North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues

[op-ed snap] Assam: from the state of influx to a state of flux

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : NRC ; a case study from Cachar area

CONTEXT

It’s been less than a week after the final list was released on 31 August. Uncertainty prevails over the process that could take nearly two million people stateless.

Problems

  • Though people can appeal within 120 days, a majority aren’t well-off and many live in areas away from NRC tribunals. 
  • Vast numbers of non-Muslim people out of the NRC net. Govt tried to give non-Muslim immigrants the opportunity for naturalization by amending the Citizenship Act, 1955 by reducing the residency requirements for persons belonging to minority communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan from 11 years to 6 years.
  • NRC and the Citizenship Bill proved a contradictory and volatile mix. NRC sought to address long-time local feelings against ‘outsiders’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ while the Citizenship Bill seemed to be a way to legitimize such migration.
  • The complexity of the issue can be understood from the Cachar area where matters of religion, language and ethnicity are incendiary.

Cachar area

  • This area wasn’t even part of Assam not too long ago. 
  • The East India Company extended its conquest of Assam in 1826 with that of Cachar six years later and merged them with the Bengal Presidency. 
  • After the administrative reorganization in the wake of the 1857 mutiny, the largely Bengali-speaking districts of Sylhet, Cachar, and Goalpara (or) Lower Assam—were merged into the new Chief Commissioner’s Province of Assam. 
  • It administratively cut off Bengali speakers from Bengal, besides isolating the Sylheti people.
  • With partition in 1947, much of Muslim-majority Sylhet went over to newly born Pakistan after a referendum except for the eastern extremity of Sylhet. 
  • The anti-Bengali violence in Assam in the 1960s following the pro-Bengali language movement in Cachar, sharpened divides. 
  • Bursts of migration from East Pakistan and later heightened pressures as well as expectations.
  • Many non-Muslim Bengalis out of the final NRC register in the Cachar area do not have the Citizenship Bill sought to provide.
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