The grand old English saying “Lull before the storm and lull after the storm” has withstood the test of centuries. In the case of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), Assam is seemingly moving towards a semi-lull after a massive storm lashed across the state.
Despite a police crackdown, the undercurrent has not fully subsided. However, so far as the Naga imbroglio is concerned, as of now, Assam may be enveloped in an absolute lull; but a storm may possibly be building up to let loose its fangs across Assam, courtesy the Centre.
With the CAB becoming a law, New Delhi has compelled Assam to bear the burden of facilitating possibly millions of Hindu Bangladeshis to become Indian citizens and to settle them in the state and in the process to seemingly reduce the indigenous population to a minority and in due course possibly to a lost tribe.
Unfortunately, the woes of Assam may not end with the CAA. The Naga imbroglio continues to wait for solution. Although the Centre has unambiguously stated the neighbouring states will not be affected or their boundaries altered in any way in evolving a solution to the problem, such statements need to be taken with a huge lump of salt.
Rather, based on experience regarding high-sounding statements made by the Centre in respect of Assam at different times, it may be advisable to suspect if there could be something totally different, hidden or even rotten in store for the state.
In the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi (who was the CM of Gujarata) made the bold declaration that not an inch of Assam’s land would be given to Bangladesh in settling border disputes with that country.
However, having captured the seat of power at the Centre, the Modi government made a U-turn in settling border disputes with Bangladesh while Assam turned out to be greatest loser of land in the land-swap deal. During the same election campaign he made the resounding announcement that all Bangladeshi infiltrators sheltered in Assam would be pushed across the border with the neighbouring country ‘bags and bag gages’.
The deportation of Bangladeshis was also the central theme of the poll campaign of the BJP in the 2016 Assam Assembly election that brought the BJP to power in Dispur. However, soon the first version of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill (CAB) made its appearance clearly establishing that by the term Bangladeshi migrants the BJP meant only the Muslim Bangladeshi migrants while all migrants belonging to the Hindu and other faiths would be given shelter.
Now that the second CAB has become CAA, in respect of Assam, the Hindu Bangladeshi migrants would be offered citizenship and understandably ‘mati and bheti’ within the territorial limits of Assam.
Unfortunately, there is no dearth of U-turns made by the BJP dispensation in respect of Assam since 2014. In that backdrop, the statement(s) by the saffron heavyweights that the boundaries of all states neighbouring Nagaland would remain unchanged and that such states would not be affected in any way in scripting a solution to the Naga problem may on the ground mean anything.
One certainty about such statement(s) is that the Centre may not dare to touch Manipur adversely in arriving at a deal with the Naga militant groups. The history of Manipur is replete with high valour deeds, chivalry, knighthood and sacrifice. New Delhi is aware that even the mildest of blow to Manipur could set the state on fire.
That leaves Assam and Arunachal Pradesh among the two other states bordering Nagaland. While as per various unconfirmed reports, media speculations and grape-vine musings the Naga militants have dropped the demand for sovereignty, a new term designed as “shared sovereignty” is in the air. One wonders what that term may possibly mean. However, the demand for a ‘Greater Nagalim’ is purportedly very much in the agenda of the Naga rebels.
The concept of ‘Greater Nagalim’ reportedly involves incorporation of land presently in the possession of the neighbouring states in the new entity which may be much larger than the present Nagaland in terms of territory. While the Centre may not dare to play hanky-panky with Manipur, some burden may have to be borne by the remaining two states–Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
The way Itanagar managed to convince New Delhi to keep the state beyond the reach of the CAA fangs, one may not be surprised if Pema Khandu registers similar success in keeping the state outside the ambit of any solution to the Naga problem.
However, in the case of Assam, there appears to be none to tell the Centre that the state is already overburdened with foreigners and fully exploited by the Centre since independence and cannot bear further exploitation.
Information received from various sources indicate that during the November round of talks with the Naga militant outfits, an understanding was reached with regard to formation of ‘development councils’ in the Naga inhabited areas in the neighbouring states as well as the setting up of a pan-Naga body by the Centre. The information filtering in are definitely vague and unconfirmed.
However, going by Dispur’s ‘dharma’ of ‘Yes’ to Delhi and literally taking dictation there from, one may only presume that the political and bureaucratic high-ups in the state may be on their toes to speedily implement any order that may be issued in this respect by the Centre.
The way Dispur went down on its knees to lay out a red carpet for CAA, one only feels that the State government would adopt the same approach in the matter of any agreement between the Centre and the Naga militants even if be on ceding Assam’s land from Karbi Anglong to Dibrugarh for the creation of ‘Greater Nagalim’.
Taking lessons from the CAA and its aftermath, an observer may feel that even if the state may have to lose in terms of land or other vital rights while the Naga imbroglio is solved, Dispur may have an ever-ready answer that in the interest of peace and unity of the nation, small sacrifices have to be made.
However, the Czars of Dispur would never answer as to why, beginning with the Barauni Refinery, only Assam has to make the sacrifices or bear massive burdens for the benefit of others.
Again, in such an eventuality, there may be spontaneous outburst of protest all over the state as in the case of the CAA. Again the BJP heavyweights or their agents will have the ready-made option of labelling the protesters as ‘urban Naxals’, ‘Musalmaan Bangladeshis’ and the like although it may be clear as daylight that such protests may be led and participated by indigenous sons and daughters of the soil of Assam.
It may be advisable not to forget that the BJP leadership could stoop so low as to label the Assamese protesters against CAA in London as Pakistanis.
Be that as it may, in the wake of the CAA development one may feel that the Naga solution may be several months away for the dust kicked up by the new law to settle down.