GUWAHATI, June 30 - Official records of Assam have in them categorically written the entire history of migration of the Bangla nationals to the State in the pre- and post-Independence periods. One only needs to comb through these records to discover how this phenomenon has been haunting the socioeconomic and political life of the State since the early part of the 20th century. This was the statement made by senior high court advocate Kamal Nayan Choudhury who is challenging in the Supreme Court the March 25, 1971 deadline for detecting and deporting illegal migrants.
Talking to this correspondent, Choudhury said the major chunk of people from Bangladesh (formerly East Bengal and subsequently East Pakistan) migrated to Assam between 1951 and 1961. Most of them were Muslims. Mohammad Sadullah, the then Premier, was catalyst in encouraging migration from East Bengal. Migration from East Bengal to Assam started around AD 1918.
By AD 1930, the adverse impacts of large-scale migration on the local population were felt. The British colonialists realised that massive migration from East Bengal might eliminate the indigenous population of Assam. After 1930, they introduced the Line System to restrict the Muslim migrants to the riverine areas. In 1936, the FW Hockenhull Committee was formed to assess the working of the Line System.
As per the introduction to the Land Administration in Protected Belts and Blocks, Assam (page 1), the Hockenhull Committee recommended ejection of these �unauthorised occupants� from the areas inhabited by the tribal and backward communities. It further recommended extension of the prohibited areas to protect the backward communities �from the land hungry outsiders�.
In 1939, the Assam government, after considering the Hockenhull Committee�s suggestions, decided that the areas predominantly inhabited by the people of the tribal and OBC (other backward classes) communities should be declared as protected areas. The 1945 resolution on land settlement policy provided for protection of the tribal and the OBC people.
On July 13, 1945, the State government took the decision for constitution of the tribal belts and blocks. This was followed by the amendment to the Assam Land Revenue Regulation, 1886 by the Assam Act XV of 1947, which incorporated Chapter 10 in the Assam Land Revenue Regulation, thus
providing statutory protection to the tribals and backward class people.
The 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC) showed that around 30 per cent of the then Assam population belonged to the migrant communities. They were mostly settled in the undivided Goalpara district, Barpeta subdivision of the undivided Kamrup district, undivided Nagaon district and the Barak valley.
Oriental Times, volume No. 2, issue No. 9-10, dated July 7 to July 21, 1999, stated that the 1961 census estimated that not less than 7.5 lakh Pakistani Muslims infiltrated into Assam between 1951 and 1961.
In 1965, the then Prime Minister of India made a statement on the floor of the Lok Sabha to this effect on the report of the Indian intelligence agencies. The then Assam Chief Minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha estimated the figure as 3.5 lakh. Thereafter, 10 tribunals were instituted to hear the appeals of the confirmed infiltrators.
Between 1967 and 1969, 1.29 lakh infiltrators were deported. Thereupon, 33 Congress legislators led by Moinul Haque Choudhury, Devakanta Barooah and Sarat Chandra Sinha, demonstrated against the then Chief Minister, asserting that if expulsions were not stopped, Congress vote bank�s Muslim block would be lost forever.
On September 30, 1972, the Union Home Ministry, through its memo No. 11/160/72-TX, informed the Assam government that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had arrived at an understanding with her Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the effect that those who had come over to India from the erstwhile East Pakistan before March 25, 1971, should not be deported.
But, in terms of Article 253 of the Indian Constitution, the above treaty/understanding was not ratified by the Parliament, the senior advocate said.