The contradictory statements coming various political leaders and parties on the complex National Register of Citizens (NRC) row in Assam is nothing new as time and again even in the past there have been conflicting and often even ambiguous assertion.
In 1990s while Congress Chief Minister Hiteshwar Saikia denied about ‘Bangladeshi presence’ in Assam, another Congress veteran S C Jamir (then Chief Minister of Nagaland) made a statement to journalists in 1994 at his Dimapur residence that “Bangladeshis are increasing like rabbits”.
Similarly even after about a decade, the Congress party and governments have often had differences with the Left regime in West Bengal.
On February 6, 2005, the Centre and the Assam government – both under Congress in their affidavits in Supreme Court favoured ‘retaining’ of the controversial Illegal Migrant (Determination by Tribunal) Act (IMDT) – which was said to be illegal migrants friendly.
Even as the UPA-I under Manmohan Singh was supported by the Left parties, the centre’s affidavit in 2005 had blamed Left Front government in West Bengal and said the Marxists’ regime had not taken “adequate steps” regarding stopping the inflow of migrants from Bangladesh despite the Union of India taking several measures to supplement its efforts.
Old records and various documents also reveal that though Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee is ‘now opposed’ to the NRC, she had not made any noise against the West Bengal government when 4,89,046 people were ‘deported’ by the erstwhile Leftist dispensation under the Foreigners’ Act from 1983 to 1998.
In fact, on August 4, 2005 speech, as Lok Sabha MP, Mamata Banerjee had said that the “infiltration in Bengal has become a disaster now”.
“You can see the Bangladeshi as well as the Indian names in the list. I have both the Bangladeshi and the Indian voters list. This is a very serious matter,” said Banerjee- in sharp contradiction to her stance in 2018 when she is saying NRC row could trigger ‘civil war’ in Assam.
Old records say the then Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in 2008 had contested the observation of Justice B K Sharma of the Gauhati High Court that if indiscriminate influx was not stalled, “Bangladeshis will become kingmakers”.
“Since my schooldays I have been hearing that Bangladeshis will become kingmakers in Assam. On what basis did the judge say Bangladeshis can become kingmakers in Assam,” Mr Gogoi had said.
Meanwhile, according to an official survey from between 1971 to 1991 – the Hindu population declined from 72 to 67% while Muslim population rose from 14% to 28%.
In 2001, six districts in Assam were Muslim dominated, but in 2011 that figure increased to nine. The Muslim majority districts include Barpeta, Dhubri, Karimganj, Goalpara, Darrang, Bongaigaon, Hailakandi, Nagaon and Morigaon.
In Assam, this demographic transition in some pockets – closer to the international border with Bangladesh and some even away from the border certainly links the episode to Bangladeshi influx.
In yet another striking incident in 2012, Assam witnessed a bloodbath owing to conflicts of interest between Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslims. The clashes and subsequent remarks from politicians aroused passions and even protest in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
(Dev has worked in Nagaland earlier and now posted in New Delhi. He is also author of the book ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’)