Remembering the Historic Assam Agitation against infiltrators in 1980

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The historic Assam agitation against infiltration in 1980

MEMORANDUM TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA

Feb, 2, 1980

To

The Prime Minister of India, NEW DELHI. Hon’ble Prime Minister,

We, on behalf of ALL ASSAM STUDENTS’ UNION, hereby submit for your urgent attention the following Memorandum on the explosive issue of influx of foreign nationals into the North East Region, particularly Assam.

The problem which is agitating the minds of people of the entire North East Region is the problem of influx of foreigners from the neighbouring countries particularly Bangladesh and Nepal. The influx of foreign nationals into Assam is not a recent phenomenon. The problem exists from the days of independence. The problem has become so alarming that the very existence of the indigenous population is threatened. But we are determined to preserve our identity, our history, our culture and our heritage in our strive to maintain the ethnic beauty of the people of North East Region.

The huge magnitude of the problem and the serious threat to the territorial integrity of the nation that this influx of foreign nationals poses is clearly revealed by the following figures:

TABLE 1

Percentage of increase of population per decade:

ASSAM AND INDIA

Year

Population of Assam

% increase Assam

% increase India

1951

10,28,856

19.94

31.31

1961

108,37,329

34.98

21.64

1971

146,25,152

34.95

24.80

Assam tops the list of states which registered more than 50% increase during 1911-1961.


TABLE 2

State

Rate of Increase

Andhra

67.8

*Assam

174.0*

Bihar

64.1

Gujarat

110.5

Jammu & Kashmir

55.3

Kerala

136.5

Madhya Pradesh

66.5

Madras

61.2

Maharashtra

84.2

Mysore

74.5

Orissa

54.2

Punjab

70.0

Rajasthan

83.5

Uttar Pradesh

53.2

West Bengal

94.0

ASSAM’S POSITION REMAINED UNCHANGED TILL 1971, WE HAVE EVERY REASON TO APPREHEND THAT THE NEXT CENSUS WOULD DEFINITELY MAINTAIN THE SAME TREND IF NOT INCREASE IT.

As early as the 1930 important leaders like Nehru and Rajendra Prasad had expressed their concern at the continuing influx into Assam. They must have been alerted by the following table:

TABLE 3

TREND IN POPULATION : ASSAM AND INDIA

% decadal variation

 

Year

Assam

India

1911

16.99

5.73

1921

20.47

6.30

1931

19.92

11.00

But that was a different story. India was then not divided. Following partition of India, illegal immigration particularly from Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) and Nepal began on a scale larger than over before (Table-1).

The people of Assam have reasons, based on real experience to be apprehensive of being swamped by foreign nationals in the near future. Commenting on this large increase of 34.95% per decade compared with the national figure of 24.80% (one of the highest in the world), the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) said at duty during the Conference of the Electoral Officers held on 24-26 September, 1978:

“The influx has become a regular feature. I think that it may not be a wrong assessment to make on the basis of this increase of 34.95% between the two census, the increase that is likely to be recorded in 1991 census would be more than 100% over the 1961 census. In other words, a state would be reached when the state may have to reckon with the FOREIGN NATIONALS who may in all probability constitute a sizeable percentage, if not majority population in the state.”

INFERENCES FROM TABLE 1

(a) Only influx of foreign nationals can account for this extremely high percentage of increase of population in Assam.

(b) India is definitely exposed to dangerous moves by foreign nationals in North East Region.

 

CASE OF KARBI ANGLONG & NORTH CACHAR :

Percentage of Growth Rate

 

1941

1951

1961

1971

Karbi Anglong

-

30.06

79.21

68.28

North Cachar

-

6.16

36.95

40.0

As the above figures show the situation is more frightening in the districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar.

The unbelievable rise in population only glorifies the determination of the people of Karbi Anglong which made the election that was imposed impossible. Every one, except the foreign nationals and their sympathizers contributed to the success of the non-cooperation movement launched to prevent the election. Intensity of belongingness and unity shown by people of Karbi Anglong would remain a memorable event. The above figure naturally leads to the demand of detection and deportation of foreign nationals on a war footing.

A silent invasion by foreign nationals from the neighbouring countries particularly BANGLADESH and NEPAL is taking place. We cannot remain silent spectators when sovereignty of India is attacked. The problem has been deliberately neglected by the leaders leaving the destiny of Assam at the mercy of foreign nationals. The foreign nationals pose challenge to the integrity of India.

