THAT WAS an usual television show of ND24 (newsdaily24.in), a Guwahati-based satellite news channel available in over 120 cable networks and different social media platforms, however it ended up with intriguing discussions highlighting on the looming threat from unaccounted number of Rohingya people coming from Bangladesh to northeast India as well as the county as a whole. Anchored by its chief editor Rajdeep Bailung Baruah, the evening show guided the audience with the sensitive issue, where the Assamese community continues to be hunted the migration of Bangladeshi nationals that provoked the anti-foreigner movement (1979 to 85) led by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) which culminated with the signing of historic Assam Accord.
Reporter Bimal Bhusan Mahanta initially briefed about the arrest of 47 touts, who were facilitating Muslim Rohingyas to come inside India illegally and supplying the forged documents, following a nationwide crackdown on 9 November 2023. National Investigation Agency (NIA) along with Assam Police and other responsible security agencies picked up 25 middlemen from Tripura, five from Assam, three from Bengal as well as nine from Karnataka, three from Tamil Nadu and one each from Telangana and Haryana. Currently taking shelter in south Bangladesh after fleeing from Myanmar six years back, the Rohingyas now start entering India through West Bengal and Tripura with the help of linguistic proximity.
After the media briefing by Assam’s special DGP Harmeet Singh, the State police chief GP Singh disclosed that it’s a pan-India network of touts which deals with the Stateless people’s entry to India. Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma termed the arrest (of middlemen) as a great success and an excellent synergy between the responsible forces. Sarma, also in charge of the State home portfolio, commented that Rohingya’s infiltration emerged as a threat to national security, and their nefarious designs must be extinguished with due surveillance. He also recommended an NIA probe into the matter.
The Rohingya crisis surfaced after a religious terrorist outfit attacked many border outposts of Myanmar (also known as Burma or Brahmadesh) which invited a brutal crackdown by the Burmese forces in August 2017. No less than 7,00,000 Rohingyas fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the atrocities of Burmese soldiers. The terrified Rohingya families including women and children were given shelter at makeshift camps in Bangladesh. Unconfirmed reports say around 3,00,000 Burmese Muslims had previously left their country following political turmoil from time to time.
Participating in the discussion from New Delhi, senior journalist Deepak Dewan, who keeps covering northeast India for more than four decades in different media outlets, opined that hundreds of Rohingya women are working as housemaids in the national capital region identifying themselves as Bengalis from Assam. He stated that the common residents of Delhi, Noida or Haryana cannot distinguish the difference in accent among a Bengali, a Bangladeshi and a Bangla speaking Rohingya. Moreover, often they wear traditional Hindu attire to work in the households hiding their Muslim identity.
Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, chief adviser to AASU and North East Students’ Organization, asserted that agitating people of the region identified the problem of influx at least four decades back, but New Delhi did not take the issue seriously. The Centre remains insensitive to the issue and hence even after 38 years of the accord, Assamese people are still deprived of due political importance in their own land. Bhattacharya insisted on a major crackdown operation against the Rohingyas, as earlier done against armed militant outfits of the region, to wipe out the new threat.
Another guest Aabhijeet Sarma, who leads non-government organisation Assam Public Works that approached the Supreme Court in 2009 to update the 1951 National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, also supported the idea of a massive operation against the Rohingyas as they have slowly emerged as a serious threat to the nation. Retired IPS officer Pallab Bhattacharya stated that the NRC data should be used to verify the identity of illegal migrants from both Bangladesh and Myanmar. Expressing concern over the threat, he hoped that the Centre will take necessary actions over the matter. My views as a participant were similar to them as the issue needs a proactive and timely response from the people in power.
(Nava Thakuria is a senior Indian journalist who contributes to various media outlets including print and digital platforms of India and across the world.)
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