For years, the massive influx of illegal immigrants in Assam has been viewed as a regional problem. The unrelenting flow of these foreigners from Bangladesh began during the British rule and continues still today through the 262km border that Assam shares with Bangladesh, which is still not completely sealed. The lack of strong laws and political audacity by the previous governments demonstrate their inability or unwillingness to perceive the immigration issue in Assam as a national threat.
The large number of immigrants from the poverty and violence stricken Bangladesh has taken a huge toll on the social, economic and political landscape of Assam. In 2017, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, in the NDA government had made a statement that there were around 20 million illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators living in India. Such a large number of infiltrators will without doubt cause massive financial burden on the state and the country by extension. It is also alleged that many of the illegal migrants entering into our country are militants who carry out various terrorist activities in Assam and the entire North-east region. Dr. Namrata Goswami argued that the massive increase in the influx of illegal migrants into Assam from Bangladesh potentially allows for Pakistan and China, due to their involvement in militancy in Bangladesh, to influence events in the Northeast. Yet, years of agitation in the state had only been discounted as instancesof communal riots and ethnic violence while failing to deal with the pith of the issue- the threat to security and identity of the people. Perhaps for this reason the recently updated National Register of Citizens (NRC), under the strict supervision of the Supreme Court, which leaves out over 40 lakh people from its final draft has been deemed as a victory not just for the state but the entire nation.
This is a historic moment. The complete draft NRC is an outcome of 38 years of agitation including six years of the Assam Agitation that led to the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985”, says Samujjal Bhattacharya, Chief Adviser of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). The Agitation against the illegal migrants living in Assam which began in 1979 was led by the All Assam Students’ Union. In 1978, following the demise of Hiralal Patwari, member of Lok Sabha, a by-election was necessitated in the Mangaldoi constituency in Assam. It was noted however that there was an inexplicable rise in the number of voters during a bypoll compared to the previous election. Many reports suggested that this was owing to a large number of Bangladeshis nationals who had immigrated into the state illegally. Following these reports the All Assam Students Union (AASU) on June 8th 1979 conducted a 12 hour general strike which demanded the detention, disenfranchisement and deportation of these illegal immigrants.
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