NEW DELHI, Aug 25 � With the problem of illegal influx back on the agenda, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has turned to its long-time friend, former Governor Lt. General SK Sinha, as the regional party launched a fresh initiative to engage with capital-based intellectuals.
Senior AGP leaders led by its president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta on Friday held detailed discussions with a select group of intellectuals to high-light the issue of illegal migrants, as part of a new campaign to engage with intellectuals and policy makers.
Those in attendance included veteran journalist BG Verghese, senior faculty members of JNU, former Tourism Secretary MP Bezbaruah, besides Lt Gen Sinha. The Chief Editor of The Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta and eminent journalist Kuldip Nayar too were invited though they could not make it.
The involvement of the former Governor, who is close to Mahanta, is significant because he is the author of the now-famous Report on Illegal Migration, which was also quoted extensively by the Supreme Court in its verdict on the IM (DT) Act case.
�All of you are highly revered intellectuals, who have immense knowledge on Assam, have seen the region closely and most importantly, have special attachment and close links with the State,� Mahanta said, while addressing the group.
If Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that the State was sitting on a volcano, Mahanta told the group that Assam is sitting on a time bomb. �There will probably be no exaggeration, if we say that we are sitting on a time bomb and by every tick, time is running out of our hands and we are facing an imminent social disaster,� he said.
AGP�s decision to raise its voice has also to do with BJP�s bid to steal its thunder. The BJP has tried to turn the spotlight on the illegal Bangladeshi problem and has been organising rallies, staging demonstrations and organising seminars in the national capital almost on a daily basis with a promise make it a national issue.
Mahanta, a signatory of the Assam Accord seems to have suddenly woken up to BJP�s bid to steal a march over AGP. The recent clashes in BTAD areas and resurgence of the old problem of illegal migrants, has also offered an opportunity to the regional party to hit the Congress Government when it is at its weakest.
Briefing newsmen on Saturday afternoon, Mahanta said that AGP has decided to engage with intellectuals in national capital, as well as back home, to brief them about non-implementation of Assam Accord and the need to detect and deport illegal migrants. �We have exchanged views and we plan to hold similar events in the future also,� he added.
The problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh has become a national issue, as migrants have swamped major cities and towns across the country. In Assam, migrants have become a major deciding factor in 11 districts, he alleged.
What is significant is that the population in neighbouring Bangladesh has decreased, while India is taking its time in discussing the issue of deportation of illegal migrants. �India has held negotiation about land transfer deal but the Centre is yet to hold any bilateral dialogue with Bangladesh to deport the illegal migrants,� he said, referring to a Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni�s recent interview.
Implying the problem has become much too complex acquiring national and international dimensions, Mahanta said a Pakistani Minister in an interview has spoken in details about various districts of Assam.
Trying to stoke old fires, Mahanta said Assam cannot become a dustbin, because illegal migrants evicted from Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya and other North Eastern States have been allowed to take shelter in the State.
Squarely blaming the Central Government for its failure to detect and deport illegal migrants, Mahanta alleged that a large swathe of land in Assam, is under occupation of migrants.
�Even as we do not absolve ourselves of the entire responsibility of failing to implement the Assam Accord, time has come to have a re-look at the entire gamut of issues and see what went wrong. Is there anything we can still do to implement the Accord fully? Mahanta told the select group yesterday, doing some plain- speaking.
The regional party is often criticised for sacrificing the illegal foreigner�s issue at the altar of electoral gains.