With the National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft being published in Assam, the opposition has joined hands in opposing the government’s move to identify and deport illegal migrants mostly from Bangladesh. As of now, 40 lakh people have been left out of the NRC, however, they have the opportunity to reapply if they believe a mistake has been made.
The Congress has been at the forefront of stoking tension after the NRC draft.
One wonders why the grand old party would oppose something so basic and logical. A nation, any nation, has limited resources which are reserved for her citizens regardless of caste, creed or religion, Any country, and especially a country like India needs to cater to her own. Other than the logical arguments that support the NRC, one must wonder why Congress feels compelled to play with fire considering the bloodied struggle Assam saw in its demand for the deportation of illegal Bangladeshis. After all, it was Sonia Gandhi’s husband who signed the Assam Accord and Congress has often furthered that as a mark of his intent. Why then, would Congress reignite this dangerous narrative?
To understand it becomes imperative that we look at history for what it really is. We look at History not just through the prism of facts, but the hidden nuances that are often missed, intentionally or otherwise.
Perpahs the best place to start is a WikiLeaks cable that proves how little the Congress respected the terrible and violent insurgency problems of Assam and also how little the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi respects democracy. When one analyses the cable further, one also recalls the duplicitous treachery of the Congress party. This cable was denied by the Congress party. But, at the same time, then Assam Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi had endorsed the cable. Tarun Gogoi of Congress had said that AGP was an ‘insurgent group’.
The confidential WikiLeaks cable from February 2006 talks about a 30-minute meeting between now President and then Vice President of the Congress party Rahul Gandhi and USA Congressman Joseph Crowley (Democrat from New York City). The cable talks in details about the conversation that took place between Rahul Gandhi and Democrat Crowley ranging from the Iraq war to Assam politics.
The mention of Assam politics comes in the part of the conversation about Israel and Palestine conflict.
Point 7 of the cable talks about Rahul Gandhi asking Crowley about the Democratic party’s position on the Hamas victory in Palestine. Hamas, which is in part or in whole considered a terrorist organisation by many countries, had won the elections in Palestine on 29th January 2006, days before this meeting happened on 20th February 2006. According to Crowley, Hamas won because it promised to deliver governance and the people’s frustration that forced them to put faith in Hamas, and the very same problem was being seen in Bangladesh with respect to Jamaat-Islami.
Gandhi then asked the Congressman what the Democratic party position was on the recent Hamas victory. He responded that many observers have determined that Hamas did not win because of its ideology, but rather for its promise to deliver much-needed services and honest government to the frustrated Palestinian people. Crowley pointed out that there is a similar phenomenon in Bangladesh, where the GOB’s all-pervasive corruption has led to faulty delivery of services, while the Ministries run by the Jamaat-Islami have acquired a reputation for honesty and efficiency. Congressman Crowley emphasized that the situation is troubling and should it break down, there could be a growing threat of civil war.
Rahul Gandhi equated the Hamas situation with the one in Assam. He said (emphasis added):
Gandhi responded that the GOI has faced a similar problem in Assam, where it for years battled a separatist insurgency. The Indian strategy, he pointed out, was to allow the insurgent group to form the Assam government. This “defanged and discredited” the insurgency, as the insurgents proved unable to govern and lost popular support. He envisaged that a similar outcome was possible in the Occupied Territories. Gandhi noted that he had attended a lunch with former President Clinton the day before and had heard similar views from him, as Clinton stated that the Hamas victory could be an “opportunity for progress” in the Middle East over the long term.
There are multiple problems with Rahul Gandhi’s reasoning and response to Crowley which shows how little Rahul Gandhi knew about India when he was meeting foreign dignitaries.
Failure to differentiate between ‘separatist insurgency’ and ‘occupied territories’.
To put it simply, an insurgency is what one would say is happening in Kashmir where a group of terrorists fight for the independence and secession of a state from the country. This is also what happened in Assam during the 70s with terror groups like ULFA fighting for independence. A terror group which cashed in on disenchantment and has been mostly reduced to irrelevancy today.
An occupied territory is what Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is. PoK is undisputably Indian territory which has been occupied by Pakistan by force and remains so till this date. When Rahul Gandhi talks about fighting ‘insurgency’ in Assam and then talks about the “solution” (which is misplaced too) to help occupied territories, he conflates the two and ends up exposing his ignorance.
Rahul Gandhi talks about the central government’s strategy being to “allow” a certain section to form the state government
The central government doesn’t “allow” the state government to be formed. That is not how democracy works. And if that was the case, Rahul Gandhi admitted to Congress tinkering with the democratic process as it has done many times.
Did an “insurgent group” form the state government in Assam?
State elections in Assam have been held since 1946. From 1946 to 1978, Assam had a Congress state government. From 1978 to 1979, Assam had a Janata Party government. The Assam movement or the Assam agitation started from 1979 and lasted till 1985. A movement initiated by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the ‘All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad’ (AAGSP) against illegal immigration of Bangladeshis in the state. The aim was to ensure the government identifies and deports illegal migrants and provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to the indigenous Assamese people. In 1978 during by-elections, it was found that there was a massive spike in voters owing to Bangladeshis and AASU did not let the by-elections take place. In 1979, the state saw mass agitation, and eventually, the elections could not take place and the President’s rule was ordered. Between 1979 and 1985, Assam saw intermittent spates of a Congress government and President’s rule owing to the agitation.
The first non-Congress or Janata Party came in 1985, after the Assam accord when Prafulla Kumar Mahanta was the Chief Minister and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) won state elections. AGP was constituted as a result of the Assam movement that demanded illegals be deported. While AGP also formed the government in 1996, in the given context, the only government that Rahul Gandhi says Congress “allowed to be formed” must be AGP in 1985.
