Sunday, October 10, 2004

Assessment: Demography phobia - A Third "Islamic Republic" in the Sub Continent? - Part 2

[‘‘The long-cherished design of Greater East Pakistan/Bangladesh, making inroads into the strategic land-link of Assam with the rest of the country,’’ he warned, ‘‘can lead to severing the entire land mass of the North-East...from the rest of the country. This will have disastrous strategic and economic consequences.’’ After tracing in detail the way the demographic balance has been overturned in district after district adjacent to Bangladesh, General Sinha concluded: ‘‘This silent and invidious demographic invasion of Assam may result in the loss of geostrategically vital districts of Lower Assam. The influx of these illegal migrants is turning these districts into a Muslim-majority region. It will then only be a matter of time when a demand for their merger with Bangladesh may be made. The rapid growth of Islamic fundamentalism may provide the driving force for this demand. In this context, it is pertinent that Bangladesh has long discarded secularism and has chosen to become an Islamic State. Loss of Lower Assam will severe the entire land mass of the North-East from the rest of India....’’]

The Silent Demographic invasion, Part-II
ARUN SHOURIE
Further warnings, further calumny

If the country has continued in a state of denial, the political establishment has done worse. Led by the Congress but not limited to it, it has continued to patronise these illegal entrants for captive votes.


Read Part 1 : Assessment: Demography phobia - A Third "Islamic Republic" in the Sub Continent?

Arun Shourie T V Rajeswar’s reports were ignored—he did not even get so much as a perfunctory acknowledgement that they had been received and that, as the phrase goes, ‘‘the matter is under examination’’. And remember, he sent those reports not just as governor of West Bengal. He wrote them as one who, having been head of the Intelligence Bureau, had special knowledge of the country’s vulnerabilities.

Persons equally alert to the security requirements of the country, equally qualified to assess what ought to be done on the matter continued to put their warnings in writing. General S K Sinha had been deputy chief of army staff. Widely regarded as one of our thinking generals, he was appointed governor of Assam—in part because of the alarming way the security situation in the entire region had deteriorated. In early November 1998, he sent a report to the President—‘Report on Illegal Migration into Assam submitted to the President of India by the Governor of Assam’.

In this report, General Sinha drew attention to the differential decadal growth of population of Hindus and Muslims in Assam—33.7 per cent and 38.3 per cent in 1951-61, respectively; 37.2 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively, in 1961-71; and an estimated 41.9 per cent and 77.4 per cent, respectively, in 1981-91—and observed:

‘‘The Muslim population of Assam has shown a rise of 77.42 per cent in 1991 from what it was in 1971. The Hindu population has risen by nearly 41.89 per cent in this period. The Muslim population (as a percentage of total population) in Assam has risen from 24.68 per cent in 1951 to 28.42 per cent in 1991. As per the 1991 Census, four districts (Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta and Hailakandi) have become Muslim-majority districts. Two more districts (Naogaon and Karimganj) should have become so by 1998 and one more district (Morgaon) is fast approaching this position.

‘‘The growth of the Muslim population has been emphasised in the previous paragraph to indicate the extent of illegal migration from Bangladesh to Assam because...the illegal migrants coming into India after 1971 have been almost exclusively Muslims...Large-scale illegal migration from East Pakistan/Bangladesh over several decades has been altering the demographic complexion of this State,’’ Sinha recorded. ‘‘It poses a grave threat both to the identity of the Assamese people and to our national security. Successive governments at the Centre and in the state have not adequately met this challenge...I feel it is my bounden duty to the nation and the state I have sworn to serve to place before you this report on the dangers arising from the continuing silent demographic invasion....’’

Remember that this was not some sundry journalist or AASU activist writing. It was the Governor of Assam—who had been specially selected because of his knowledge of what the security of our country requires, and he had been posted there by an eminently ‘‘secular’’ government propped by the Congress and the Left. And it was no ordinary article which he had begun in this way—it was his official report to the President of the country. ‘‘The unabated influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh...’’, General Sinha told the President, ‘‘threatens to reduce the Assamese to a minority in their own state, as happened in Tripura and Sikkim.’’

‘‘The long-cherished design of Greater East Pakistan/Bangladesh, making inroads into the strategic land-link of Assam with the rest of the country,’’ he warned, ‘‘can lead to severing the entire land mass of the North-East...from the rest of the country. This will have disastrous strategic and economic consequences.’’ After tracing in detail the way the demographic balance has been overturned in district after district adjacent to Bangladesh, General Sinha concluded: ‘‘This silent and invidious demographic invasion of Assam may result in the loss of geostrategically vital districts of Lower Assam. The influx of these illegal migrants is turning these districts into a Muslim-majority region. It will then only be a matter of time when a demand for their merger with Bangladesh may be made. The rapid growth of Islamic fundamentalism may provide the driving force for this demand. In this context, it is pertinent that Bangladesh has long discarded secularism and has chosen to become an Islamic State. Loss of Lower Assam will severe the entire land mass of the North-East from the rest of India....’’

General Sinha kept drawing attention of the high-ups in Delhi to the inundation. All that happened was that his warnings became the occasion for the ‘‘secularists’’ to denounce him as a ‘‘communalist’’ who must be removed from his post.

That pattern of response continues to this day. The Indian Express carried an article of mine about Rajeswar’s forebodings. Two/three days later, it carried a letter from the Bangladesh High Commission. As you may have missed it, do read it in the light of the Census figures:

‘‘...What is of concern to us is in portraying so, Mr Shourie has drawn Bangladesh, a friendly neighbouring country of India, into this. We are dismayed and indeed shocked that an eminent person of Mr Shourie’s stature, who was until very recently a Union cabinet minister of the Government of India, could come out with preposterous ideas such as the ‘creation of a Greater Islamic Bangladesh’.

