Dr Hiren Gohain, Assam’s leading public intellectual, has said that if the “citizenship issue isn’t settled, Assam can’t go forward”. Gohain, while speaking to Al Jazeera, said that the “British colonialists encouraged the influx of Bengali immigrants into Assam as a “safety valve” to the problems in Bengal province. It created panic among the Assamese and other indigenous people in the 1930s. For example, the proportion of Muslims in Assam’s Nagaon district was something at five per cent. Within 30 years, it increased to 25 per cent.”
Dr Gohain further said that since the Muslims married very early (16-17 years), and they had very poor knowledge of birth control and family planning, so the number of Muslims rose almost 100 per cent more than the Assamese Hindus over a period of 30 years.
He feels that right now in Assam, the danger is from Hindu rightist forces who want to encourage Bangladeshi Hindus to come to Assam, settle down here and in their own words “save Assam from the Muslim menace”.
“BJP’s idea of citizenship is like that of Israel. As in Israel, every Jew, wherever he is born, is considered entitled to citizenship. To call all Hindus entitled to citizenship of India en bloc, that, of course, is against the Constitution in spirit and letter. Every Indian should oppose it because this sort of opens the floodgates for a very bigoted kind of passion, which will play havoc to the social fabric of India and our civilisation,” affirmed the academician.
Talking about the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam, he told the media company, “If the NRC process is allowed to go in a normal way, without any hindrances, it may indeed resolve the imbroglio. Rightly or wrongly, the citizenship issue has become a crucial talking point and an issue in Assam politics.”
The intellectual also opined that Assam has been at the “receiving end of mistreatment from the Central Government for a very long time. All our natural resources are being plundered but there is very little scope for employment here. And the economy is totally underdeveloped. People from outside seem to be having the best time. The natives, with few exceptions, are sinking and these include a large number of tribal groups. So, in this situation, it is difficult to call for sanity and reason. It is easier to incite passions and violence.”