The first thing foreign nationals try is to enroll their names in the voters’ lists with the connivance of antisocial elements, politicians, and officials on this side of the border. The motive is crystal-clear. The infiltrators vote for the politicians who protect them in all respects. In fact politicians encourage infiltration to ensure their political survival. Therefore naturally the rapid growth in populations of Assam as a result of large scale influx from the neighbouring countries is bound to be reflected also in the increasing number of electors in Assam from 1957 to 1979. The following figures fully reveal it.

TABLE 4

Year

No. of electors

Increase

% of increase during the years

1957

44,93,359

     

196

49,42,816

4,49,457

10%

(in 5 years)

1966

55,85,056

6,42,240

12.99%

(in 4 years)

1970

57,01,805

1,16,749

2.09%

(In 4 years)

1971

62,96,198

5,95,393

10.42%

(in 1 years)

1977

72,29,543

9,33,345

14.82%

(in 6 years)

1978

79,74,476

7,44,933

13.30%

(in 1 year)

1979

85,37,497

5,63,021

6.06%

(in 1 year)

         

A comparison of percentage increase in electorate of different states also demonstrates the gravity of the problem confronted by the people of Assam. According to the draft electoral rolls prepared for the just concluded mid-term Parliamentary election, the increase in the electorate is worked out to be 12.63% on average. Against this all-India average, the increase in Assam Was 18.15%.

TABLE 5

States

Electorate in draft rolls in 1979

Electorate increase since 1977

% increase

Assam

8,537,497

1,311,881

18.15

Bihar

39,536,456

4,540,054

12.98

J & K

2,813,164

255,742

10.00

Madhya Pradesh

24,266,988

2,484,055

10.91

Manipur

8,696,86

81,463

10.34

Orissa and etc.

13,804,670

1,159,235

9.18

It is true that percentage increases of states like Punjab and Haryana are comparable to, though less than, the percentage increase of Assam.

It is not difficult to explain migration of India from other states into an industrially developed or developing state. Haryana alone has 208 large scale and 22,000 small scale industrial units.

On the other hand Assam is economically backward. Infrastructure for industrialization is virtually nonexistent. Resources have only been drained out. Economic stagnancy rules out too large scale migration from other states into Assam to account for the staggering growth rate of population. The dangerous trend is conveyed by the following Government compiled statistics also:

TABLE 6

Year

Duration (years)

Increase in electorate (Lakhs) approx

Rate ( per year) (Lakhs)

1957-1970

13

12

0.92

1971-1979

8

28

3.5

Inferences from Table 1, Table 4 and table 6

(1) Growth in the number of electorate in Assam has been very large.

(2) Since the prominent rise in population is due to large scale influx of foreign nationals and the number of electorate has also increased correspondingly, clearly the constitutional provisions have been blatantly violated in Assam by allowing the foreign nationals to exercise franchise.

Indian Constitution defines in unambiguous terms who can be a voter. A FOREIGN NATIONAL CANNOT CERTAINLY PARTICIPATE IN INDIAN ELECTIONS. But the sovereignty of the country has been openly insulted by the political parties. This is amply told by CEC.

Another disturbing factor is the demand made by the political parties for the inclusion in the electoral rolls of the names of such migrants who are not INDIAN CITIZENS, without even questioning and properly determining their citizenship status”.

The number of foreign nationals in Assam has already become explosive. The problem must be tackled with utmost speed. Foreign nationals whose presence is of grave concern to the people of Assam, are mainly from Bangladesh and Nepal. In addition to Bangladeshis, Nepalis who have entered Assam WITHOUT Restrict Area Permits either from Nepal or from Bhutan account for a sizeable number of foreigners. The increase of Nepali immigrants in the last two decades cannot be ignored. (Table -7)

TABLE 7

NEPALI IMMIGRATION

Year

Persons

Decade variation

General variation Assam

1951

101,335

-

-

1961

182,925

48.1%

34.98%

1971

352,673

48.2%

34.95%

Inference of Table 7:

The percentage of increase of the Nepali population is higher by about 13% than the percentage of increase in the general population during the period 1951-1971.

The conclusion from all these figures is obvious. Variations in population and electorate have been abnormal. Only influx of foreign nationals from neighbouring countries can account for such consequential changes.

