme Court in its Judgment of 12th July, 2005 while setting aside the IMDT Act has held that the IMDT Act was enacted for the benefit of illegal migrants and that the large scale migration is an aggression upon the State of Assam. Benefit for minorities from minority development programmes are concerned by foreigners who are officially treated as monorioities in Border Districts, depriving indigenous Muslims in upper Assam districts. The stand of the Assam Government is that there are no foreigners in Assam. The white paper is also silent on the aspect. The Chief Minister says that there are no Banladeshis in Assam. Two measures which can be adopted straightaway by any ordinary citizen is to lodge objection under Form–7 under the registration of Electoral Rule 1960 and the other is to file complaint under Section 9 of the Foreigners Act. Inspite of several specific enactments and statutes against such migrants, the porous borders facilitated lady migration along with “inserted religious and political elements are encouraging immigrations” as observed by the Supreme Court.
The national average growth between 1991 and 2001 and 2001–2011 was 21.54% and 16.93% but for the border districts and the districts where Muslims are in majority in Assam the percentage of growth rate was far higher not only than the state average but also than that of the national figures. The population density ranges sharply across the state average of 397 persons per square kilometer which is higher than the national average of 382 persons per square kilometer. Population density is highest in the bordering districts and the Muslims majority districts Dhubri which has the highest percentage of Muslims has a population density of 1171 followed by Nagaon at 711, Karimganj at 672, Barpeta at 632, Morigaon at 618 and Goalpara at 553. As a result of population movement from Bangladesh, the specters loom large of the indigenous people of Assam being reduced to a minority in their home state. Their cultural survival will be in jeopardy, their political control will be weakend and their employment opportunities will be undermined. “(Judgement of 12thJuly, 2005 in Sarbananda Sonowal vs union of india and anr. By the Supreme Court of India)”.
Foreigners Act enacted, significantly under Section 9 of the Act, the burden of providing whether a person is or is not a foreigner, will be upon such person. This is relevant as the illegal migrants (Determination by Tribunal) (IMDT) Act, 1983 applicable to illegal migrants only in Assa, put the burden of proof upon the complainnant. To put it simply, under the Foreigners Act, 1946 which is applicable to all of India including other North Eastern States, if a complainant is made against a person susupected to be foreigner it falls upon the foreigner to dispose the allegation. Under the IMDT Act the situation was reversed. It was for the complainant to prove that the person he alleges is a foreigner which is a near impossible task as all documents/information would be in the possession of the person alleged to be a foreigner. However, it was set–aside by the Supreme Court in July, 2005. Upon the death of the sitting M.P. Shri Hira Lal Patowari from Mangoldoi constituency and by elction being declared on 27th April, 1979 revision of electoral roll shows increase of 75,000 new voters. After 47,658 objections are filed, 36,786 lobjections are susutained, all mbeing foreigners from Bangladesh. This triggered the Assam movement against foreigners led by the AASU and AAGSP. Under Chapter X of the Assam Land revenue Regulation, no person other than a tribal can own or possess land in tribal areas where indigenous non–tribals are severall restricted from owing and possessing land in tribal areas the illegal migrants have no right to occupy and possess tribal land.
The Supreme Court in Sarbananda Sonowal vs Union of India and anr. (2005) 5 SCC 665 holds that “there can be no manner of doubt that the State of Assam is facing “external aggression and internal disturbance” on account of large scale ilegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals. It, therefore, become the duty of the Union of India to take all measures for protection of the State of Assam from such external aggression and internal disturbance as enjoined in Article 355 of the Constitution.
Courtesy : The Sentinel