Assam: NRC count triggers influx fears in North Bengal


GUWAHATI, June 13, 2018 (TNN): Bordering Assam, residents of Cooch Behar villages along the 84-km stretch near Buxirhat have been spending sleepless nights. People who had married off their daughters in Assam years ago now fear the families will have to leave the state with a Bangladeshi tag on them.

As many 69,000 Bengali-speaking D-voters (doubtful voters) in Assam are facing this uncertainty for months during update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), fuelling tension in villages on either sides of the border — Chhagulia, Phelakura, Agamoni and Golapganj.

There was a mad scramble among domiciles in Assam from Bengal till months ago to find out the names of their ancestors in Bengal's electoral rolls so that they can establish Indian citizenship before being branded as Bangladeshis.

"Many people now residing in Assam came to us to obtain a certificate stating that their forefathers were residents of Cooch Behar and have their names in the electoral rolls there. We gave them certificates," said Trinamool MLA Udayan Guha.

But the certificate was not enough to rid the domiciles of the D-voter tag. They were summoned by the local administration from time to time and in many cases the foreigners' tribunal was not satisfied with the certificates.

With the second list of the NCR likely by the end of this month as mandated by the Supreme Court, chances are these people might enter the bordering district of Bengal — Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri.

Sensing trouble, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee sent a three-member ministerial delegation to Assam comprising Firhad Hakim, Gautam Deb, and Rabindranath Ghosh two months ago on April 11. "We met the Bengali-speaking D-voters from various areas in Assam. They complained that the local administration refused to recognise the certificates in many cases. Worse, the administration has set up detention centres at three places where some of these D-voters are confined. I had been to some of these centres. I can't narrate their plight in public," said Ghosh.

Without questioning the Supreme Court ordained updating of the NCR, Ghosh said: "What strikes me is the fact that BJP got eight MPs elected from Assam in the Lok Sabha elections based on the 2014 electoral rolls. BJP came to power in the state following the assembly polls based on the 2016 electoral rolls. They should all resign now that they refuse to recognise the electoral rolls based on which they got elected," he said.

The Mamata government is keeping its doors open for the Bengali-speaking population if Assam puts a "foreigner" tag on them.

Taking a cue from PM Narendra Modi, the Bengal BJP, that has a substantial presence in these parts of North Bengal, has decided to welcome Bengali-speaking Hindus only. "Our state unit sent a delegation to the Parliament Select Committee examining the Citizenship Amendment Act. We demanded that the Centre should immediately pass an order, if not an Act, to relocate the persecuted Hindus in parts of Bengal," said Bengal BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu.

The likely influx of Bengali-speaking population that has been continuing in this region since the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 has also brought about a significant change in Cooch Behar's demography that had once been the land of the Rajbanshis. According to Ghosh, Cooch Behar now has a 32% Rajbanshi population.
Featured image: The Wire (Representation)