The Central Government and the Election Commission have been in full knowledge of alarming situation arising out of unabated infiltration of foreigners into the North Eastern Region, particularly into Assam. In the year 1950 the Immigrant (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 was passed by the Parliament. In the statements of objects and Reasons of the said Act it was mentioned that:

During the last few months a serious situation had arisen from the immigration of a very large number of East Bengal residents into Assam. Such large migration is disturbing the economy of the province besides giving rise to a serious law and order problem”.

Therefore the problem existed, and was officially recognized to have existed, as early as the birth of Indian Republic. But unfortunately no positive steps were taken either by the Union Government to prevent infiltration of foreigners into the North Eastern territories of India or by the Election Commission to prevent inclusion of the names of these infiltrators into the Electoral rolls. The directive sent by the Union Government on 2.8.75 to check the Electoral Rolls to the State Governments and the Union Territories of the North East Region was also ignored by the State Government. According to the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution the subject “Citizenship naturalization” aliens “and” admission into and emigration and expulsion from India – “Passports and visas”- are subjects related to the Central list vide entry 17 and 19 of the said list. Therefore, it is the constitutional duty of the Central Authority to stop influx of foreign nationals. But Central Government have so far completely failed to tackle the problem.

Similarly, preparation of electoral rolls is directly within the purview of Election Commission. We reiterate that, inclusion of a single name of a foreign national in the voters, list is unconstitutional.

Consequences of Unbridled Immigration

The harmful effects of continuous immigration are evident in every sphere of life. Tensions in the social, political, economic and cultural fields have already surfaced and both Central and State Governments must act before it is too late. Attempts to develop the region industrially cannot succeed unless the record population growth due to influx is fully halted. Immigrants have created pressure, unprecedented in the modern World history, on every resource of the region.

The immigrants have gathered enough strength to influence many major decisions of the State Government overlooking the security of the State and the country. An innocent looking newspaper report that appeared in Statesman on January 16, 1979 throws sufficient light on the threat to our sovereignty.

It reads

“An off-shoot of this population explosion has been a sudden change in the composition of the district’s (Goalpara) electorate. The immigrants are in absolute majority in seven of the nineteen Assembly Constituencies in the district. In five ore constituencies they are numerous enough to be crucial for an electoral victory. There is almost a similar transformation in the smaller border district of Cachar, which returns 15 legislatorsto the 126 members State Assembly”.

It is quite possible that majority of immigrants and the leaders behind them are determined to create instability in the region to serve the interest of the foreign powers. Nobody can deny such a possibility. We are apprehensive of the political realities since VOTE is central to our democratic structure.

Those who vote and those who are elected are deemed to be invested with power and responsibility to safeguard Assam’s political future within the framework of Indian Constitution.

The people of Assm have genuine reasons to believe that foreign nationals would injure REGIONAL and NATIONAL interest. Our neighbours in the Hill states share our fears.

Threat to Tribal Existence

The problem has badly hit the tribal populations. All the 33 blocks and belts reserved for the tribal people are on the verge of extinction. Pressure on economy has reduced sizes of the reserved tribal blocks. Forest resources are fast disappearing due to indiscriminate felling of trees and occupation of the area by the foreign nationals.

The very identity of tribal population is in danger of extinction. The recent history of Tripura provides a good example to substantiate our belief. People of Assam cannot afford to ignore the warning.

Why the Present Movement was started

As already stated, that the existing electoral rolls are Contaminated by the presence of foreign nationals mostly Bangladeshi, was openly admitted by Sri Shakdhar in 1971. The CEC further acknowledged pressure from different political groups to include foreigners in the electoral rolls of North Eastern States. To check the process effectively CEC suggested to the Home Ministry of Introduction of identity cards. The entire population of North Eastern States welcomed the suggestion and hoped for the best. But regrettably, we have noticed no positive response from the Central Government so far.

