Wounded Psyche
Representative image. Credit: voanews.com

The hallmark of the 6-year long Assam Movement against foreigners was the three Ds–detection, deletion and deportation. The foreigners were to be detected, their names to be deleted from the voters’ list and finally they were to be deported out of the country (Assam in the context of the movement).

Politically speaking, it is indeed extremely cruel that even though 35 years have gone by since the signing of the Assam Accord, the first phase dealing with detection of foreigners is assuming the shape of a political hoax, particularly after the publication of the final NRC.

Meanwhile, for a section of the people, the present time is seemingly turning into a frightening nightmare without apparently any light at the end of the tunnel.

On a closer look it seems that the political hoax may run much deeper. Although the Assam Movement against foreigners (read as Bangladeshis in Assam) was launched about four decades ago, till date no mention has officially been made by New Delhi before Dhaka about the presence of lakhs of Bangladeshi nationals in Assam and their deportation to that country.

Over the decades, the authorities of the two countries met at the highest level, even the at the Prime Minister’s level, umpteen number of times. While since the signing of the Assam Accord, New Delhi always tried to assure the people of Assam that it was fully committed to the process of deportation of Bangladeshi nationals, the ground reality that surfaces is that for nearly three-and-a-half decades the Centre has been involved in the vicious game of apparently taking the people of the State for a ride.

The situation remained exactly the same even after the Congress fell by the wayside and the BJP with its anti-Bangladeshi rhetoric and bravado stormed into the corridors of power at the Centre in 2014.

It is ordinary common sense that the process of deportation of foreigners in millions to the neighbouring country can be possible with the official participation and consensus of the authorities of the two countries.

That may be realised only after official talks and agreement between the governments of the two countries. Since the deportation issue has to begin with India, New Delhi must raise the issue before Dhaka.

This should have happened decades ago. Now that till date Delhi has not even once raised the deportation issue before Dhaka, the sincerity of the Centre on this count seemingly comes under the scanner. One certainly feels that New Delhi could be playing two different and opposite games – one of apparently duping Assam with assurance of deportation and the other of silence towards Dhaka.

Despite tall promises by the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the 2016 Assam Assembly polls that all foreigners (Bangladeshis) would be pushed out of the State, CAB made its entry in the political theatre in a totally different role.

Under the changed definition of foreigner (Bangladeshi) as projected by the CAB that has lapsed, Hindu Bangladeshis could not be treated as foreigners. As per initial information on the new CAB to be introduced in the Parliament shortly, this core issue is likely to remain the same.

Meanwhile, New Delhi’s clear indifference towards final detection and deportation of Bangladesh nationals from the State virtually nails home the point that the Centre, irrespective of the party(ies) in power, is not keen on solving the decade-old foreigners’ issue.

Rather, the saffron brigade seems to be hell-bent to make the Bangladeshi issue a non-ending and all-time issue. The CAB factor has seemingly turned the murky water a lot more turbulent as it almost clearly thunders a big ‘no’ to even a semblance of deportation of even a single Hindu Bangladeshi.

Hitherto, amendments or legislations were very rarely framed on communal lines. However, the BJP’s CAB episode is solely based on safeguarding the Hindu Bangladeshis with the object of granting Indian citizenship in due course.

Considering the strength of the BJP, its allies and supporting parties in the Parliament, it is almost a certainty that the CAB would very soon see the light of the day as an Act.

That being the scenario seemingly on the anvil, speaking bluntly in the communal language as initiated by the saffronists, the question arises as to what may be the Centre’s roadmap in respect of the Muslim  foreigners (Bangladeshis) in the State and elsewhere in the country.

Could it be so that the Centre is determined not to deport any Bangladeshi to their native country and accordingly stayed away from raising the issue of deportation with Dhaka? Even during the recent meetings with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister Narendra Modi maintained a stony silence on the issue of deportation. As per media reports Hasina was only apprised of the NRC update process in Assam and she made a fleeting reference on the same before the media.

Again, could it be so that the BJP top brass would like the Bangladeshi issue (only Muslims can be Bangladeshis at least till 2014 in the light of the lapsed CAB) to remain a perennial issue for mobilisation of votes on Hindu line in the years to come? Could it be that sans deportation, the presence of lakhs of Muslim Bangladeshis could always remain a political hotline and provide the ruling dispensation the needful dumping ground to unload all blames on the foreign nationals for all its misdeeds and failures to deliver?

With communal fuel being meticulously poured into the public psyche, a sizable section of the people (the number seemingly growing slowly but steadily) appears to be quite prepared to digest all communal hogwash even to the point of accepting that Muslim Bangladeshis are the root cause of the rampant corruption in the corridors of power, mounting unemployment, sky-rocketing of prices of even essential food items, poor connectivity problem and dismal healthcare scenario, lack of irrigation facilities and the list goes on and on.

It may be pointed out that history holds testimony to the fact that the Nazis registered huge success during the initial years of its reign with its perverted motto “a lie repeated a thousand times becomes a fact”. However, at this juncture one may be reminded of Lenin’s great statement: “You can fool all the people for some time, some people for all times, but not all the people for all times.”

As of now, with extreme rightist and at least milder form of fascist principles having already found expression in the body politic of the nation, it is just natural that even hitherto globally accepted legal definitions of common terms like ‘foreigner’, ‘citizen’, ‘citizenship’ and the like are beginning to be invaded by perverted elements.

The result being that the political landscape is increasingly turning more murkier, turbulent, chaotic, confused, frightening, directionless and darker seemingly without any sign of light at the end of the tunnel.

Significantly, such a situation is a great blessing for our political heavyweights, many of whom are known to be without any scruple. While such political haze facilitates the unscrupulous politicians to mislead the public with their false, fabulous, fabricated and fantastic tales to woo votes, such chaos and turbulence provide a huge cover for the powers that be to shield their huge failure in solving burning issues in the realm of ‘roti, kapda aur maakan‘.

With the issue of deportation of foreigners (Bangladeshis in the case of Assam) seemingly heading towards the dustbin of history, an observer may feel that New Delhi, perhaps under diktat from Nagpur, might have drawn up a roadmap to keep the Muslim Bangladeshi issue alive for all times to come.

Lest one may find it difficult to comprehend, it may be worth repeating that after the new CAB to be introduced soon becomes and Act, only the Muslim Bangladeshis to be detected would legally be termed as foreigners.

And as stated above, this Muslim Bangladeshi lot may be retained and utilised by the saffron dispensation as an all-time political jack-pot to mobilise voters on the Hindu line.

Finally, will there be anyone left to care for the presently fragile demography, Assamese and the languages of the indigenous people, the existing trend of brotherhood and communal harmony among various communities and tribes of Assam, the greater Assamese society so painstakingly shaped and nurtured by Mahapurush Sankardeva or the Sattriya culture which constitute the fountainhead of the great cultural mosaic of Assam?

With political opportunism and rollicking material culture seemingly overshadowing all other aspects of the social fabric, the answer among those not belonging to the huge voiceless multitude seem to be “Who cares”.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com

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