By Nava Thakuria

Guwahati, India: on July 27, a patriotic forum in Assam urged the government in New Delhi to consider offering work permits (without voting rights) to millions of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the state to avoid the potential humanitarian crisis that their deportation would cause.

Reiterating its old stand for 1951 as the cut-off year to detect all immigrants from the then East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) to the State, the Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) also appealed to Sarbananda Sonowal led government at Dispur to support 1951 as the base year in the Supreme Court of India, as the case is presently in the apex court’s jurisdiction.

“Considering the spirit of Assam Movement (1979 to 1985) to deport all foreigners with 1951 as a base year, for which over 850 martyrs (Khargeswar Talukder) being the first, sacrificed their lives, the PPFA found reasons to support the same,” said a statement issued to the media outlets.

The forum pointed out that the immigrants who entered India after 1951 until 16 December 1971 should be treated as East Pakistani nationals, as Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign nation on the latter date. Arguing strongly to deport the immigrants from Bangladesh who came after 16 December 1971, the forum urged the Union government to start diplomatic exercises with the Bangladesh government in Dhaka. It also expressed hope that a friendly regime in Dhaka would respond to New Delhi’s worries positively and timely.

In another aspect, the forum commented that once the citizenship amendment bills are duly passed in the Parliament, all the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian refugees should be rehabilitated with equal distribution across the country. Among them, those who prefer to stay legally in Assam should adopt Assamese language as their medium of instructions.

The PPFA earlier appreciated the Union government for proposing to amend the citizenship act for granting Indian citizenship to all victims of religious persecutions in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. At the same time, the forum expressed resentment that few individuals and organizations in Assam had tried to communalise the issue instead of helping to find an amicable solution for those affected people.

“We are from this land of glorious civilization and 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,” said the forum.

History bears witness to the fact that the Muslims living in undivided India who wanted a separate homeland for the Muslims were granted Pakistan, and thus became ‘foreigners’ to Indians. In fact the moment they created a foreign land for themselves they lost their rights to get into India again without passports or related legal documents. So, post 15 August 1947 India, all those who demanded and chose to live in Pakistan (including East Pakistan) was legally foreigners.

However, history is also witness to the fact that the minority Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists who were left behind in Pakistan continued to face brutal suppression at the hands of the new non-secular government, which prompted the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to issue a historic statement in Parliament that non-Muslims would be safe and secure in Pakistan as both the new nations pledged to be good and friendly neighbors. Nehru also declared that any non-Muslims who felt unsafe and insecure in Pakistan due to religious or communal persecutions would always be welcome in India.

“We are also fully aware that since the formation of Bangladesh and the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, Bangladesh made Islam the State religion, setting into motion the persecution of minority non-Muslims. All these people became the victims of ‘Pakistan Plan’ & ‘Partition’ and had to therefore live in a ‘foreign land’ for the creation of which they were not at all responsible,” added the forum.

It may noted that in Bangladesh, the Hindus include Bengali, Rajbongshi, Hajong, Adivasi, Jayantiya and Bishnupriya communities, Buddhists (represented by Chakmas), and some Assamese people, who fled to the Chittagong hill areas during the Burmese invasion. The Christians include Bengali, Garo, Khasi and Adivasi people. Under no circumstances can these people can be termed as ‘foreigners’. The foreigners are those who created the ‘foreign land’ in the name of religion, but again these are the same group of people who are infiltrating into India. If the history of Partition is properly studied, we can clearly understand who these ‘Foreigners’ are and who are the actual ‘Victims of Partition’ and who came to India to protect their religions, cultures and their lives, asserted the PPFA. Finally the forum argued that the rehabilitated Hindu, Buddhist, Christian refugees should adopt Assamese language as their medium of instructions as the initiative in Assam would help in promoting the Assamese culture and thus contributing for a stronger and safer India, opined the statement endorsed by Rupam Barua, Pramod Kalita, Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Ujjal Saikia, Bidhayak Das, Kishour Giri, Dhiraj Goswami, Mridul Chakrabarty etc.