Guwahati: Speaking concerning the anti-foreigner agitation of the 1980s in Assam wouldn’t be full with no point out of Hiranya Kumar Bhattacharyya, an Indian Police Service officer of the 1958 batch.

It was Bhattacharyya, posted because the DIG of the Assam Border Police within the late 1970s, who got here up with hundreds of names within the state’s voters’ record, significantly within the Mangaldoi meeting constituency, figuring out them as “unlawful immigrants from Bangladesh”. This act is commonly seemed in Assam as to have given a fillip to the motion increase towards ‘foreigners’, lastly resulting in the signing of the Assam Accord between the All Assam College students Union (AASU) and the Indian authorities in 1985.

In 1981, over the course of the six-year-old college students’ agitation, he was taken into preventive detention below the Nationwide Safety Act (NSA) on the costs of fomenting a rise up in Assam police in help of the agitation earlier than lastly dropping his job.

Bhattacharyya contested his dismissal and gained the case in 1996 after an extended court docket battle. By then he had crossed the retirement age and couldn’t get his job again. The court docket reinstated his standing as a retired IPS officer with all advantages. One in every of his many books, Betrayal of North East: the Arrested Voice, printed in English in 2015, is an affidavit of that non-public wrestle.

Operation Lebensraum – Unlawful Migration From Bangladesh
Hiranya Bhattacharyya
Bloomsbury, 2018

Now at 84, Bhattacharyya – accorded with the celebrated Mates of Liberation Warfare honour in 2013 by Bangladesh authorities for coaching Mukti Bahani cadres – has come up one more ebook, Operation Lebensraum – Unlawful Migration From Bangladesh (Bloomsbury). It places the lens on the perennial concern of cross-border immigration in Assam from a “world” perspective.

In an interview with The Wire, he stated the deportation of these discovered to be non-citizens isn’t any extra an choice, including, “Even a dignitary a minimum of the Pope has requested for the sympathetic therapy of the migrants. The entire concern is a human concern, in any case.”

Amongst different issues, he additionally provides “organised labour power” as a attainable resolution to the difficulty as soon as the up to date Nationwide Register of Residents (NRC) throws up an official variety of “unlawful immigrants” within the state.

Excerpts from the interview:

There have been a variety of phrases written on the difficulty of undocumented immigration in Assam and the scholars’ agitation of the 1980s. You will have additionally written books on the topic. What’s new in your newest ebook?

The state of affairs is fully totally different right now. Not simply Assam, however India too has missed the bus.

Within the 1960s, 70s and the 80s, the complete focus was on the difficulty of infiltration from East Pakistan and Bangladesh into the Indian aspect. At the moment, the method of deportation was on, despite the truth that there was no formal settlement with East Pakistan or Bangladesh on deportation. These days, after we deported hundreds, there was no hue and cry. What was taking place was thought-about pure.

Since then, tonnes of waters have flown down the Brahmaputra. The principle distinction now could be that human migration, each authorized and unlawful, has develop into a worldwide phenomenon. At the moment, there’s hardly anyplace on the earth the place there isn’t a footprint of migrants, significantly Chinese language and Bangladeshi migrants. Some authorized, some unlawful. They’re all over the place. However the angle in the direction of immigrants is present process an unlimited change all around the world. Even a dignitary a minimum of the Pope has requested for the sympathetic therapy of migrants.

The entire concern is a human concern, in any case.

In America too, folks had been towards the infiltration of Mexicans. Even now they’re. However there too, public opinion, a minimum of in some part, has additionally been tilting in the direction of treating the entire matter from the political angle. Each in America and Europe, together with England, unlawful immigrants are being handled as refugees. They might be given no matter is feasible and obtainable to them. Simply earlier than laying down workplace, former US president Barack Obama exempted 50 lakh Mexican employees from the onus of being deported to their nation. That was one cause his celebration misplaced to the Conservatives. Many felt they must tackle the burden of so many individuals. However America can afford it. Obama or the US state exempted them from being deported, however they didn’t give them political rights.

These are the realities. I wish to level out that in our case too, in case you ignore the bottom realities, there could be no resolution. That is what’s new in my ebook.

Hiranya Kumar Bhattacharyya, Credit score: Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty/The Wire

So you might be mainly saying that deportation of these discovered to be foreigners by the continuing replace means of the Nationwide Register of Residents (NRC) in Assam, a preferred demand within the state, isn’t any extra an choice.

