Monday, March 30, 2020
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No, General Rawat wasn’t making political comments, he was just talking about the inconvenient truth

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Political parties have pounced on the army chief for commenting that AIDUF has grown faster than the BJP while speaking at the seminar on Northeast organised by DRDO. However, the implicit meaning and the content of his speech before making the so-called ‘controversial statement’ deserves the attention of all Indians and the government.

Bipin Rawat says the following in the video above :

  • I think that the government is looking at the northeast in correct perspective and if that happens time will not be far when we will be able to amalgamate the region, ensure development and with development, we will be able to control the people of the region who are residing in this area.
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We get a feeling that the Muslim population in this area has still not ridden itself of the Islamism that had caused partition in 1947. One gets the impression that the Army chief is talking about the lack of accommodative religious stance among those who have immigrated to India from Bangladesh.

The controversial part of the speech is not available in the video above. It has been transcribed from this link.

  • I don’t think that you can change the population dynamics of this area. If it was five districts, 8 to 9 the inversion has taken place whichever be the government, there is a party called AIDUF. If you look at it, they have grown at a faster time frame than with the BJP grew over the years. When we talk of Jan Sangh with two members of parliament and where they have reached, the AIDUF at a faster pace in the state of Assam. Finally, what will be the state of Assam, we have to take a call. 

The Chief seems to be hinting at the rapid demographic change occurring in the area because of illegal immigration from the Bangladesh border. That is the reason why the AIDUF has grown by leaps and bounds since it was founded in 2005. It has three seats in Lok Sabha and 13 out of 128 seats in Assam legislative assembly.

The army chief is hinting at the situation where Assam could be a fully Muslim dominated state like Kashmir when he says ‘Finally, what will be the state of Assam, we have to take a call.’ The ‘call’ here is to ensure zero percent of illegal immigration from Bangladesh to avoid that situation.

  • We have got to appreciate living with all people who are living in our region irrespective of their caste, creed, religion or sex. I think if you understand that, we can live together happily, but the best part is amalgamate the kind of people that are living in the region and then start identifying people who are trying to create trouble. We will have more trouble in segregating people, identifying people, yes some people have to be identified who are creating trouble for us, who are illegal immigrants, but as was brought out, Muslim population started coming into Assam as early as 1218 to 1236. That was the first time that Muslims entered Assam. So we have to understand that they are not late arrivers, they were the early arrivers who came concurrently with the Ahoms. Both these people have claims to the state of Assam and therefore the North East region.

In this part of the speech, he warns against the import of violent Islam from across the border. The challenge of this extremists Islamists entering India is captured well in a documentary called ‘The Bangla Crescent.’ While conceding that both Assamese and Muslims have a right to live in Assam he hints that these extremists must drop their destructive ideology.

  • Bangladesh has a better HDI than us today. Migration from Bangladesh is happening because of two reasons. One is lebensraum (living space in German). They are running short of space. A large part of their areas gets flooded with water during monsoons. So they have got a very constricted area to stay, so I think people will continue coming into our place.
  • And the other issue is a planned immigration that is taking place because of our western neighbours. They will always try and ensure that this area is taken over to playing the proxy dimension of warfare. You have to counteract a stronger nation with conventional operations, so you play a proxy game. And this proxy game is played well by our western neighbour, supported also by our Northern neighbour. So to that extent, to keep this area disturbed we will continue to see some sort of migration happening. But I think the solution lies in identifying the problem and holistically looking at it, looking at it in perspective but development is the main issue. Identifying the people of this area with the population of the mainland becomes important.

Rawat provides both the logical and strategic reasons for the illegal immigration from Bangladesh. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with 1,252 people living per square kilometre. In addition to this, the role of Pakistan and China in changing the demographics should also be noted as a strategic threat for India and Assam.

If the demographics of Bangladesh worsens, we could have another version of Kashmir where extremists rule and kick out the Hindu population in the region. As of now, we don’t even have a proper census data for the state. Once the NPR (National Population Register) for the state is out, we will be able to ascertain the facts to some extent. The 4096 km border with Bangladesh must be sealed on a war footing and monitored closely. One might be partially relieved that this is happening at a faster pace under the current government. The chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has promised to seal the border by 2018.

One can say that the Army chief’s comments are a comprehensive warning to the politicians and people of Assam. At the same time, one can also feel partially relieved that the problem in this region has been acknowledged and the government is working towards a solution.

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