Mamata Banerjee's stand on Bengali issue of Assam
On July 30, 2018 Registrar General of India opened the final list of citizenship in Assam National Register of Citizen (NRC) from Guwahati which was objected by the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee. Bengali inhabitant means the ethnic Bengalis live in Assam which comprised different religions; Muslims, Hindus, and others.
News and views reported in the electronic and print media created strong stir among Bengali people and politics in this region and expatriates abroad as well as foreign countries in this globalization age and nationalistic trends in UK and USA. Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party stood fast by Mamata Banerjee and other parties followed suit vindicate her position in India. At Kolkata people of all strata joined welfare procession opened by economist Amiya Bagchi expressed concern on August 24 with placard-poster rendered Rabindra-Nazrul songs called for unity in diversity, no division on the basis of religion and language in the name of NRC.
In the state of Assam 3crore 29 lakh inhabitants applied for registration, out of which 2crore 89 lakh have been included in the final list. Reports say 40 lakh 7 thousand 707 inhabitants of this state have not found place in the list, for which their Indian citizenship is at stake. They are now directly identified as 'illegal foreigners' in Assam, who are to be pushed to Bangladesh, claimed by some powerful quarters In Assam and central Delhi. Last 28 August Indian Supreme Court gave verdict that information of 10 per cent of those excluded is re-examined. It has been instructed to conduct this sample survey by an independent organization for the satisfaction of Court.
Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi has assured Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at last BIMSTEC summit that India will not do anything against the interests of Bangladesh on this and Rohingya issue. Such diplomatic assurances are not sufficient, as follow up action is yet to be seen and executed in the field. So far as Rohingya people sheltered in West Bengal is concerned they have since been repatriated to Myanmar by Indian Central Government as it is the central subject; on the strong stance taken by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. It is known Russia, China and India are on same platform, support Myanmar, for which international pressure is of no avail.
Opposition parties in democratic India have since alleged the NRC process adopted to drive out Muslims from Assam. Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee has very pertinently cautioned if names of 40 lakh are excluded, civil war might start countrywide and heavy bloodsheds would flow. It is estimated that out of 40 lakh 38 lakh are Bengalis; of which 25lakh Hindu and 13 lakh Muslim. And rest 2 lakh Hindi speaking, Nepali etc. She said BJP has prepared the list to satisfy its personal aggrandizement.
She addressed the issue of birth certificate and impact of British communal partition of India into India and Pakistan 1947 Independence that resulted in migration of Hindus and Muslims both ways in a press conference at state Government secretariat on August14, 2018. Before partition India-Pakistan-Bangladesh was united. After partition people coming from Pakistan went to Punjab, Rajasthan. People of Bangladesh erstwhile East Pakistan went to West Bengal, Tripura, Assam. But those living here for long time as Indian citizens are sometimes branded as refugees or intruders by misuse of power. They might be kept in detention camp any moment, she alleged.
Pakistan had two wings separated by thousand miles of Indian Territory. The eastern wing East Pakistan with 4200 km of porous borders emerged as sovereign Bangladesh in the spirit of Bengali nationalism thru bloody war in 1971. True, it was expected by septuagenarians there would be free flow of movement of people between Bangladesh with adjoining Indian states notwithstanding borders in brotherly spirit that prevailed before partition. But, sovereign interests of Delhi and Dhaka seem to stand on the way, led to barbed wire fencing on the borders!
The language and cultural movement led to people's war 1971 and spontaneous assistances given by inhabitants of West Bengal and Assam to camp dwellers show that bondage. The vision of Bangladesh national anthem Sonar Bangla by poet Rabindranath Tagore is yet to be realized by inhabitants of this region. As a result issues like Rohingya with Myanmar and Bengalis in Indian state of Assam which did not surface in erstwhile East Pakistan are now hot issues.
The president of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Amit Shah said in a meeting at Kolkata on August11, 2018 reported in media that NRC has been prepared to drive out Bangladeshi intruders, which was opposed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee when this matter was placed in Parliament. He alleged it a strategy to fetch vote bank by her. On the other hand, on behalf of Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha Member Derek Obrien said in press conference that it is not only issue of West Bengal; our aim is to protect all citizens of India namely Punjab, Rajasthan, Gorkha, Assam, Poor and Tribal. This is no cheap politics.
Amit Shah said clearly that NRC is prepared according to Assam Accord, which was signed by the then Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi in 1985. It was done by Congress.BJP will complete NRC work in legal way, every intruder will be deported. Now, Congress President Rahul Gandhi is in a swoop to clarify his position and whether Bangladesh was consulted before signing the Assam Accord. Oh, Bangladesh was then under autocratic Ershad regime, a protégé of Congress!
As such, Bangladesh government and politics in its deep sense of friendship with Delhi should take up the matter in right earnest not remain content with plea of 'internal affair of India'? Bangladesh print media have pointed out that the issue of Assam is essentially political, we cannot be free from anxiety, remain unconcerned when said it has been done in Assam by order of Supreme Court and there is no decision of Government. Dhaka civil society should also arrange procession like Kolkata. We are thankful for the bold stand of Mamata Banerjee and her deep regard for Bengalis of Assam.
The writer is an elderly economist, advocate and social activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org