As I stated, we missed the bus. The time for deportation (of undocumented immigrants) is gone. However as per the phrases of the Assam Accord and the present legal guidelines, they need to be detected and their names struck off the state’s voters’ record. My level is, in case you can deport them after signing an settlement to that impact with Bangladesh, it’s the best state of affairs. However can you actually do this? One should recognize the bottom actuality.

Individuals who have stuffed the NRC kinds in Assam have been voting as residents.

I wish to level out that in most nations in Europe and America dealing with the difficulty of immigration, there have been techniques in place, in response to which the primary situation for voting rights is that he/she ought to be a citizen of that nation. In Assam, an absurd rule is being adopted. As a result of you have got been voting, you routinely develop into a citizen. That’s the tragedy.

This additionally brings us to query how our electoral rolls are ready. I will provide you with an instance. In 2008, the Gauhati excessive court docket, in a judgement, stated one Mohammed Kamaruddin, a Pakistani citizen, after efficiently getting into Assam by means of Bangladesh, contested the 1996 meeting elections from Jamunamukh. He was in possession of a Pakistani passport, on the energy of which he travelled to Dhaka earlier than sneaking into Assam. The HC stated in its judgement: “This could occur solely in Assam”.

Earlier, until concerning the 1980s, there was no organised manner of immigration from Bangladesh into Assam. It was an open border and so they had been coming fully for financial causes. The poor had been subjected to inhuman atrocities by landlords, in order that they had been crossing over in the hunt for land to until. Now it’s being finished in a deliberate and organised method by non secular fundamentalist forces. This angle has added an additional wing to the complete concern. The arrests in Assam in connection to the 2014 Burdwan blast intensifies such suspicion. 

This aside, one other level I wish to flag right here is the geo-physics of our area. Many islands within the South Pacific area have already gone below the waters. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself admitted within the United Nations that 30 million folks in her nation could be displaced if the coastal strains go below water.

No one has thought-about the compulsion of the Bangladeshis as a consequence of attainable local weather change. The place will they go? It is just to the simply accessible India, most simply accessible Tripura, West Bengal and Assam, can they arrive to. All these factors need to be factored in now to have a look at a attainable resolution to the festering downside.

The place, in response to you, lies the answer to this ‘festering downside’ in Assam?

Aside from what I’ve urged within the ebook, there ought to be a human method. I’d say, Assam, and for that matter, India, can’t stay islands. It isn’t attainable for the entire world to be doing one thing and we one thing else.

Many nations have agreed to confess a sure variety of migrants yearly, however on the subject of the query of unlawful migrants, there shouldn’t be any compromise. Else, you might be solely encouraging it.

Within the case of Assam, we’re on this state of affairs as a consequence of a fully weak-kneed coverage by the Centre and due to state governments trying the opposite manner. I’ve a sense that the Central governments have been ignoring the entire downside. As an example, 33 years have handed for the reason that adoption of the Assam Accord, however they haven’t carried out its fundamental clause – which is detection, deletion and deportation of the non-citizens. I feel that the Accord was chalked out to not remedy the issue however to defuse it. And that’s the place the scholar leaders of the agitation had been taken up the backyard path by crafty bureaucrats with the blessings of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Villagers stroll previous CRPF personnel patrolling a highway forward of the publication of the primary draft of the Nationwide Register of Residents in Juria village of Assam’s Nagaon district. Credit score: Reuters

One resolution you have got talked about in your ebook is the creation of a labour power made up of undocumented immigrants.

After the NRC replace is full, the detection course of could be kind of finished. So the query comes, what is going to you do with these folks? Bangladesh has been anyway denying the presence of any residents illegally residing in India.

Can they be organised right into a labour power? With the rising variety of middle-class households and enlargement of the economic base in India, the demand for low-skilled labour, home employees, and many others is there. Can Assam utiltise them to fill that want and convert what’s seen as a legal responsibility right into a income incomes supply? It ought to be famous right here that in response to a Bangladeshi authorities report in 1980, (printed in Assamese every day Amar Axom on October 20, 2016), remittances made by Bangladeshi labour represent a serious income for the nation. From $349 million in 1980, it jumped to $14.9 billion in 2014. Can Assam additionally take a look at such choices? 

In 2013, you had been conferred the Mates of Liberation Warfare award by Bangladesh authorities in your function within the 1971 struggle.