‘‘May we remind Mr Shourie that Bangladesh is an independent sovereign country, having a democratically elected government, with all democratic institutions fully in place. It has been our consistent policy to foster and develop good neighbourly relations with India.

‘‘The existing goodwill and people-to-people contact between the people of Bangladesh and India are eminently visible in the traditional social, cultural and historical ties. Moreover, India is Bangladesh’s largest trading partner in the region, with the former enjoying a huge balance in its favour. These are facts and not based on ‘ifs’. We are therefore amazed as to how Mr Shourie could implicate a friendly neighbouring country with irresponsible and malicious innuendoes and accusations.

‘‘The fact that the piece that Mr Shourie wrote could find a place in the Op-Ed page of your esteemed daily has done a disservice and dealt an insult to the friendly sentiments that the people of Bangladesh have for the people of India. His type of writing can only generate hatred and instigate bitterness and acrimony among the people.

‘‘Bangladesh is a peace-loving country. It certainly does not have any hegemonistic ambitions or designs as he suggests might happen or will take place. However, we take satisfaction that neither the Government of India nor the people of India share Mr Shourie’s nightmares.’’

Notice the technique. What I had reported was not my assessment, but the warnings that T V Rajeswar, the present Governor of Uttar Pradesh, appointed by the very Government in which this fellow—a minister in the High Commission, no less!—reposes so much faith, had given. But the ‘‘preposterous ideas’’ are all mine, not Rajeswar’s! Notice too that there was not a word about the differential rates of growth of population to which Rajeswar had drawn attention, it was all about Bangladesh being ‘‘an independent sovereign country, having a democratically elected government’’, it was all about the benefits India was deriving from trade with Bangladesh, it was all about how by publishing such writing ‘‘your esteemed daily has done a disservice and dealt an isult to the friendly sentiments...’’, how such writing ‘‘can only generate hatred and instigate bitterness’’. But why rub it in? The poor fellow must be even more ‘‘dismayed’’, ‘‘shocked’’, ‘‘amazed’’ now that The Indian Express is publishing yet another series containing ‘‘irresponsible and malicious innuendoes’’, and ‘‘nightmares’’ from me on the same subject.

Rajeswar’s proposal for a detailed study had indeed been taken up. The study was completed by officials of the IB and the Home Ministry in 1992. It estimated that even by then, the number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh was anywhere between one and a half to two crore. The only action that was taken as a consequence was that the Government ordered that the report be kept secret. I published the entire text. (And later included it in A Secular Agenda, ASA, New Delhi, 1993, pp. 269-93.) All I heard was some murmurs that I might be proceeded against under the Official Secrets Act!

In April 1992, Hiteshwar Saikia, then chief minister of Assam, said on the floor of the Assembly that there were about three million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the state. The Muslim United Front leaders declared he must withdraw his statement within 48 hours—or they would bring his government down. Saikia withdrew his statement!

In August 1993, members of Parliament asked the Home Minister about the numbers who had infiltrated from Bangladesh. Three ministers got to contribute to the answer. We are ‘‘not able to sort of count them’’, they confessed—even as they did everything they could by convolutions to minimise the problem. And that was the end of the matter. (ibid, pp. 251-60.) In May 1997, Indrajit Gupta, longtime general secretary of the Communist Party of India, then the country’s home minister, was a trifle more forthcoming. He told Parliament that there were about 10 million illegal migrants in India. But as for doing something about them, his statement was the end of the matter. ‘‘At least he has acknowledged the problem,’’ all who could make him do nothing about it said as a consolation.

A palsied Executive

The country has continued in a state of denial. The political establishment has done worse: large chunks of it, led by the Congress but not limited to it, have continued to patronise these illegal entrants for captive votes. And in the meanwhile, the administrative and police machinery has been allowed to rust and decay—so that now, even when a party comes to office that genuinely wants to do something to stanch the influx, all it can do is hold meetings of officials and make announcements of intentions.

The violence that has exploded in the North-east at the moment is the compound result of all these factors. Foremost among these is a political class that benefits from the very ones who are undermining the State. And among the latter now are not just the illegal migrants. Remember who propped up Bhindranwale to out-do the Akalis? The same stratagem is being repeated with many miniature Bhindranwales across the country. Help is being sought for elections and being taken from groups that exercise sway by the gun. Victories won, it is payback time. That is what we see in Assam, in Andhra, in Bihar.

And then there is the atmosphere of permissiveness that our ‘liberals’ foment. The absolutely baseless assault on POTA has been the most recent example. But only the most recent one. Exactly the same sequence had been enacted during Narasimha Rao’s tenure with regard to TADA. And he too, knowing full well the consequences, had to scrap the law. Yet we persist. Confident that in the end, when the conflagration gets completely out of hand, we have the armed forces to hurl at it, and they will by their blood and bodies douse the fire....

But the matter is not confined to the Executive. After all, those who win by the votes of such ‘‘voters’’ and the ‘‘support’’ of such groups enter legislatures. The result is that even the most elementary step to remedy the situation cannot be taken as many a law comes in the way, and legislatures so peopled will not change it. The ruinous Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act provides a classic illustration of the sequence. It tells us much about Executives, about legislatures and, alas, about courts too.

(To be continued)

Indian Express 10/10/2004