While Assam is boiling against central government’s move to grant citizenship to religious minorities from Bangladesh and Pakistan, a nationalist people’s forum is raising its voice for a concrete refugee policy for the country to deal with such situations in the future. The Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA), in a recent memorandum sent to Assam Governor Banwarilal Purohit, argued that India should have a refugee policy ‘to deal with the issue of immigrants logically and legally’ forever.
“We sincerely believe India should sign the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. Moreover, our government has to ratify the 1967 Protocol relating to the status of refugees,” said the memorandum, signed by some distinguished personalities including eminent historian Dr Nirode K Barooah, former director general of National Museum Dr Rabin Dev Choudhury, eminent publisher Giripada Dev Choudhury, award winning filmmaker Manju Bora, IIT Kharagpur professor Gourishankar S Hiremath, Banaras Hindu University professor Anil K Rai with many others.
The memorandum also expressed concerns that a few ‘recent misleading and manipulative statements by some individuals and organizations on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 issue’ were ‘trying to communalise the issue instead of helping to find an amicable solution’.
“The extremely volatile utterances targeting the Hindu minority community of Assam are deplorable and condemnable to say the least,” asserted the memorandum, endorsed by senior journalist DN Chakrabarty, non-resident Assamese professionals Vavani Sarmah & Kalyan Dutta-Choudhury, Ravindra Nath, Dipannita Jaiswal, Jahnabi Goswami, Pranab Kr Sarma, Pranjal Saikia, Jitul Sonowal, Dr Subhra Kinkor Goswami, Onkareshwar Pandey etc.
“We are from this land of glorious civilization & culture and we feel that our spirit should be that of accommodation of Hindu, Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs and other religious minorities who have had to face extreme suppression in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and also West Pakistan and have been the true victims of partition of India,” pointed out the memorandum, backed by Rupam Barua, Bidhayak Das, Utpal Dutta, Bobita Sarma, Braja Jyoti Sharma, Bibekananda Choudhury, Bhagawat Pritam, Ujjal Saikia, Jagadindra Ray Choudhury, Girindra Kumar Karjee, Anup Sarma etc.
Appreciating the Union government in New Delhi for taking steps lately to provide shelter to the victims of partition across India, the PPFA clarified that the Hindu minorities in Bangladesh include not only Bengali, but also Rajbongshi, Hajong, Adivasi, Jayantiya and Bishnupriya communities.
Similarly, the Buddhists include Chakma and some Assamese people who fled to the Chittagong hills areas of Bangladesh during the Burmese invasion. The Christians include Bengali, Garo, Khasi and Adivasi people. All these people became the victims of partitioning and had to live in a ‘foreign land,’ for the creation of which they were not responsible, commented the forum.
The memorandum clarified that the PPFA has no intention of communalizing the issue but it wants to ‘provide a clear understanding of how history unfolded lest some vested interests and parochial mindsets, for their own narrow political gains and cheap mileage, would continue to resort to disturb the peace and tranquil atmosphere of Assam’.
“There is a need for a solution to this vexed issue and we would fully agree if those that have been truly victimized owing to partition and religious persecution are given a place not just in Assam but in all other States of India, a country where the underlying tenets of democracy are tolerance, secularism and freedom of religion, faith, practice and freedom of expression,” concluded the memorandum.