Conflicts, NRC, Illegal Immigration

Saral Sarkar

Many thanks to the authors Devabrata Sharma and Hiren Gohain (Frontier, 19-25 August 2018) for giving the valuable background info materials, which enable readers to get a better and deeper understanding of the multifaceted conflicts in Assam.

However, it would have been better—both in regard to identifying the important cause of the conflicts and in regard to suggesting solutions—if there were some relevant statistical data, particularly some on the demographic development in Assam.

Assam is a state where, in 2001, Assamese was the mother tongue of less than half of the population (48.8%) and Bengali that of a substantial minority (27.5%), where Hinduism in all its varieties was, in 2011, the religion of 61.5% of the population and Islam that of 34.2%, where, in 2011, Muslims were the majority in 9 out of the 27 districts. On economic development in Assam some facts are disturbing: "The per capita income of Assam was higher than the national average soon after Indian Independence. But it has slipped since, and the difference has become larger since liberalization of the Indian economy in the 1980s". In such a state the population grew from 8 million in 1951 to 31 million in 2011. It is estimated to be 35 Million in 2018. (All data from Internet and Wikipedia)

Seen against the background of these data and given India's history full of all kinds of conflict since the early 20th century, it is no wonder that Assam has been suffering so many communal and linguistic conflicts. That Sharma blames the British for all these does not surprise anyone. It is an age old explanatory model of the standard Left to blame imperialism/colonialism/CIA for everything bad. (Another such model is capitalism) As if it was the British who was to blame for Assam's and the Indian subcontinent's huge exponential population growth since 1951, as if mass migration of poor people to greener pastures in other countries is not a universal phenomenon.

Gohain at least comes close to the truth when he speaks of "natural resources" and "unemployment and landlessness". More so, when he speaks of the "fact" that "the Indigenes" (i.e. the Assamese) have been "robbed of their power to decide how many guests they could welcome in their homes". At another place, he truthfully uses the term "aliens" for non-Assamese Indians, and Bangladeshis. For such people's coming to Assam he uses the term "infiltration".

But neither Gohain nor Sharma mention the ever worsening population problem, the fact that Assam and the Indian subcontinent, in fact the whole world is simply over-populated. Today if one doesn't take cognisance of this fact, one cannot really and fully explain any serious problem in the world. Also, it is not possible to explain why already in the 1960s, many Maharashtrians complained that South Indians were occupying the urban areas and the jobs of their territory. They wanted to push the South Indians out of Maharashtra. They did the same, in the 1990 and 2000s (??), with regard to Biharis, who had occupied many menial jobs (drivers e.g.) in the urban areas.

The feeling that aliens are infiltrating and occupying their "home" is not only troubling Assam, but also many other countries of the world. Today, in Europe, Australia, and the USA, it is called the problem of illegal immigrants or too many immigrants. In such countries, it is the main cause of the recent rise of fascistic forces. In Sweden, it has already destroyed the formerly glorious social-democratic model of an ideal society.

Sharma has also very generally thought about what to do, but he could not come up with any concrete proposal. He writes about "assimilating the huge immigrant masses in a democratic way", "providing opportunities for those who are left out", and "democratization of the polity". But what opportunities can help assimilate the huge masses of immigrants other than jobs and small businesses, which are already in very short supply for the indigenes? Democratisation of the polity does not create jobs and other sources of income!

This writer has an idea for a long-term solution of the problem. One may learn from the Chinese. When Deng Xiaoping took over power in China in 1979, he, firstly, opened up China for exploitation by foreign imperialist capitalists. This has already been done in India. Secondly, Deng initiated and enforced the one-child policy. This has not been done in India. Of course, it promises to bear fruit only in the long run. But it must be done, while in the short and middle term people somehow muddle through. For, as Paul Ehrlich said, "Whatever [be] your cause, it is a lost cause unless we control population [growth]". There is no other solution for the problems that are plaguing not only Assam but also the whole Indian subcontinent. Democrats might object that such a policy violates human rights or reproductive rights. But firstly, the right to produce as many children as one wishes is not a universal human right, and secondly, it is usual, because necessary, to curtail human rights in times of emergency. There is no point to disagree with Gohain when he writes: "...human rights... is an ideal goal, not a reality during a period of transition to that". For a nation, survival has top priority.


Vol. 51, No.11, Sep 16 - 22, 2018