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NRC outcome: As a nation, we have failed Assam

It may be time to look at the depressing reality in the eye and just admit: We failed Assam as a nation. Irretrievably.

When the draft NRC came out last year, it identified about 40 lakh suspected illegal migrants in Assam. Now, any person with an inkling of the ground realities would have said the real number is much more, but at least it was better than nothing.

Now the final NRC is out and that figure has shrunk to just 19 lakh. Further, mounting anecdotal evidence suggests that the list is full of Hindu refugees and some say it may even be a majority of them. These victims of partition will now have to live through the worst of our bureaucratic nightmares merely to stay in India.

The politicians are still trying to hold on to their rhetorical positions. Some talk of approaching the Supreme Court again. But it may be time to look at the depressing reality in the eye and just admit: We failed Assam as a nation. Irretrievably.

In reality, what options do we have left? The NRC was promised by Rajiv Gandhi as part of the Assam Accord in 1985. Obviously, he had no intention of actually doing it. He had no incentive to. The Congress would be the biggest beneficiary of “secular” votes from across the border.

Work on the NRC did not begin seriously until the BJP came to power in Assam in 2016. That’s over 3 decades in between. With our mass poverty, what documentation could be seriously expected to last 30 years to prove citizenship beyond reasonable doubt? There is a flood almost every year in Assam. Obviously, the standards have to be lowered to the point that the standards no longer matter at all.

The depressing reality is that, when it comes to providing documents, the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have now become indistinguishable from genuine Indians.

This is the goal that Indian secularism worked towards and they have achieved it. For decades, they opened the door from the inside and let infiltrators in, hoping to harvest their votes. The promise of NRC was kept as an eyewash, but the timeline was extended indefinitely.

Indian secularism was just playing for time. They knew that with each passing year, it would become more and more difficult to identify and deport infiltrators. It’s 2019 now. How will you prove someone came illegally in the 1970s? See if you can think of a concrete suggestion.

The BJP is also to blame here. They didn’t proactively invite infiltrators from Bangladesh, unlike their ‘secular’ adversaries. True. But they must have understood that by 2016, it was already too late. All legal options had become unimplementable already. The NRC was no longer possible. They offered the dream anyway.

Someone has to look the people of Assam in the eye and tell them the dream has been shattered already. No politician will dare to say this, so I might as well do it. We as a nation failed the people of Assam. We saw with our own eyes the infiltrators coming in, colonizing and subjugating Assam, but we did nothing. We let it go on. And now, we have lost Assam to the colonizers from East Pakistan.

When Partition happened and Pakistan was created, one side saw it as a one time sacrifice to secure a permanent peace. The other side saw it as a staging area from where they would carry out the unfinished business of wiping out India.

Many in India think Pakistan considers Kashmir to be the unfinished business of Partition. They are wrong. Partition was never a goal for the other side. Their real business was to wipe out India. Kashmir is just an unfinished step in their real unfinished business.

And today, thanks to their proactive nature and our passive nature, we have failed Assam.

Our passive nature continues to this very day. If you have seen any Indian metropolis, you know that what happened to Assam is happening again. Before our eyes. But we care so little.

Worse, so many of us fall for the American liberal narrative about illegal migrants that is being wrongly juxtaposed in the Indian context. Who wants to be Trump? But America is a nation of immigrants. America was not born out of a Partition. Bharat is our cultural inheritance. That cultural identity was torn into two pieces in 1947. We did not ask for it to be torn into pieces. We were forced. There is no shame in demanding that the other side keep its word and leave us in peace. We’ve paid the ransom. We lost 30 lakh innocent lives. We lost forever much of the land of our ancestors. At least leave us alone now. To say so is not narrow minded. This is having the common sense to stand up for ourselves because nobody else will.

Worst of all, we are still fighting among ourselves. Assamese against Bengali. Who realizes that unless we do something today, tomorrow it might be Bihar or Odisha who will be resentful of refugees coming in from both Assam and Bengal? And a few years after that, maybe refugees from Assam, Bengal, Bihar and Odisha will all be looking for a place to live? But who has the time to learn the most obvious lessons from history?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill is caught up in our squabbles. The unfortunate Hindu refugees, who are the real victims of partition, are stuck. From the NRC final list, it seems these people were the least proactive in getting “documents.” Possibly because they had trusted that India would give them a place under the sky. Where else would a Hindu refugee go? Clearly, they expected too much. On the other hand, the real infiltrators arranged for all the “documents” necessary to set up their colony in Assam. How messed up is this? And how doomed are we as a nation?

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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