In a much appreciated move, on October 21, 2020 the Sonitpur district administration in Assam had demolished over 60 houses of illegal settlers from Bhora-Singri-Sutipahar area on the banks of the Brahmaputra under Thelamara Police Station and Barchala LAC. It may be mentioned here that there are about 2,200 families in the area and out of it only 250 families are legal Indian citizens, while the remaining 1,950 families are illegal settlers from Bangladesh. It is believed that these illegal migrants managed to settle in the area after having established a close nexus with some unscrupulous people during the previous Congress regimes in the state. Allegations have been rife that these illegal settlers were creating a chaotic situation every now and then among the local indigenous people of the area.
On August 5, 2020 when Hindus throughout the country and abroad too were celebrating an important civilisational victory of a tedious legal battle of over 500 years, a place called Thelamara in Sonitpur district of Assam had an altogether different story to tell. In Thelamara-Sutipahar (Bhora-Singri) area under Thelamara Police Station in Tezpur, illegal Bangladeshi migrants settled in the area had attacked a rally that was taken out by the local people of the area to the historic Hara-Gauri temple situated nearby. The procession was organised at the behest of the Dhekiajuli unit of Bajrang Dal, Ram Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad to mark the Bhoomi-Pujan ceremony of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.
In this dastardly act of violence, at least 12 members of the Bajrang Dal, VHP and Ram Sena were grievously injured. It was when the rally was approaching towards the Gauri Mandir situated in a small hillock in the area, popularly known as Sutipahar, for performing puja on the occasion, that the Bangladeshi migrants had attacked the members of the rally with lethal arms and weapons. It was reported that the attackers also kept about 25 persons captive for a long time, and set ablaze 12 motorcycles and a Tata Magic van too. On receiving information, police and security forces rushed to the spot and safely rescued the captive members. The police also resorted to firing to disperse the mob for bringing the situation under control. With the worsening of the law-and-order situation, curfew was later imposed under Section 144 of the CrPC in Thelamara and Dhekiajuli areas by the district administration.
This attack in Tezpur by illegal migrants upon members of the Hindu community with the use of lethal arms raises an important question – What is the source from where these people of doubtful nationality who mostly survive on menial jobs such as day labourers, rickshaw-pullers, etc. procure arms? Indeed, it stinks of a bigger nexus involving many players that have been working at several different levels to Islamise India by demographic occupation and the accompanying population explosion.
ADGP (Law&Order) G.P. Singh who visited the area during the period in order to take stock of the situation, had assured the public of stern action against the illegal settlers. Different organisations including the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Bajrang Dal along with the local indigenous people residing in the area, were already demanding the eviction of the illegal settlers since a long time. Hence, with due respect to the public sentiments, the district administration with the help of Sonitpur Police authorities started the eviction drive on the morning of October 21, 2020. It continued till almost the evening and over 60 households of the illegal settlers were demolished in the process. DSP (HQ) Sonitpur Police, Dr. Rashmi Rekha Sharma said that this is going to be a continuous process and there will be no compromise in the interest of freeing the local people’s land and government lands which have been forcefully occupied by the illegal Bangladeshis for several years now.
It needs recalling here that a few years back, illegal Bangladeshi migrants had even raped and murdered a Nepali woman at Garuduba area near Sutipahar under Thelamara PS. Locals here are of the suspicion that some influential land mafias have sold lands to suspected illegal Bangladeshis, which has changed the entire demographic complexion of the area within just a time-period of a few years. It was during the later years of the Congress government in the state that the local representatives of the party indirectly helped and supported these illegal settlers to carry out their anti-social activities, all with the idea of nourishing a soft political vote-bank. It is this politically-motivated encroachment of land, including lands belonging to Hindu religious institutions such as temples and Namghars, that has now become a serious existential crisis for the local inhabitants.
