The whole war is a deception, ”said Sun Tzu, a senior Chinese military strategist. Fraud also plays a role in current electoral processes. If emigration does not appear to be a political issue live in the current election in Assam, most debtors should go to a successful strategic fraud campaign. The ruling party has won the last two elections in the state by filing its claim as a champion of local interests against the dangers of immigration. But in this case, as a matter of strategic calculation, the party has decided to play violence on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – a sensitive and controversial law – and the Clause 6 committee report, a proposal to provide local people with constitutional protections to reduce the negative impact of the CAA.
However, both BJP leaders nationally and in government came together around the same message, portraying AIUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal as the middle man of the piece. The Congress-AIUDF coalition government, they suggest in the black, will lead to a growth of “entry”.
Considering that the migration of people from across the eastern border of the Partition has been a recurring theme in Assam politics, it would be helpful to take a long-term view of this phenomenon.
According to world history, the birth of India and Pakistan as separate countries, and the subsequent division of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh, were the result of the emergence of a world power as a new global system of political organization. But as scholars such as Hannah Arendt have warned, the building of new worlds is almost always a process that produces refugees. Indeed, the League of Nations – which preceded the United Nations – took the initiative to address the few issues raised in the process.
The fact that there is a flow of migration across the frontier of the Partition even after seventy years does not surprise many historians. Partition was not a perfect one-time event, it was a long-lasting and time-consuming process. It follows two separate trails east and west. More or less “human trafficking” that took place in Punjab during the Divorce – and the violent violence that accompanied it – did not occur in the east. The Hindu pre-Partition population in eastern Bengal was close to 28 percent of the population. It dropped to just 22 percent in 1951.
The March 1950 Nehru-Liaquat Pact was by no means a temporary response to the massive outbreak of Hindu-Muslim violence. Both countries have borrowed from available international models to handle minority issues in the newly formed provinces. They want to build a two-state institution that will restore the confidence of young people in East Pakistan, Assam and West Bengal. The aim was to maintain the human condition of the two post-divorce states. The effort was not an irrefutable failure, as is sometimes said. After all, over the next two decades, the number of Hindus in East Pakistan dropped by only 3.6 percent (from 22 percent in 1951 to 18.4 percent in 1970).
But things began to change dramatically during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. The then Pakistani military regime, as described by Bangladeshi scholar Meghna Guhathakurta, viewed the War of Independence as an Indian strategist and treated the Bengali liberation fighters as Indian invaders. As a result, the oppressive attacks on the Pakistani regime have affected 90 percent of Bangladesh’s Hindu families. And as the military crackdown on Bengali opposition intensified, “the percentage of Hindu refugees fleeing to India is more frequent than Muslim refugees.”
In August 1971, on average, there were 6,71,000 Hindu refugees and 5,41,000 Muslim refugees in India. Scholars like Zillur Rahman Khan agree with this standard test. Of the 9.7 million refugees who immigrated to India in 1971, he says, 70 percent were Hindu. Many Hindu refugees of 1971, writes Bangladeshi commentator Sarwar Jahan Choudhury, “are suspected of living in the West Bengal, Tripura and Barak.”
Given India’s support for Bangladesh’s independence, it is ironic that the people of the Hindu region continue to decline after Bangladesh became an independent state. The political situation that changed following the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the acceptance of Muslims as part of their official nationality by the military regimes of Ziaur Rahman (1975-1981) and Hussain Muhammad Ershad (1981-1990), apparently did not help. The number of Hindus dropped to 12 percent in 1981 and 9 percent in 2011. However, emigration to India does not have to be the only explanation for the decline of the country’s Hindu population.
Considered from the point of view of a few Hindus in Bangladesh, the CAA is a game changer. The intention to maintain the demographic status of the post-Partition states is now abandoned. CAA is a welcome line for Hindus: Moving to India now will continue to be considered a return home. Many years before the CAA’s adoption, Meghna Guhathakurta wrote that while insecurity and rejection led many Hindus in Bangladesh to choose to emigrate to India, “it was often regarded by Bangladeshi nobles and Bangladeshi nationalists as opportunities for part of Hindu families”. It was used as an argument to justify their discrimination in the workplace and in education with the intention that they would not be trusted to serve the country if given such opportunities. This situation is likely to get worse with CAA.
Although the CAA is currently December 31, 2014 as the end of the year, it is hard to imagine that the future Indian government, especially the current ideology, would have a political tendency to close its doors by unauthorized Hindu immigrants included in – or will enter – India later that day. As the previous deadline of March 25, 1971, which was replaced by the CAA, this closing date will also have to be revoked in the future.
Migration is likely to continue to heal and shape Assam’s politics in deep and unexpected ways for the foreseeable future.