Sure. I skilled two batches of Mukti Bahini in Assam throughout the Liberation Warfare. It was a secret affair; there aren’t any official information of it with Indian authorities however those that skilled definitely saved a report of it. There have been 43 of us from India who had been awarded by prime minister Hasina in Dhaka aside from honouring world leaders like Fidel Castro of Cuba.

After I converse of Bangladeshi migrants in Assam, I’ve nothing private there. A few of my good associates are Bengali. However I’m solely stating details.   

I additionally wish to level out right here that after we went to New Delhi in 2010 for the peace talks on behalf of the United Liberation Entrance of Asom (ULFA) and met then prime minister Manmohan Singh after which Congress president Sonia Gandhi, our first declaration to them was: we aren’t secessionists; we now have not come to help ULFA’s secessionist agenda. We had been a part of the talks solely as a result of we wished a peaceable resolution.

What do you consider the Citizenship (Modification) Invoice which desires to grant Hindu Bangladeshis, amongst others, citizenship on the premise of faith? It has triggered a variety of protests in most elements of Assam.

As you have got seen, folks haven’t accepted it. Why? It’s as a result of New Delhi has by no means understood the mindset of the Assamese folks.

I will provide you with some easy examples right here. There may be an actor named Adil Hussain from Assam who has earned famed globally. Have we thought that he’s Muslim? No. We really feel proud that he’s an Assamese artiste. Likewise, there’s a younger lady, a music actuality present sensation from Assam, Nahid Afrin. We by no means thought she was Muslim. She is simply Assamese and folks from all communities of the state voted for her in that present. Then there are different artistes – Abdul Majid, Baharul Islam, Tabajjul Ali, Tariquudin Ahmed – they’re all Assamese for us, we don’t see them as Muslims. This angle in Assam to not determine somebody simply on the premise of faith, for that matter in the entire of the Northeast, is what Delhi (nationwide political events) fails to know.

To evoke faith is vote financial institution politics. The Congress reaped wealthy harvest in Assam by doing it. It mobilised the Muslim migrants. Now BJP is making an attempt to observe the identical instance by patronising the Hindu migrants. That is improper. Additionally, newest studies say that the Hindus in Bangladesh aren’t any extra dealing with non secular discrimination below Hasina regime. One other factor is, if one agrees to the Invoice it is going to be an open invitation to all Hindus from all around the world to cool down in any state, together with Assam. That additionally quantities to de-Hinduising these nations.

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on the Assam-Bangladesh border. Credit score: PTI

Despite the fact that you had been an vital a part of the scholars’ agitation, you by no means joined Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) when it was shaped, not like some others like Dinesh Goswami (former union minister within the V.P. Singh authorities).

I by no means joined the AGP. After the Accord was signed, a few of us had been completely ignored by the AGP leaders, significantly myself, Nibaran Bora (distinguished chief of the Assam Motion) and Kirti Nath Hazarika (journalist and author who handed away in 2002). I really feel, with us round, the self agenda of the brand new leaders would have been tough to materialise. That was the rationale I lastly parted methods with the AGP leaders.

You then joined the BJP and contested Lok Sabha elections from Guwahati on the celebration ticket twice.

I used to be victimised within the context of the Assam motion and unjustly handled by the then Congress authorities. It was as a result of I used to be the DIG in command of the border on the time, detecting unlawful immigrants crossing over to India. Sadly, a few of my Bengali colleagues within the police power joined fingers with the Muslim clique, led by former chief minister Anwara Taimur (December 1980-June 1981) as a result of a lot of the names of unlawful immigrants I used to be detecting was from her constituency – Mangaldoi. She felt I’m out to complete her politically which was improper. The federal government gave me an order to examine the names and I used to be solely doing my job.

I used to be devastated that I used to be dismissed from my job summarily. I put the case within the central administrative tribunal which gave the decision in my favour. Although the federal government challenged it, the clique working towards me saved shopping for time and didn’t submit a counter affidavit within the tribunal. In the meantime, the primary AGP authorities got here to energy in 1985. They did nothing to assist me. Not even of their second time period. I used to be very dissatisfied. It was throughout that point, round 1986, A.B. Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi met me to ask, why I didn’t be part of BJP. I knew Murli Manohar from my Allahabad College days; he was within the subsequent room within the hostel.

