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Illegal migrants greatest threat to indigenous people

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, July 25 - The Committee for Protection of Land Rights of Indigenous People of Assam has expressed the view that illegal migration is the greatest threat to the security and identity of the indigenous people of the State and such migrants are grabbing government and other land with active support of a section of fundamentalist and political leaders.

The committee, headed by former Chief Election Commissioner of India, HS Brahma, in its interim report said that illegal migration is a constant threat to the very existence of the indigenous people of the State and if such migration is not checked immediately by sealing the unplugged borders and detecting and deporting the illegal migrants through a repatriation treaty signed with Bangladesh, the situation in the State would aggravate further.

The report pointed out that the most serious threat to land rights of the indigenous people came from unrestricted infiltration by illegal Bangladeshi migrants. Such people have been grabbing government and private lands for decades. This could not have been possible without the collusion of the local government employees, corrupt bureaucrats and political patronage, the committee observed. The names of many Bangladeshis were found in the voters� lists in violation of the Representation of People�s Act and in fact, one Bangladeshi national was even elected as an MLA. Hitting out at the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, the committee observed that the Act was passed only to protect the illegal migrants. But the Act was later scrapped by the Supreme Court. In its order, the Supreme Court had also observed that the Act was enacted not to detect illegal migrants but to protect them.

The report said that if a proper survey is conducted, it would be clear that more than 90 per cent of the encroachments of various classes of land in the State have been encroached by the illegal Bangladeshis in a professionally organized way. Consequently, many illegal new villages have sprung up overnight not only in the char areas but also in the reserved land of various kinds. The government�s position has all along been the one of facilitator and connivers to such infiltrators.

Giving a background of illegal migration, the report said that it is not a new phenomenon in the State and has been going on since 1905. The prophetic apprehension of SC Mullan, a British ICS officer in the 1931 census report has come to be absolutely true after 86 years. The report further pointed out that during the period from 1937 to 1946, lakhs of Bengali Muslims were imported to Assam in the pretext of the �Grow more Food� programme and they were settled in forest reserves, VGRs and PGRs, etc. The situation has now deteriorated to such an extent that gangs of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, armed with dangerous and lethal weapons attacked indigenous villagers in areas like Sipajhar, Mukalmua, Mayong, Hajo, etc., to grab land to set up new villages.

Expressing concern over the encroachment of the Sattra land by the illegal migrants, the committee pointed out that more than 8,000 bighas of Sattra land is under encroachment by the migrants. There have been allegations that such illegal migrants were also involved in heinous crimes like murder of Satradhikars, rape of women, etc. These issues should be enquired into thoroughly by the government, the committee said. The report further said that the organized encroachment of the Sattra land by suspected Bangladeshi migrants not only vitiated the cultural sanctity of the Sattras but also threatened the safety and security of the Sattra population and property including the rare antiques. The committee said that bold and effective steps must be taken to evict the illegal encroachers from the Sattra land through sustained eviction operations.

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