First published in Sabrang India as The Updated NRC: Big jolt for BJP?
Guwahati, August 7: The Assam Movement started in 1979 for not only to detection and deportation of Foreigners but to push for the deportation of all Indians who were outsiders in Assam. Later, as the movement progressed, it turned into a Movement against ‘Ali, Coolie, Bengali, Nepalese with flat noses’. Ali, here in Assam, means the Muslims, Coolie stands for the Tea Tribes of the labouring class and the Adivashi Santhals, Bengalis for Bengali speaking Hindus and the Gorkhas! Further progression of the hysteria, with the growing influence of the RSS and its brand of Hindutva, the Movement took the shape of a mass hysteria targeted at Muslims alone. Since 1983, when the pogrom behind the Nellie massacre shaped carnages to come, right up to the latest round of rather inhuman torture of the Muslim labouring class in various parts of Assam, the state’s Minority Muslims have been targeted quite specifically by this brand of communal-chauvinist politics.
In the past 30 years, this brand of politics has successfully spread a Muslim phobia among the general Assamese people, giving currency to the widely prevalent view that Muslims in Assam are the ‘illegal intruders’ in the state. Due to acute socio-economic under development, the higher growth of Muslim population in Assam was also seen as illegal infiltration. This brand of misperception has been doing the rounds since the time of the Assam Movement.
The Assam Movement started in 1979, articulating a demand for the ‘ouster’ of 80,00,000 foreigners who were posited as a ‘danger to Assamese nationality. Later, the number of ‘foreigners’ touted by chauvinist groups had mounted to even 1,20,00,000 (1 crore and 20 Lakh). The sangh parivar, consisting of more than a hundred allied groups connected closely to the RSS have been continuously propagating that all the ‘illegal intruders’ in Assam are minority Muslim and that they number over 80,00,000. This propaganda of the RSS and its allied organizations was at the root of their successful capture of power in Assam, in 2016. The BJP succeeded in seizing power in the State only on the base of this false propaganda and fear amongst other sections of the Assamese society in the name of Bangladeshi infiltration, especially the misconception that hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi Muslim have settled in the state, posing a danger to Assamese society and the ‘indigenous’ people of Assam.
These misconceptions have been, first and foremost, exposed by the declaration of final draft of the updated NRC. More than 40,00,000 plus people have been dropped from the draft NRC released on July 30, 2018, there is growing concerns that Indian citizens find no place on the draft list. More than anything else, this has exposed the long running, vicious propaganda of the RSS-led sangh parivar and other chauvinist forces, active in the State.
In absence of official disaggregation of the 4 million left out of the Final Draft, grassroot activists and senior journalists have been crunching local data and discovering some startling trends
Assam has 33 Districts presently, of which 10 districts have a more than 50% Muslim population. However, other than Darrang, all other, nine, Muslim dominated districts of Assam are seeing lower percentage drop rates from the NRC draft list as compared to other Districts with a lesser Muslim population. For example, the South Salmara-Mancachar district of lower Assam, bordering Bangladesh has a population of 96% of Muslims. In this district more than 93% residents have found their names in the final draft NRC. The drop percentage list from the draft NRC is only 6.78%. Even of the 6.78 per cent dropped out, reasons are not their Bangladeshi origin but due to the requirement of ‘weak documents’ as declared by the NRC authority. Due to the cancellation of a large number of Panchayat certificates, which documents were allowed as link certificates primarily, the inclusion of such persons has not happened. Likewise, in the second largest Muslims dominated district of Dhubri which is also bordering Bangladesh, and which has a 75% Muslim population, the percentile of drops from the NRC final draft list is 8.4%. A large number of persons from the labouring classes who generally go to upper Assam Districts in search of livelihood are the targets here. They are out of the list.
Barpeta: The district of Barpeta with 70.74% Muslim population, Goalpara with a 57.52% Muslim population in Lower Assam are also seeing a 13.99% and 12% drop out percentage, respectively. Though the number of drop outs (from the NRC) of persons from Barpeta District is much higher than the state average, this is not because of the presence of the Muslims in the population. This becomes clear for anyone who goes through the Revenue Circle wise break up of those included and excluded in the NRC Final Draft.