Then in March, 1979, a bye-election had to be held in the Mangaldoi constituency due to death of sitting member of a large number of foreigners’ names was discovered. Objections were raised against some 70000 names in the constituency. But of this, 45,000 were declared as foreigners by competent courts. It was then the dark force behind the whole conspiracy against Assam rose their ugly heads. The political parties who would have benefitted by these foreigner’s votes used all their influence and forced the authorities to stop deletion of foreigners names from the electoral rolls. Out thoughts were provoked. Then came mid-term Parliamentary election. The experience of burial of Indian democracy in Mangaldoi constituency was too fresh to be forgotten. What was true for Mangaldoi became true for whole of Assam. How could the people of Assam let their fate be determined by lakhs of foreigners in the electoral rolls? Everybody in Assam expected the CEC to delete the names of the foreigners from the voters list. Unfortunately, contrary to all his previous statements CEC directed the authorities to stop deletion foreigners’ names and said:

A person whose name has been included shall be presumed to be citizen of India….Scrutiny of electoral rolls can be taken up after the election is over…..”

The people of Assam could not the argument put forward by the CEC. Dignity of the Constitution must not be lowered. Foreign nationals cannot be allowed to participate in Indian politics at any cost. CEC believed that the anomalies in the existing list would be removed on the basis of the objection filed by the Indian against the non-Indians. That was a false belief. For example: in Assam the number of objections field against non-Indians was about 3.5 lakhs. But the actual number is bound to be much greater. Reason is simple. In Assam, there are many areas where detection of foreign nationals is possible only with the help of the Government machinery. But for reason best known to the CEC only, Section 22 of Peoples’ Representation Act was made inoperative in Assam.

This open disregard to he security of the state could no longer be tolerated and the ALL ASSAM STUDENTS’ UNION took the lead in launching a State-wide movement on a massive scale.

Different Phases of the Movement

When appeals and requests to the State Government, Central Government and the President of India failed to evoke any response, the people of Assam had to come out to the streets.

Thousands of meetings were organized throughout the State to educate the people. Rallies were held. Mass picketing and Mass Satyagraha received support of everybody with a sense of belongingness to the region. Non-cooperation was extremely successful. Will of the people made election in twelve constituencies impossible. Determination of the people prevailed over the unconstitutional directive of CEC. However, election machinery forced the election on the indigenous population in the two constituencies of Cachar. The representatives who are declared to be elected from Cachar district have natural obligation to protect the interest of foreigners. Foreign nationals have already out-numbered the Indians in Cachar district. The people of Assam registered due protest on January 21 by observing it as a BLACK Day.

The students of Assam have been agitating on the issue since 1974. The detection and deportation of foreign nationals were – our demands included in the 21 point Charter which was submitted to the State Government in 1974. Now we are determined to correct the mistakes of our previous generations.

Character of the Movement

We are committed to pursue the cause of the present movement with sense of deep conviction on the principle of non-violence, democracy and secularism. The people of Assam spontaneously responded to our call with a sense of discipline, solidarity with the movement is evident in every phase. Determination to maintain peace and harmony is written on the face of every body participating in the movement.

We condemn all Types of Violence and Stand by our Chosen Path

About the charter of the movement, said Editor, Illustrated Weekly of India in a Radio interview:

I am one of those who believe things can be done constitutionally. But if things have to be done, I would rather say that they were done as here (In Assam) now. I see no violence, no buses being burnt. What strikes me most about Assamese people is a certain element of softness, and certain element of gentleness………………………………….If Gandhiji could not keep his people under control, student leaders are trying to keep everybody under contral.”

Active Conspiracy

But conspiracy has been on. This only roves that foreign nationals are very active in the state politics. Political elements patronizing the foreign nationals are inflaming communal passions among he innocent people in the name of language and religion. Our firm answer has been a foreigner is a foreigner; a foreigner shall not be judged by the language be speaks or by the religion he follows.

Conspirators in collusions with a section of anti-Assam politicians and bureaucrats are active in their attempts to frustrate the movement by indulging in anti-social activities at Lumding, Pandu, Maligion and Digboi: these conspirators raised their ugly heads in Bhawanipur, Gauhati Medical College and Dham Dhama and stretched their design to Morigaon Soalkuchi and Bijni. The same happened in North Kamrup. Army took advantage of the situation, tortured innocent people and raped helpless women and girls. At Duliajan many peaceful picketers wer brutally killed by CRP. It is unparalleled in the history of India. Even Cachar was not excluded. But we are clear about our aims and objectives.

