GUWAHATI: With the stage being set for the Assembly polls in Assam and West Bengal, the BJP is once again beginning its push to enact the Citizenship Amendment Act (or 'CAA;) that seeks to naturalize non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Amid raging protests against the controversial 'CAA', senior BJP leader Amit Malviya had questioned why West Bengal Chief Minister Matata Banerjee is opposing its implementation.
"It is Prime Minister Modi who has stood up for the Hindu Bengali refugees who fled East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), to escape religious persecution and discrimination, and sought refuge in India... Why is Mamata Banerjee opposing CAA is anyone’s guess?," Malviya had written in a tweet dated January 11, 2020. Malviya also pointed to the work of writer Abul Barkat, whose research had revealed that more than 1 core Bangladeshi Hindus left the country due to "persecution."
Abul Barkat, a prominent writer and president of Bangladesh Economic Association, says that from 1964 to 2013, around 1.13 crore Hindus left Bangladesh due to religious persecution and discrimination. It means on an average, 632 Hindus left the country each day and 230,612 annually.
Although he does not specify where the Hindus fled, it can be safely assumed that they must have crossed the border to India, the country with the highest number of Hindus in the world.
Notably, the CAA provides a cut-off date of 31 December 2014. Therefore, it can be assumed that the BJP-led government at the Centre envisions naturalizing a whopping one crore Hindu Bangladeshis.
If Barkat's figures are anywhere close to being correct, the migrant exodus could spell doom for the current populace of the Northeast Indian states, which share a porous border with Bangladesh.
Assam, considered a hotbed for migrants from Bangladesh, could be dramatically impacted by the naturalization of these foreigners. The absence of an Inner Line Permit and other constitutional safeguards make the state, which in 2019 published a National Register of Citizens, especially vulnerable to an 'invasion' of Bengali-speaking migrants.
Barkat has also somewhat sensationally claimed that no Hindus will be left in Bangladesh by 2015.
“The rate of exodus over the past 49 years points to that direction,” the Dhaka University teacher says in his book Political economy of reforming agriculture-land-water bodies in Bangladesh.
After researching for 30 years, Barkat found that the exodus mostly took place during military governments after independence.
Prominent Assam activist Manjit Mahanta, a vocal opposer of the 'CAA', has lamented that despite such research and findings, the government continues to turn a blind eye to the infiltration.
"The government has continued to turn a blind eye towards the incursion, which is why they are gaining in confidence. There are no repercussions and the 'Assam Accord' is yet to be implemented in letter and spirit, as promised. No foreigner who entered after 1971 should be granted citizenship; it is as simple as that," he told Inside Northeast.
It needs mention here that Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said in a written reply in Parliament on January 26 that the "rules under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 are under preparation. The Committees on Subordinate Legislation, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have granted an extension of time up to April 9 and July 9 respectively to frame these rules under the CAA."
However, the double whammy of protests against the controversial Act and the COVID-19 crisis seem to have shaken the government's resolve.
Interestingly, Amit Shah canceled his public meeting in Matua stronghold in North 24 Parganas last week.
The enactment of the 'CAA' is one of the key poll promises in West Bengal, where the migrated Matua community awaits naturalization. Experts opine the Matuas can form a formidable voting bloc for the BJP as it continues its topple the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC.
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