Address infiltration

Address infiltration

It is over a week since violent clashes erupted between Bodos and Muslims in Kokrajhar, Dhubri and other districts in lower Assam.

The Assam government must rush medicines, water and other essential commodities to the roughly 200,000 displaced people in camps. Robust action to improve the security condition in villages is essential so that the displaced can return home at the earliest.

Else, the homes and land they have left behind will be taken over by those who are driven by an ethnic cleansing agenda. Simultaneously, governments in Delhi and Guwahati need to address the issue of illegal immigration.

While killings and counter-killings sparked the recent violence, its root cause is conflict over land. Bodos have pointed out that the influx of ‘outsiders’ is reducing the Bodo community to a minority. What is more, these ‘outsiders’ are buying up tribal land, reducing Bodo tribals to landless labourers. It is not just Bodo identity but their survival that is at stake and governments need to pay attention to their anguish.

But who are these ‘outsiders?’ Many of them are Bengali speakers, Santhals and Indian Muslims. They had migrated decades ago. As Indian citizens they have the right to live there. Unfortunately, they too are being targeted by Bodo militants. The government must ensure that Indian citizens are given valid identification cards immediately.

But more worrying is the continuing influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Successive governments in Delhi and Guwahati have promised to stop their entry into the Northeast. The promised fence to halt infiltration has not been completed. More importantly, steps need to be taken to differentiate Indian nationals from Bangladeshi immigrants. This will require cracking down on the network – it is known to include local politicians, police and bureaucrats - that provides illegal immigrants with Indian identity cards.

Experts are calling for a more realistic approach to dealing with immigration. In an era of globalisation it is impossible to halt the movement of people across borders especially economic migrants. Hence they are suggesting that economic migrants from Bangladesh be given work permits that will allow them to work in India for specified periods.

This is an idea that should be given serious consideration. The Northeast is an ethnic/communal cauldron which has bubbled for decades. Communal elements have fished in the region’s troubled waters which should be put an end to immediately.

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