Aside from my case, my intention was additionally to go to parliament to have the ability to throw give attention to the what was taking place in Assam on the nationwide degree. I contested the 1991 Lok Sabha elections from the BJP and I misplaced. In 1996, I contested from Guwahati once more and misplaced by a number of thousand votes solely as a result of the AGP candidate towards me was backed by the ULFA. However the irony of it’s, I needed to be inducted by the ULFA for drafting its constitution of calls for to be submitted to the Centre as a part of its peace talks. Later, pro-talks ULFA chairman Arabindra Rajkhowa instructed me issues had been totally different then.

Why did you give up BJP?

In 2001, when the BJP wished to have an alliance with Prafulla Mahanta (AGP chief and former Assam chief minister) solely to seize energy, I vehemently opposed it. The BJP central management despatched Sunil Shastri thrice to my home. However I couldn’t go to that extent of compromise. They (the BJP) provided me some profitable posts too to remain on however I give up. Thereafter, I retired from lively political life.

Some say that you just had been near the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh throughout the Assam agitation. Did you ever be part of the RSS?

That is completely improper. I’ve nothing to do with the RSS. I used to be fully motivated by the Assamese jatiotabad (sub-nationalism). Additionally, within the Assam motion itself, there was no RSS or BJP at first, solely in the direction of the tip. Some Hindu Bengali RSS leaders did meet me after I was the DIG. They got here to request me to not contact Hindu Bangladeshis. However I turned them down saying I’ll observe regardless of the legislation says. That’s it.

Some sections within the RSS declare that it was as a consequence of their floor work that the preliminary agitation towards Bohiragoto or outsiders in Assam turned in the direction of the ‘foreigners’, which means Bangladeshis. Do you agree?

Absolute garbage. In 1974, the constitution of calls for put collectively by the agitation leaders did have one demand which stated there ought to be a cease to uncontrolled circulate of outsiders into Assam even from mainstream India. However after I detected 47,658 unlawful Bangladeshis in Mangaldoi itself, issues took a flip in the direction of Bangladeshis or foreigners. RSS can’t declare it as their work. They had been there solely to widen their base by making use of the agitation. As they are saying, failure is an orphan however success has many claimants.

Some high BJP leaders of the time had been lively throughout the Assam agitation. Who all would you title amongst those that incessantly visited the state?

There was A.B. Vajpayee, L.Ok. Advani, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manhohar Joshi. They solely attended public conferences in Guwahati and took benefit of the state of affairs to organise their celebration within the state. Why I say that is additionally as a result of after they got here to energy, they did nothing. My complete competition was, you may’t deport, I perceive. However why can’t you detect (infiltrators) and take preventive measures to cease unlawful migration?

I will provide you with an instance right here. Because the winter falls, down the Brahmaputra, past Dhubri, the river divides itself into ten -15 streams, forming riverine islands or what’s domestically referred to as char. Principally, infiltration from throughout the border takes place throughout that point. They usually conceal within the char areas. I instructed Advani (he was the Union Dwelling minister then), what prevents you from issuing an govt order that every one boats navigating the Brahmaputra have to be registered? That boats discovered with no registration quantity could be confiscated?

There may be additionally a rising demand for constitutional safeguards to the households of these whose names appeared within the 1951 Census. Do you wish to reply to it?

My reply or resolution to the Citizenship Invoice could be, previous to bringing it, the federal government ought to give constitutional safeguards to the indigenous folks of Assam and the complete Northeast. It ought to be on land rights apart from political, financial and administrative safeguards, and reservations in authorities jobs. The encroachments on authorities land ought to be cleared. If there would have been constitutional safeguards already, there would in all probability have been not such a hue and cry concerning the Invoice as we’re seeing now. The largest concern concerning the folks right here has been that they haven’t any management over their sources; that’s the fundamental concern (for the continual unrest).

Some want to say that the agitation towards the Citizenship Invoice may also assist AGP acquire misplaced floor. The approaching panchayat elections could possibly be an indicator, however being somebody who watches the shifts in Assam politics and the general public temper intently, do you agree?  

Nicely, the AGP was on a downhill path. Earlier than reaching a nadir, it labored out the alliance with the BJP in 2016 and managed to swim by means of the meeting elections and have become a part of the current authorities. Personally, I don’t suppose the AGP can take very agency stand on the Invoice because the leaders are extra after private positive aspects. The celebration was born in 1985. Within the final 33 years, it didn’t induct new cadre, create a second line of management solely as a result of those that are there wish to monopolise it.


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