Many of our friends outside Assam might be interested in knowing Why People of Assam is against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016? This is a small write up for them by Deborshee Gogoi.
Recently, Assam has witnessed severe protest from all fronts with regard to introduction of CAB, 2016. The people of the state is of the view that introduction of the Bill will pose a threat not only to the culture and language but to the very survival of the indigenous population in the state. The state of Tripura is a solid example where the indigenous Twipuri communities have been marginalized within the state due to illegal influx from Bangladesh in the post 1971 era.
Historically, Assam was a prosperous country. In the words of French Traveller, J.P.Tavernier (who came to India in 1640) “the Kingdom of Assam is one of the best countries in all Asia, for it produces all things necessary for human assistance, without any need of foreign supply. There are in it mines of gold, silver, steel, iron and a great store of silk”.
The name ‘Assam’ is derived from the Tai word ‘Ā-Cham’ meaning ‘Undefeated’. The Ahom ruled Assam from 1228-1838 for over 600 years- the longest reign by any dynasty in India. The Assamese community is known for its bravery and vigour that defeated the Mughals 17 times.
It is to be noted that Assam was never a colony to an external power until the third Burmese invasion in 1821. It was only through the Treaty of Yandaboo in 1826 when Assam came under the colonial rule of British. The Britishers then annexed Kachari kingdom in 1832, Jayantia kingdom in 1835, Upper Assam in 1838, Sadiya and Matak kingdom in 1842 and North Cachar Hill district in 1854.
Commercial tea plantation in Assam in 1833 led to internal migration of people to the state especially from Orissa and Bengal. This migration had a great influence not only on the demography and culture but also on Assamese language. The clerical and technical workers that Britishers brought were Bengali. For the ease of communication Bengali Language was imposed over Assamese in 1836 as the medium of instruction in schools and colleges and for all official purposes. It was Nathan Brown, an American Baptist missionary to India, who worked for the restoration of the Assamese language to avoid it being overtaken by the Bengali language completely.
From 1926 to 1938 Muslim settlers (mostly Bengali speaking) from the then East Bengal were encouraged by the Assam Government primarily dominated by Muslim Leaders then. During 1941-51, the rate of migration quickened and fresh migrants to the tune of 5.36 lakh entered into Assam. Migration was accentuated by the Bengal Famine of 1943, leading to the movement of population on a large scale from Bengal to Assam, particularly to the districts of old Goalpara and Cachar. Partition caused a heavy influx of Hindu refugees from the transferred part of the Sylhet district to the adjoining region, including Assam which constituted the third stream of migrants into Assam. During the post-independence period, 1951-71, the number of Bengali Hindu refugees went up from 2.62 lakh in 1951 to 6.0 lakh in 1961. This period also witnessed a large inflow of migrants from other parts of India, seeking economic opportunities in trading, construction works and white-coloured jobs. Fresh migrants during 1951-61 and 1961-71 stood at 12.39 lakh and 10.72 lakh respectively.
In 1979, the Assam Agitation or Assam Movement against illegal influx was initiated by All Assam Student Union and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad to compel the government to identify and expel illegal Bangladeshis (irrespective of religion) from Assam. The movement lasted for 6 long years where 855 young Assamese lost their lives most of whom were students.
United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is also a result of this agitation. It is believed that almost 14000 Assamese youths who took arms lost their lives in the last 39 years.
On 15/8/1985 the historic Assam Accord was signed in presence of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The accord provides for constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people; speed up economic development of Assam; NRC; sealing of porous Assam-Bangladesh Borders; laws restricting acquisition of immovable property by foreigners and most importantly detection of foreigners who came after 24/6/1971 and their expulsion.
Now, without fulfilling the above laid demands how the people of Assam will take the government into confidence. Assam has taken enough burdens of illegal migrants over the years. People of Assam understand that the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 is not confined to Assam and North Eastern states only. But why the government instead of oral assurance pass a law that restricts illegal migrants from settling in North Eastern states and then pass the bill. The people of Assam will accept the bill with great enthusiasm then. But please don’t try to force the bill only on the basis of oral assurance. People of Assam are no fools anymore.