Sunday, Sep 23, 2018 | Last Update : 02:38 PM IST
To say India is for Indians has a ring of logic with which most people would agree.
The atmosphere must cool down over the Assam citizenship/migration issue. It is getting needlessly politicised and leading to extremely shrill rhetoric from both sides of the spectrum. A far more humane approach is needed if the matter of citizenship, a historical legacy, is to be resolved. At stake is the future of about 40 lakh people, although those numbers may come down a lot if many of those excluded from the National Register of Citizens are able to prove they are Indians or came here before the March 24, 1971 cutoff date. A greater level of sophistication is needed in drawing the line on who is an Indian and who is not, and then a major decision must be taken on what to do with those declared as refugees. The hugely complicated issue, that became intensely political during the Assam student movement days, and the later Assam Accord with New Delhi, can't be resolved by any hardline stand taken now on the basis of religion.
Of course, there was little need for West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to have warned of a "bloodbath" or a "civil war" if Muslims are discriminated against in this Assam exercise. It's unbecoming of a state chief minister to talk in such terms even if it is well known where her sympathies lie. On the other hand, there's equally little need for BJP president Amit Shah to make it appear that everything is black and white in this entire exercise and that there is a mechanism by which people not belonging here can be sent to another country. The air has been surcharged so much in this divisive targeting of Muslim immigrants from the former East Bengal over citizenship that a legislator has suggested, in quite a silly way, that all "illegals", including Rohingyas from Myanmar, be eliminated using guns. Many parties have played politics with the issue of illegal Bangladeshis in India but it's time they stopped lest greater damage be done to social harmony. India has had a long history and a tradition of accepting an influx from cataclysmic events like Partition and the Bangladesh, Sri Lankan and Afghanistan wars. The migrant numbers are hugely exaggerated by those who quote dubious demographic scenarios to build up a climate of opinion against refugees of a certain religion. To say India is for Indians has a ring of logic with which most people would agree. But would not a society accept those seeking asylum or even accommodate economic refugees as a sizeable number of people of Indian origin are also living abroad, having emigrated mostly looking for a better life? It's somewhat simplistic to say all illegal immigrants should be sent back to their country of origin, as such an exercise involving millions of people has never been attempted.