NEW DELHI, Aug 23 - In his last column, Kuldip Nayar, who breathed his last here today, wrote about the problem of illegal migration into Assam cautioning the ruling BJP that it must remember that the Northeast is a plural society devoid of the much communal violence unlike the Hindi heartland.
�The illegal migration will remain a security challenge for India if no adequate measures are taken, including checking and deporting illegal migrants,� the celebrated journalist wrote.
Nayar�s reputed column �Between the Lines�, published on Thursday, said that Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, then a top Congress leader, once admitted that for the sake of votes, the Muslims from neighbouring countries like East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, were brought to Assam. Nayar wrote that Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed had said that the Congress did it purposefully because �we wanted to retain Assam.�
This created a serious problem for the people of the State. Since then the issue of infiltration has loomed large in the Northeast, especially in Assam. But then the process to check illegal migration in the Northeast, which began during the British Empire, remains unfinished despite various efforts made at the national and state levels.
Nayar wrote that the Indira Gandhi-Mujibur Rehman agreement in 1972 redefined the status of illegal immigrants in India as it declared that all those who had come before 1971 were declared as non-Bangladeshis.
The Assamese resented the agreement and launched an agitation leading to the IM(DT) Act coming into force in 1983. But it failed to solve the perennial immigration problem in the Northeast. Nayar then gave a brief account of signing of the Assam Accord and details of the cut-off date for detection and deportation of illegal migrants.
The rebel groups coming under the umbrella of AASU, launched a militant struggle against the Centre seeking to revoke the Accord and instead enact a law that deported all illegal immigrants irrespective of their time of immigration.
However, there was no respite for the locals as the immigrants were clandestinely provided with ration cards and their names included in the voters list. The growing clout of Bangladeshi immigrants made the situation in Assam worse. In fact, the overall Muslim population in the region has grown over 40 per cent now, according to an estimate, Nayar wrote.
Nayar then gave a brief account of the Supreme Court�s intervention and repeal of the IM(DT) Act. However, infiltration from Bangladesh remains unchecked and illegal immigration continues to be a sensitive issue, exploited by the vested political interests. A decade of agitation by Northeast rebel groups, both peaceful and violent over the illegal foreign national issue, has not brought concrete success.
Unfortunately, the BJP government at the Centre is bent on bringing an amendment to the Citizenship Act 1955, which will enable the religiously persecuted migrants to obtain citizenship, thus distinguishing them on communal lines. The majority of the people of Assam are against the proposed amendment since it goes against the spirit of the Assam Accord.
Nayar said the Centre should instead initiate measures to address some of the pending inter-State issues, especially the boundary dispute of Assam and Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as Meghalaya.
�The feeling is of neglect by the Centre and lack of sincerity, which is telling upon the States. They want more involvement of the government in the development of the region. But then the AFSPA has been a sore point,� he wrote.