MUMBAI, Aug 20 – Lamenting that the Assam Accord was still on paper, Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) legislator Alka Sarma today asserted that the violence should not be seen as a Bodo-Muslim conflict, reports PTI.
The implementation of the Accord could have helped in easing ‘Assamese versus foreign nationals’ tension, Sarma said while interacting with the media at the Press Club here.
“The Assam agitation dates back to 1979 against illegal foreign nationals, which culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord. Assamese people had assimilated Bangladeshis who had migrated till 1966. As per the Accord, those Bangladeshis who came between 1966 and 1971 will be barred from voting for ten years,” Sarma said.
The Accord also mentioned that the international borders will be sealed, however, the clauses are yet to see the light of the day, she regretted.
Referring to the present violence, she claimed that the Assam Government was aware that tension was building up but failed to act in time to check it.
“The Government is still in denial over the presence of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in Assam,” she said.
As per the Foreigners Act, the onus of proving Indian citizenship lies on the person concerned. However, according to the Illegal Migrant Determination Tribunal (IMDT) invoked in Assam, the onus lies on the complainant. “Nowhere in the world, there are two set of laws for the same purpose in one country,” she stated.
The IMDT detected 54,000 illegal Bangladeshi migrants but no steps have been taken to deport them. Similarly, over 80,000 had come with valid documents and withered away. In 1985, nearly two lakh people were identified as “D” (doubtful) category voters but still no action has been taken,” she said.
According to Sarma, 27 years after the Accord, the “definition of Assamese” is yet to be worked out. “There are more than 450 tribal communities in the North East which has 4,500 km of international border. Border with mainland India is only of 22 km. Hence, North East is very important for safeguarding the sovereignty of the country,” she said.
Sarma said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Rs 300 crore package was inadequate. “The riot victims have to be rehabilitated. The camaraderie and friendship has to return,” she expressed.
The AGP leader who holds a doctorate from Mumbai University on Naga economy, said the Government should take a policy decision on illegal Bangladeshi migrants. “If we should accept them, why should Assam alone bear the burden. If not, then they should be detected and deported,” she said.
She lamented that the seriousness of the Assam problem was realised by rest of India only after the Mumbai violence and the exodus from Indian cities. “People from North East feel alienated and marginalised and hence fall easy prey to rumours,” she added.
The AGP leader stressed the need for an extradition treaty with Bangladesh. “Development of Bangladesh, work permit to its nationals to work in India can be given. But granting voting rights results in shifting of political balance,” she said.
Sarma criticised the Assam Government for granting autonomous councils to different tribes saying it was “a divide and rule policy.”