Many suspected illegal Bangladeshis have settled not only in the area surrounding Tezpur LAC, but also at Dulabari, Bhumuraguri, Batomari, Bhumuraguri Pahar, Barghat, Barghuli, Napaam (Sulmara), Bhumuraguri bridge to Bishnu Prasad Rabha Samadhi Kshetra on the north bank of the river Brahmapura. They have also occupied a huge chunk of government lands at the Burhachapori Reserve Forest area. In fact, in the Thelamara-Owbari area near the newly-established Polytechnic College, about 300 bighas of government land have already been encroached upon by suspected illegal Bangladeshi nationals. Among the nine LACs in Sonitpur district, Sootea, Biswanath, Tezpur, and Barchala have been the most highly affected ones. The State Secretary of the BJP Kishore Upadhyay who has been quite vocal about the issue, is of the opinion that after making these areas their safe haven, the illegal migrants carry out various unlawful activities such as car-lifting, burglary, theft and robbery, running of cow syndicates in close association with certain local influential forces, etc.
A few politically aware and conscious citizens are of the opinion that at a time when the local BJP MLA Padma Hazarika is undertaking bold steps against illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators in the area, some leaders in Tezpur are busy in playing the card of vote-bank politics for the fulfilment of their own petty interests. In the beginning of August 2020, about 8,000 families along with their 30,000 extended family members were evicted under Padma Hazarika’s initiative from various areas under Nadwar Revenue Circle in Sootea LAC. But, they have now been settled in many char-chapori (sandbars) areas of Tezpur and Barchala LACs by some corrupt political leaders with the blessings of an immigration-favouring influential nexus, for their own political survival.
The ruling BJP government in Assam came to power on the avowed mission of safeguarding the indigenous people’s land, language, culture and heritage. A lot, however, still needs to be done in this direction. E.g. illegal immigration and land encroachment are majorly responsible for the continuous marginalisation of several indigenous tribes of the state. A case in point would be to understand the demographic transition of Lumding region in undivided Nagaon district (note: Nagaon is one among the several districts of Assam which has severely borne the brunt of the state’s demographic distress). In the Census of 1901, 31% of the district’s population consisted of vanavasis who were largely nature-worshippers, referred to as ‘animism’ in academic vocabulary.
Today, Census data barely finds any count of such nature-worshippers in the district. Many of the smaller groups of vanavasis got either wiped out or moved out to other districts, as a result of the increasing pressure exerted on their land and resources by the incoming immigrant population. A leading Assamese daily reported that out of the 1,44,000 voters in Lumding constituency, only 10,000 were tribals, predominantly belonging to the Dimasa tribe. In fact, the name ‘Lumding’ itself traces its roots to the Dimasa language. Once the traditional homeland of the Dimasas, Lumding today is chiefly dominated by a non-indigenous population of migrants. The natives were not only stripped of their land rights but have also been rendered economically vulnerable and politically insignificant. Sadly, not a single Dimasa person has represented the constituency, till date!
The brutal lynching and killing of Sanatan Deka, a poor Hindu vegetable seller by a Muslim mob in Hajo, Assam on May 26, 2020 still awaits justice. Within just a few days, the Sanatan Deka episode was followed by another case of stabbing and killing of one Rituparna Pegu over a minor tiff involving a chair, by a group of five Muslim men in broad daylight in the heart of Guwahati city. In yet another horrific incident that came to light around the same time but much later after it had happened, a 20-year old boy Saurav Das from Dibrugarh district in Upper Assam was murdered by three Muslim men on the charge of dating a girl from their community who resided in the neighbourhood. The victim’s body was later disposed off in the nearby Sesa river.
At a time when the issue of migration has toppled governments and global political paradigms in the West, not anticipating a popular reaction from the indigenous people of Assam where almost one-third of the population has become that of migrants is politically too naïve! There has been a disproportionate increase in the Muslim population of Assam over the past few decades. Assam is changing demographically, and it is changing too fast. The change is alarming. It’s high time that the problem is no longer weighed against the same set of “liberal” principles of freedom and secularism. It is all about self-preservation and protection of the culture of a community in the wake of a serious threat to their survival.
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