ANOTHER UNDESIRABLE FACTOR

There is another disturbing factor that has complicated the problem. Many infiltrators once deported by Assam Government have been detected again. But most surprisingly now they are armed with citizenship certificates issued by West Bengal and Tripura Governments. Assam Government, however, has no power to cancel these certificates inspite of the previous record that these people are foreign nationals. Only the Central Government can nullify such illegal certificates. Feeling helpless, the Assam Government was reported to have forwarded the cases to the Central Government. However, Central Government has not taken any immediate action against those anti-national officials. Though these factors have complicated the issue, the problem is not beyond permanent solution. Peoples, representatives also must play the constructive role expected of them. In Assam, it is surprising that no member of Legislative Assembly has demanded that the foreign nationals in his/her constituency should be detected and deported. What does it indicate? It is not very difficult to find the answer.

FINALLY

The district authorities, the State Government, the Election Commission, the Central Government – very component of administration knows the problem very well. But the immigration continues. For us, it has become a mystery.

Do we not have Constitution providing security to every part of the Country?

Why the North Eastern Region then is subjected to such extreme negligence?

Why the Defence Ministry if so indifferent to the security that is threatened by the foreign nationals?

The mystery is deepening as the days pass.

Are we to be written off from the map of India?

The problem has assumed alarming proportion in Assam and tomorrow it would engulf the whole Region.

OUR DEMANDS

  1. Foreign nationals must be detected and deported from our country.

  2. (a) Names of foreign nationals must be removed from the concerned electoral roll before holding any election is Assam

(b) Inclusion of foreign nationals’ names in the electoral rolls in future must be made impossible with the help of an adequate and strong election machinery.

  1. Border of India with the neighbouring countries must be fully protected to electively check infiltration.

  2. Indian voters residing in Assam should be issued identity cards with photograph affixed.

  3. Necessary constitutional safeguards should be provided to the people of North Eastern Region for the next 15/20 years by making necessary constitutional provisions for the protection of the identity of the indigenous people in this Region.

  4. The Government of Assam should be free to reject any certificate issued by the district authorities of West Bengal and Tripura.

  5. We demand that the authority to grant citizenship certificate delegated to the State Government should be withdrawn by Central Government immediately from all State Governments, so that those foreigners who are detected and deported from Assam do not come back armed with citizenship certificates issued by other States.

ADDITIONAL DEMAND

Fresh nominations must be invited when election for Karbi Anglong and North Cachar is announced after detection of foreigners and their deportation.

SOME OF OUR PROPOSALS

  1. The National Register of Citizens (NRC) of 1951 should be made up-to-date by taking into consideration the additions to the number of each family since the time of compilation of the Register.

  2. The comparison of the NRC with the successive electoral rolls since 1952 will also be helpful in making it up-to-date.

  3. A free zone devoid of trees and houses should be created all along the border and any one crossing it without valid travel documents from either side must be shot at. We attach great importance to this suggestion. We have reached a stage when treat to the State of Assam and to the country can no longer be ignored.

  4. Birth and Death Register at all Block, Village, Town etc. level should be strictly maintained in order to prevent future infiltration into voters’ list.

  5. The number of check posts should be increased so as to enable one check post to be visible form the other.

In this connection, we would like to add a few lines about the ROLE OF THE B.S.F. We have come to know of the proposal to employ more B.S.F. Personnel in the border areas to check infiltration. But, Madam, effectiveness of the B.S.F. has been very disappointing. The following figures are sufficient to drive home the points.

NUMBER OF INFILTRATORS INTERCEPTED BY THE

B.S.F. AND BORDER DIG (State Government)

Year

B.S.F.

Border D.I.G. (State Govt.)

1973

104

5171

1975

405

18068

1977

1 (one)

5074

 

We earnestly request you to look into the cause of the definite failure of the B.S.F. in the past. Central Home Ministry must remove suspicion from the minds of the people regarding the role of the B.S.F.

LASTLY

Madam, the problem demands immediate attention of the Central Government. Firm and strong decision and its implementation to detect and deport foreign nationals form Assam can only ease the minds of the people. We know of your association with Assam from your early days. We all look forward to a speedy and just solution. Loss of so many lives must not go in vain. We hope, you would feel the pangs of our bleeding hearts.

We once again request you to pay a visit to Assam and meet the people and different Organisations.

With regards,

Yours Sincerely,

Sd/- Prafulla Mahanta

Presidnet AASU

Sd/- Brigu Kr. Phukan

Secretary AASU

This part constitutes core of the memorandum. The full memorandum included three chapters entitled ‘Camera speaks about the movement’, ‘Our Appeals, Response and Comments’ and ‘Diary of the Movement’.

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