An activist holds a placard during a rally in solidarity with those affected by the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, in Kolkata. Photo: AP
An activist holds a placard during a rally in solidarity with those affected by the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, in Kolkata. Photo: AP

Opinion | How we covered ourselves with glory in Assam

Talk of multiculturalism and diversity and openness is all very well for speeches at international conferences, but back in our little towns and villages, what really matters is our micro-mono-cultural identity

Finally, we have struck a decisive blow to safeguard our culture and our national identity. The world will now realize how strong we are. It’s a powerful warning to all anti-national forces that we mean business.

After years of lily-livered dilly-dallying, we have zeroed in on four million potential fifth columnists in Assam, many of whom, in a display of devilish cunning, are women and children.

Let our enemies see what we can do and quake in their boots. We have proved we can separate parents from children, wives from husbands, grandmothers from grandsons, brother from brother. We have shown enormous courage in uprooting people who have settled here for decades, tilled our land, built our villages, carried our loads. It is our finest hour. No child will be spared, even though she may have spent her entire life in this country. For hath not someone said that the sins of the father should be visited upon his children?

To be sure, some of those whose names aren’t in the list may not be illegal immigrants. But for them, it’s just a test of patriotism. Surely no red-blooded patriot will grudge the long queues to prove his identity, the endless trips to the registration centres, some of them hundreds of miles away, the thousands of rupees spent on hunting down old records and paying unscrupulous lawyers and venal apparatchiks, the days wasted, the fear of falling through the cracks in the system?

Observe, ye craven liberals, the might of the Indian state, see what it can do to people. We made them do it during demonetisation, we’re showing we can do it again and again. In any case, it is the poor and illiterate who suffer. Centuries of kowtowing to the powers that be have inured them to hardships. Their backs have been broken. Who cares about them?

These aliens are a grave security risk. They have been so for decades and it’s only due to our ceaseless vigilance they haven’t been able to carry out their nefarious plans. They’re all potential terrorists, every man, woman and child.

Naysayers say the Assam illegal immigration problem is a legacy of the past. They say average life expectancy in Bangladesh is 72 years, while it’s around 64 in Assam. They say infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are much lower in Bangladesh than Assam. And Bangladesh is a much more dynamic economy. So why would a Bangladeshi migrate to Assam today?

But is it not a fact that our people will get more jobs, more rickshaws, more pots and pans, more lebensraum if the illegal aliens were deported? And what about our identity? During the last few decades, irreparable damage has been done to our culture, our festivals, our literature, our cuisine, our accents and our sex lives by these outsiders. Talk of multiculturalism and diversity and openness is all very well for speeches at international conferences, but back in our little towns and villages, what really matters is our micro-mono-cultural identity.

Also read | NRC Assam: Hope rests on scraps of paper

There is also an insidious doctrine that our north-east is ideally placed to be a gateway to the prosperous economies of south-east Asia. According to this pernicious theory, the north-east should embrace Bangladesh. It talks of the benefits to the region if the Bangladesh market opens up, or the markets of Myanmar and Thailand. It spins tall tales of how exports from the north-east through nearby Bangladesh ports would offer access to the world market. Why, perhaps a free trade zone could be set up on the India-Bangladesh border. All this would lead to new industries, new jobs, new hope, new prosperity, which would bring peace to the region. Some in the Indian establishment have been seduced by the charms of this alluring vision.

But what use will that be to our politicians? They need to pit Assamese against Bengali, Hindu versus Muslim, Baptist versus Buddhist, Naga against Kuki, Meitei versus Paitei, Bodo versus Assamese, Dimasa against Karbi, Hmar against Mizo and everybody against the Chakmas to thrive. And we, paranoid frogs in our little well, must encourage and support these leaders.

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