Considering AGP was a political culmination of the Assam movement, that Rahul Gandhi calls it an “insurgent separatist” group and equates it with Hamas is perhaps the greatest insult to the people of Assam and a movement that aimed at getting indigenous Assamese people their rights in India and not secession.
Did Congress “allow” AGP to form the government in 1985?
1979 to 1985 was a turbulent period for Assam. The Assam agitation was at its peak and the Assamese people’s anger against the Bangladeshi influx was at its highest. Amid the turbulence, the Indira Gandhi government railroaded the Assamese people and forced elections upon them in 1983. The AASU boycotted these elections. As the reader may recall, even in 1979 the AASU had agitated against elections since the voter list had a massive spike owing to illegal Bangladeshis.
The Indira Gandhi government’s decision to thrust elections upon Assam in 1983 turned a mostly peaceful agitation into a violent once, perhaps one of the most violent in the history of the country. The consequence was the heinous Nellie massacre of 1983. A 6 hour long, bloodied rampage by tribal group Lalung, where 2,191 mostly Bangladeshi Muslims lost their lives (unofficial numbers could be as high as 10,000). During this massacre, the state was under President’s rule. Which basically meant under Indira Gandhi’s direct rule and this ghastly massacre was allowed to happen. Post the massacre, in another agitation-filled election, Congress government came to power in 1984, where mostly the Bengali-majority areas voted.
Indira Gandhi was subsequently assassinated on 31st October 1984. Rajiv Gandhi, to his credit, signed the Assam Accord in 1985 where 1 January 1966 became the base year for detecting foreigners and 24th March 1971 was decided as the cut-off date for detecting illegal foreigners and removing them from the electoral rolls. Thereafter, the Congress state government was dissolved and in the subsequent election, AGP came to power.
By all logical standard, Assam voted for AGP because it was their agitation that led to the Assam Accord being signed. By all standard, Assam identified with AGP because it met the Assamese aspiration of deporting illegals from the state. For Rahul Gandhi to assert that ‘they allowed the government to be formed’ sounds outlandish and ill-informed. Like the assertions of a man who has no idea that the history of Assam was coloured in red.
What if Rahul Gandhi was right and Congress did ‘allow’ AGP to form the government?
Fact remains that the AGP was absolutely, 100% not an insurgent group. Fact remains that AGP was a culmination of an agitation that aimed at getting the Assamese people their rights and demanded the deportation of illegal Bangladeshis. Fact remains that the ghastly Nellie massacre happened when there was President’s rule in Assam which meant that the state was directly under Indira Gandhi’s rule. Fact also remains that in an interview to Financial Times, when asked why she didn’t stop the Nellie massacre earlier, Indira Gandhi brazenly said: “One has to let such events take their own course before stepping in.” Fact remains the Congress party (including Rahul Gandhi who sprouted nonsense about Assam to a USA Congressman) has never explained what Indira Gandhi meant and why their government didn’t act. Fact remains that out of 688 criminal cases, there was never a conviction. Nobody got punished for the Nellie massacre.
Fact remains that the Tiwari Commission report on the Nellie massacre is still a closely guarded secret (only three copies exist). The 600-page report was submitted to the Assam Government in 1984 and the Congress Government (headed by Hiteswar Saikia) decided not to make it public.
The AGP government eventually could not prove its governance mettle and Congress was voted back in power in 1991 (after a year of President’s rule). While on the face of it, Rahul Gandhi seems ignorant, one must pause to wonder – what if the Congress government did tinkle with the democratic process and ‘allowed’ AGP to form the government? By Rahul Gandhi’s logic, was it done so Assam would forget the bloodied morning of the Nellie massacre and vote Congress back to power subsequently?
Fact remains that on 3rd August 2018, Ram Pradhan, the Union Home Secretary who negotiated the Assam Accord with AASU has gone on record to say that Rajiv Gandhi did not pursue the Assam Accord because “it would have impacted Congress’ votebank”.
Ram Pradhan said, in connection with the survey to identify illegals, “This was a part of the accord, but they realised that the survey would seriously impair the votebank of the Congress”.
This revelation by Ram Pradhan coupled with the multiple Wikileaks cables we analysed recently which revealed that while the BJP and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) the main opposition in Assam were fragmented, Congress still had not lost support from the critical Muslim community. Sonia Gandhi had then offered to amend the Foreigners Act to prevent the deportation of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. And earlier, allegations were also levelled against Manmohan Singh for not doing enough to deport illegal Bangladeshis.
The Nellie massacre, Indira Gandhi’s inaction, her brazen statement, no convictions, a closely guarded commission report was a brazen attempt of the government giving itself a clean chit. Rajiv Gandhi’s government not implementing the Assam accord, Ram Pradhan’s revelations, the revelation that Sonia Gandhi didn’t want illegals deported, and Rahul’s statement to the USA Congressman is a testament to Congress’ treachery.
Now, when Congress wishes to stir the hornet’s nest once again, it is time they provide answers to these questions. Rahul Gandhi must answer why Sonia Gandhi did not want illegals to be deported (according to the previous Wikileaks Cable we reported) despite Assam’s struggle and Rajiv Gandhi’s Assam Accord. Rahul Gandhi and his party must answer why Rajiv Gandhi’s accord was not implemented. Rahul Gandhi and Congress must answer whether the sentiments of Assam were toyed with simply to retain their vote bank. Congress must answer for Indira Gandhi’s statement and the Nellie Massacre. Congress must answer why, after everything Assam has been through, are they playing the dangerous game even today.
Congress must answer for Assam and to Assam.
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017