NEW DELHI, Dec 8 � Amidst a call to evolve a consensus among various stakeholders, the need to declare the problem of illegal migration as a national problem and resolution of the vexed problem on the basis of Assam Accord within a specific timeframe was highlighted.
Leading political figures, legal luminaries, retired bureaucrats, student leaders, opinion makers, human rights activists and security experts on Saturday jointly acknowledged that illegal migration from neighbouring Bangladesh is a major problem, slamming the bid to give it a communal colour.
They were participating in a �Conclave on Infiltration, Ethnic Divide and Constitutional Solutions and Drawing a Road Map for Peace in Assam� organised by All Assam Lawyers� Association (AALA) jointly with its Delhi Chapter at the Chinmaya Mission Auditorium here today.
Some of important players, who were closely involved with the Assam movement like former Chief Minister, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, leader of the minority community Hafiz Rashid Choudhury joined the discussion. Other participants included representative of AIUDF Dr Aditya Langthasa, leaders of the Bodo community and deputy CEM of BTAD, Khampa Borgoyary and Anjali Daimary, besides Ranoj Pegu, general secretary of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Akhil Gogoi, Assam Public Works president Abhijeet Sharma, senior advocate Kamal Narayan Choudhury, Prof. Sanjoy Hazarika among others.
A maiden initiative of AALA, the lawyers tried to get all the major stakeholders on a single platform to discuss the illegal migration problem, as well as the recent ethnic killings. But absence of some of the key stakeholders, like All Assam Students Union (AASU), the representative of ruling Assam Congress, the BJP and most significant of all, AIUDF leader Maulana Badruddin Ajmal came as a dampener.
AASU adviser, Samujjal Bhattacharjya, BJP president, Sarbananda Sonowal, Ajmal and State Health Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also in-charge for Assam Accord Implementation, all gave the seminar a slip.
However, a lively interaction between the audience and the panellists more than made up for the absence of the key stakeholders. The beleaguered AGP president had to bear the brunt of some of the attack, as he faced some provocative questions.
�You have been the chosen one, selected by the Assamese people to lead them. How does it feel to have failed your own people?� asked one enthusiastic member of the audience to a visibly uncomfortable Mahanta.
The panel discussion moderated by senior journalists. Wasbir Hussain concluded on a note that the anti-migration struggle should not be seen as a Hindu-Muslim issue. The panel was against treating the foreigner issue as a religious matter. It was accepted that Government of India should take up the issue with Government of Bangladesh.
Further, the people who came before 1971 have to be taken into confidence and all those in this stream should be given proper documents. Further, the civil society should also engage in dialogue with the neighbouring country.
Participating in the discussion, Mahanta went into the history of migration into Assam and sought to clarify the stand of the AGP on the issue, listing out the hurdles faced by the regional party from a hostile Centre to a non-cooperative bureaucracy. He also reeled out the steps taken by government to resolve the issue.
A strong political will, sealing of the Bangladesh border, strengthening of vigilance and border guarding and detection and deportation machinery were needed now. Besides, deletion of names of foreigners from the voters� list, issue of identity cards, and resettlement of refugees outside Assam among other measures were also suggested by Mahanta.
Speaking at the seminar, Akhil Gogoi blamed the Congress Party for the mess, emphasising that the problem should be treated as a national problem. Observing that one-third of the Muslim population cannot be ignored by any political party in Assam, he called for updating of the NRC and setting up of a secretariat to implement it.
Addressing the seminar, State president of Samajwadi Party, Hafiz Rashid Choudhury underlined the need for confidence building measure between the two communities, stressing that without consulting the minority community, resolution of the vexed problem would be difficult. �We admit that illegal migration is a problem and its solution lies in mutual consultation,� he said.
Opining that influx into Assam was not an economic migration but aggression by fundamentalist forces on the State, BPF leader, Khampa Borgayary said the first census and not the NRC should be the basis of detecting the foreigners. He suggested that illegal migrants be denied voting rights and there should be 100 per cent political reservation for indigenous people, besides protection of tribal belts and blocks.