Instead of hammering down the Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat’s ‘political’ remarks relating to the impact on Assam of illegal immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh, his critics must focus on the substance. But they will not do that because it involves acknowledging the harsh truth.
There is nothing disputable in the General’s assertion that there has been large-scale illegal infiltration of Bangladeshis into Assam; that it has led to a drastic change in the demographic profile of the State; that Pakistan has had a vested interest in keeping the infiltration going, aided by China. It can be argued whether it was right for General Rawat to drag in a political party, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), into the narrative. But here too, the Army Chief had merely named the outfit to indicate how certain political organisations had been gainers from the influx and, therefore, had an interest in letting the illegality go on. Besides, there is empirical evidence to back his claim. The AIUDF has gained the most in areas of Assam which has been the most hit by the immigration. The party was formed in 2005 to champion the cause of Muslims in the State, but it soon became rather patronising towards the illegal immigrants.
The change in Assam’s demography is there for all to see who trouble to visit the State. Indeed, various agitations have happened over the decades against such distortions in demography and in favour of an end to such immigration. Assam had been rocked by agitations between 1979 and 1985 on this subject. No serious attempt had been made to address the problem, largely because political parties driven by vote-bank considerations found it convenient to turn a blind eye to the phenomenon. But General Rawat is not bound by political correctness, and his blunt observations need to be welcomed, much as they may have angered some of the mainstream politicians who are self-appointed guardians of the Muslim community. Let’s not forget that the Indian Army Chief did not make these statements at any Press meet. He was addressing a seminar on the North-East, and as an Army man, he did the right thing in flagging the security concerns arising out of the illegal immigration.
The BJP Government in the State has undertaken the task of updating the National Register of Citizens — it’s the first time since 1952 that the exercise is taking place. Hopefully, once the process is completed, the non-citizens will be identified and dealt with accordingly.