In the Chenga Revenue Circle of Barpeta the District, that has 80% of Muslims in the population, the drop out percentage from the final draft of the NRC is only 9%. In the Jania Revenue Circle of the same district, with a 96% Muslim population witnessed a drop out of 8%. In the same district, the Baghbor Revenue Circle which is a part of the island area of river, Brahmaputra, there is a drop percentage of 14% from the NRC. This revenue circle of Baghbor is part of a completely eroded part of the Brahmaputra, having the highest number of illiterate and poor people in the population. Unfortunately, the NRC authority took a hasty decision to call this very impoverished section of the people, from Baghbor, to the Bajali Sub-Divisional office which is 70 kilometres away, for the NRC hearing! The motive was not simply to harass this impoverished section, but the ill-conceived decision was premised on the idea that all these poor and illiterate people from the area are mostly foreigners, that it will be easy to isolate them if the NRC hearing is both ‘strict’ and ‘inaccessible’. However, these efforts failed as more than 86% names from this section have appeared in final draft of the NRC. Contrary to this, in the Rupsi Revenue Circle of the same district, with only about 35% of Muslims in the population, there is a substantial number of Bengali Hindus who appear to have been dropped with 20% of people from this district, excluded from the NRC. This is a hard core support base for the BJP presently, state BJP President, Ranjit Das hails from here. He represents the party in the Assam Legislative Assembly: the Sorbhog Constituency includes the Rupsi Revenue Circle. This has caused a distinctly uneasy situation for the state BJP Leadership.
In two other strong BJP belts, where BJP candidates have won four times due to a division in the minority vote, a similar situation prevails. The Darrang District under Mangoldoi Parliamentary Constituency, where the Muslim population is about 64 Percent, has witnessed a huge 31.39% drop out from the Final Draft NRC. This is not so much because of the Muslim population, however. The exclusion of the Muslim Population from the final draft of the NRC, from Darrang district, is due to the issue of linkage certificates, but it is still not above 20% in any place. On the contrary, in areas which have been the traditional vote bank for BJP, with a substantial presence of Bengali Hindus in the population, there is a drop of a staggering 45 per cent of the people from the final draft of the NRC in these districts.
There is a similar story in the Nagaon Parliamentary Constituency, where the BJP candidate has won four consecutive terms. In this Parliamentary Constituency, Nagaon District which has a 50% plus of Muslims in the population, the drop percentage from the final draft of the NRC is 15.27%. The drop outs of the Muslim population from this district from the final draft of the NRC are not above the state average in population, meaning there is no especial targeting of Muslims. In sharp contrast, in the case of the Bengali Hindu population, the drop percentage is above 30%.
In Morigaon district with a 52.56% Muslim population, the percentage of drop out from the final draft NRC is 14.97%, which is far higher than the state average. This district also has a larger number of ‘Declared foreigners’ and ‘D Voters’. But, even after all these factors, the drop out percentile of the Muslim population in this district is below the state average. But in case of the BJP’s traditional vote bank Bengali Hindu dominated districts, the percentile of the dropout rate is far higher, above 35%, as per initial surveys and reports.
The single biggest jolt for the Assam unit of the BJP is from the district of Hojai, which is the only Bengali Hindu dominated district in the Brahmaputra valley. The Hojai District has a 52% Bengali Hindu Population and has seen a drop percentage of 30.3%. (Going deeper, within different segments of the population, for the Bengali Hindu, the drop our percentage is assessed at 47% in this district, where as in case of the substantial Muslim Population the drop out percentage is below 20 percent!
In Bongaigaon district, the Muslim Population is 50.22%, the percentage of drops in this district is 22.71%, which is highest to be found in lower Assam Districts. Even here, the drop percentage of the Muslim population is below 20% in this district.
In Karimganj District of the Barak Valley, which has a 56.36% Muslim population, the percentage of drop out from the Register is at 8.4%. In Hailakandidistrict, which has a 60.31% Muslim population, the district has witnessed a drop out of 9.3% from the draft NRC against 12.54% in the Cachar District. Cachar district has a Muslim population of 37.71 percent. In sharp contrast, in Dima Hasao district where the Muslim population is only 2.04% and in Karbi Anglong district, with only 2.12% of Muslims in the population, these districts have witnessed a drop out of 16.06% and 14.33% respectively from the draft NRC.
The districts of Tinisukia and Dhemaji where the Muslim population is a bare 3.64% and 1.96% respectively, the Muslim segments of the population have seen a higher rate of drop percentage out of the draft NRC. These two districts have recorded a drop out of 13.2% and 9.7% respectively.
This overall situation may have created trepidation, fear and dissatisfaction amongst the state leadership of BJP.