Saturday, December 25, 2010

Response to Reader: the Assam question

Mike had asked:

On this present post, could you clarify what is meant when 2018 is given as the time-line for a new separatist movement. What are the reasons, and clarification on the same will be appreciated.

Response: At the risk of being politically incorrect, let me try to answer this as brutally and as honestly as I can.

From the 2001 Census data, the Sachar Committee (Linky) reports that the Muslim population of the state of Assam is 30.9% (p. 193). Assam has 27 administrative districts. On p. 51 and p. 296, the Sachar Committee also reports that six of those districts have 50-75% of the population coming from one religion, Islam. These are Dhubri - 74.3%, Barpeta - 59.4%, Hailakandi - 57.6%, Goalpara - 53.7%, Karimganj - 52.3%, Nagaon - 51%. Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, this is by far the biggest fraction of administrative districts with >50% Muslim population in India. There are 10 such districts in all of India, 1 each from Kerala, Bihar and West Bengal, along with Lakshadweep. Four more districts in Assam have >25% but less than 50% population (Marigaon at 47.6%, Bongaigaon at 38.5%, Cachar at 36.1% and Darrang at 35.5%).

These numbers are only increasing, because of sustained illegal immigration from Bangladesh, both because of economic reasons as well as lebensraum issues. Bangladesh will continue to face serious ecological problems as global warming will continue to cause havoc on the riverine/delta terrain. Illegal immigration is not a problem faced by Assam alone; three of West Bengal's districts (Murshidabad, Malda and Uttar Dinajpur) that border Bangladesh have Muslim populations that have been skewing at a bizarre rate. (Even Delhi's population has been skewing at a bizarre rate that noone has tried to seriously understand why astronomical numbers have become the norm for Delhi's growth rate.) Even if one accounts for the geographical proximity and the Partition movement of populations, the increases cannot be explained coherently, but by using the magical wand of illegal immigration. We have already had some serious adverse possession issues between India and Bangladesh (in Muktapur, Pyrdiwah, among other places). There is massive collusion on the part of all the political parties in the state including Asom Gana Parishad and Indian National Congress for the sake of short-term electoral gains. The Assam Accord initially necessitated identifying those immigrants to Assam after 1947-48 as illegal and returning them to Bangladesh. Implementing these iron-clad conditions were extremely difficult, hence the date was switched to December 1971 for the sake of convenience and to seal the Assam Accord quickly. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process which is the key to implementing the Assam Accord has been bungling from one disaster to another, all at the behest of the various political parties and with the burden of proving that someone is an illegal immigrant falling at the foot of the accuser (and not the accused). While there may be serious social justice-related debating on whether the accuser should prove the crime or the accused should prove his non-culpability, the bottomline is that the already lethargic NRC update process has NOT taken off.

Further, Figure 3.3 on p. 63 of the Sachar Committee Report also shows that Assam is a state with a moderate TFR for the Muslim population (> 3.0 Total Fertility Rate, but <= 4.0). What this means is that the demography of Assam is changing, and is changing rapidly. The precarious nature of the border state means that many people openly as well as not-so-openly believe that the Indian experience of religious/communal riots and a call for Partition preceded by a call for Direct Action (a terminology that originated with the Communist movement and is in short a call for armed insurrection) could be replicated. Frantic calls for a United Banga-assam on the part of notable Bangladeshi Imams such as Maulana Bhasani, and founding fathers such as Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Hussein Shaheed Suhrawardy, etc., in the past (and the continued honoring of such people across the spectrum even today) only makes people across the border more nervous. We already see signs of an assertive Muslim community in Assam with the AIUDF under Maulana Badruddin Ajmal breaking ranks with both the INC as well as the AGP. While Muslim assertion per se is not a worry (and is actually welcome), what worries people are indicators/signs of a neo-Partition. Whether the signs that people see on the ground are actually warning bells or just the manifestation of ghost in the eyes of a seriously mauled set of peoples is something that time will tell. The 2018 figure is the predicted figure for when the demographic/religious divide will lead to calls for reappraisal of the Partition question.

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At July 10, 2015 at 3:16 AM , Blogger Tankeswar Lahon said...

At present Assam is faced with two problems:
(a) Muslim Immigration that is going to change political equation dramatically.
(b) Aftermath of giving Indian Citizenship to Hindu Immigrants from Bangladesh, Language Problem may give rise to another bitter relationship between Assamese & Bengalees.


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