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Crucial years which opened floodgates of influx to State

By AJIT PATOWARY

GUWAHATI, Feb 8 - But for the state of affairs between 1905-1912 � precisely between October 16, 1905 and March 31, 1912 � there would have been perhaps no large-scale migration of land-hungry peasants to Assam. There would have been more living space for the sons of the soil and less and less social tension in this part of Indian sub-continent. But here, history moved in a different direction, due largely to mischievous politics of a handful of leaders.

Assam lost its identity as a separate province from October 16, 1905 and March 31, 1912. It was clubbed with East Bengal and Dhaka became the capital of the new province named Eastern Bengal and Assam. Three major political questions of re-organisation, immigration and separation � including its extreme form of secession, which have kept this northeastern region in a state of periodic convulsion, have their roots in the political developments of that brief period of nearly six and half years.

This is the observation made by historian Rajen Saikia, president of the North East India History Association. He was talking to this newspaper on the roles played by the politicians whose sinister deeds turned Assam into a boiling cauldron today over the issue of migration from East Pakistan and Bangladesh.

He said a combination of factors, like unchecked migration, pernicious land policy, partisan administration since 1905 onward, social tension arising out of valley rivalry, divisive politics of small-time politicos, question of excluded and partially excluded area depravity, unhelpful attitude of British legislators since when they came to occupy the floor of the legislature, stunted the growth of the province.

Assam shouldered the burden of several lakhs of refugees who entered the State immediately after the partition. Moreover, Assam has provided shelter to several hundreds of people spilling over East Pakistan, subsequently Bangladesh, in search of sheer livelihood.

On July 16, 1943, the Bengal Legislative Council passed a resolution urging the Government of India ��to take immediate steps to remove all existing restrictions imposed by the Assam government on land-hungry, immigrant cultivators from Bengal�. It was as if the Bengal resolution was binding on him, the then Prime Minister of Assam Mohammad Saadulla of the Muslim League, announced a policy on land settlement within a couple of weeks. The government resolution of August 24, 1943, was backed up by an explanatory circular on August 28, 1943. Words like �indigenous�, �tribal�, etc., were sprinkled over the resolution here and there to confuse or mislead Saadulla�s critics. The immigrant land grabbers got quickly at the secret of the government policy and accordingly kept on their operations.

The 1944 Report of Special Officer SP Desai, appointed for the examination of the Professional Grazing Reserves ((PGRs) in Assam Valley, has cited many examples of such acts of the immigrant land grabbers. The report available with the National Archives of India, New Delhi, has cited in its pages 4, 8, 10, 11 and 22 examples of such cases.

It says that in the then Barpeta Sub-division �� new immigrants are brought by clever old immigrants and the unscrupulous among the old and the new immigrants have begun to occupy lands within the reserves without seeking anybody�s permission.�

In Mangaldoi Sub-division, it says, �The immigrants started encroaching on the PGRs in the Chapori belt in the east some two to three years ago. The graziers protested and complained to the local authorities, the land records staff submitted names of encroachers and extent of encroachment for necessary action. Eviction orders were even passed but execution was stayed indefinitely. Since then encroachments gradually increased in spite of the graziers� protests and local officers� reports. The government had taken no action, nor did they seem to have given any direction to the local revenue officers as regards their duties and responsibilities in regard to the protection of the rights of the graziers and Assamese pamuas and the control and regulation of the spread of immigrants on waste land outside colonization areas.�

The report has, among others, cited such examples of land grabbing in Tezpur Sub-division and Kamrup Sub-division also.

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Crucial years which opened floodgates of influx to State

GUWAHATI, Feb 8 - But for the state of affairs between 1905-1912 � precisely between October 16, 1905 and March 31, 1912 � there would have been perhaps no large-scale migration of land-hungry peasants to Assam. There would have been more living space for the sons of the soil and less and less social tension in this part of Indian sub-continent. But here, history moved in a different direction, due largely to mischievous politics of a handful of leaders.

Assam lost its identity as a separate province from October 16, 1905 and March 31, 1912. It was clubbed with East Bengal and Dhaka became the capital of the new province named Eastern Bengal and Assam. Three major political questions of re-organisation, immigration and separation � including its extreme form of secession, which have kept this northeastern region in a state of periodic convulsion, have their roots in the political developments of that brief period of nearly six and half years.

This is the observation made by historian Rajen Saikia, president of the North East India History Association. He was talking to this newspaper on the roles played by the politicians whose sinister deeds turned Assam into a boiling cauldron today over the issue of migration from East Pakistan and Bangladesh.

He said a combination of factors, like unchecked migration, pernicious land policy, partisan administration since 1905 onward, social tension arising out of valley rivalry, divisive politics of small-time politicos, question of excluded and partially excluded area depravity, unhelpful attitude of British legislators since when they came to occupy the floor of the legislature, stunted the growth of the province.

Assam shouldered the burden of several lakhs of refugees who entered the State immediately after the partition. Moreover, Assam has provided shelter to several hundreds of people spilling over East Pakistan, subsequently Bangladesh, in search of sheer livelihood.

On July 16, 1943, the Bengal Legislative Council passed a resolution urging the Government of India ��to take immediate steps to remove all existing restrictions imposed by the Assam government on land-hungry, immigrant cultivators from Bengal�. It was as if the Bengal resolution was binding on him, the then Prime Minister of Assam Mohammad Saadulla of the Muslim League, announced a policy on land settlement within a couple of weeks. The government resolution of August 24, 1943, was backed up by an explanatory circular on August 28, 1943. Words like �indigenous�, �tribal�, etc., were sprinkled over the resolution here and there to confuse or mislead Saadulla�s critics. The immigrant land grabbers got quickly at the secret of the government policy and accordingly kept on their operations.

The 1944 Report of Special Officer SP Desai, appointed for the examination of the Professional Grazing Reserves ((PGRs) in Assam Valley, has cited many examples of such acts of the immigrant land grabbers. The report available with the National Archives of India, New Delhi, has cited in its pages 4, 8, 10, 11 and 22 examples of such cases.

It says that in the then Barpeta Sub-division �� new immigrants are brought by clever old immigrants and the unscrupulous among the old and the new immigrants have begun to occupy lands within the reserves without seeking anybody�s permission.�

In Mangaldoi Sub-division, it says, �The immigrants started encroaching on the PGRs in the Chapori belt in the east some two to three years ago. The graziers protested and complained to the local authorities, the land records staff submitted names of encroachers and extent of encroachment for necessary action. Eviction orders were even passed but execution was stayed indefinitely. Since then encroachments gradually increased in spite of the graziers� protests and local officers� reports. The government had taken no action, nor did they seem to have given any direction to the local revenue officers as regards their duties and responsibilities in regard to the protection of the rights of the graziers and Assamese pamuas and the control and regulation of the spread of immigrants on waste land outside colonization areas.�

The report has, among others, cited such examples of land grabbing in Tezpur Sub-division and Kamrup Sub-division also.