Assam

Assam’s NRC: All you need to know and which media doesn’t tell you

It’s possible looking at wall-to-wall coverage of Assam’s National Register for Citizens (NRC) final draft in our newspapers that you believe a Hindu nationalist party in the Centre is rendering lakhs of unfortunate Muslims homeless.

It’s also possible that you believe in the blood-curdling call of Mamata Banerjee and fear that a civil war would reach our doorsteps.

It’s quite possible tears are welling up in your eyes at the graphic coverage of Indian Express about unfortunate victims rendered illegal in one stroke.

It’s possible you are breaking out in a sweat over the prospects of another “Partition” as snakes-in-the-sleeve come out writhing in the mud.

It’s quite possible your respect for Congress has gone a millimeter up after they gave adjournment notice in the Lok Sabha over the matter.

My advisory to you is to shove this all in the nearest bin or spare your toilet roll. You need to know that this exercise has been mandated by the Supreme Court (and not Modi government); that it’s just a draft; that no NRC exercise has been taken up after 1951 (sic); that Congress had itself promised so in the Assam Accord of 1985; and that Mamata Banerjee back in 2005 had herself wanted the illegal Bangladesh immigrants identified. In case you want to know everything there is to know about illegal migrants in Assam over the centuries and the present, just to make sure this nonsense doesn’t waste an extra second of yours from now, read this piece and no further.

If nothing, please pay heed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh who has stressed “it’s just a draft” and nobody is going to a “detention centre.”

You could also bear this basic question in mind in case your office-colleagues are thumping your desk down: All the regional leaders who are shedding copious tears on “poor” illegal migrants of Assam– “refugee in own country,” as per Mamata — whether their own people in state would welcome these 40 lakh illegals in their fold.

All things point to nothing materially changing for illegal migrants post release of second draft of NRC. One, India doesn’t have an agreement with Bangladesh in place (our eastern neighbours don’t even acknowledge influx of illegal migrants from its stable); Two, a porous border allows an extradited illegal migrant to return without hassle; Three, many lakhs of illegal immigrants are already spread all over the country, especially in metropolis such as Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Who keeps tab on them?

Sooner than later though, illegal migrants must be taken off the election rolls; ways must be found to give refuge to millions of fleeing Hindus (and other Indic minority sects) from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh with full citizenship status (without worrying about Rohingyas or Human Right Activists—for Hindus have only India to turn to while Muslims and Christians have dozens of own doors to knock around the world); and illegal migrants legally committed not to indulge in political or religious subversive acts.

Centre rushes forces to Assam; all eyes on NRC draft

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Centre has rushed tens of thousands of paramilitary forces to Assam lest violence breaks out in the north-eastern state after the second draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) is released on July 30.

The first draft had embraced 1.9 crores out of 3.9 crores as legal citizens of the state. The second draft could take care of a few lakhs more. But what’s certain is that there would be many lakhs more who won’t have the papers to meet the cut-off date of March 24, 1971.

A majority of them are persecuted Hindus fleeing Bangladesh: informed sources put it to over 11 million Hindus between 1964 and 2013. There is also no insignificant numbers of economically-motivated Muslim migrants over decades.

Most have moved directly across the vast 272 km border which Assam shares with Bangladesh. Some have come from West Bengal. Being termed illegal overnight could’ve serious law and order consequences though home minister Rajnath Singh has stressed “it’s just a draft” and nobody is going into a “detention centre.”

Census figures over the years show that Assam’s population exploded by 36 per cent between 1951-1961; and by 35% over the next decade. In 2011 Census, it’s population was 31.2 million which was a 17.1% rise from 2001 figures. Most migrants are Bengali-speaking and Barak Valley is their stronghold. The Assamese-speaking population of the state are rooted in Brahmaputra Valley.

NRC is hardly a comfort to (a) an illegal Hindu migrant family who fears being sent back to Bangladesh where it fled religious persecution in the first place; or (b) Muslim migrants who in one stroke could find two of its generation stateless refugees; or (c) even indigenous Assamese who know NRC would make no difference to ground reality and that these illegal immigrants would multiply manifold if the Citizenship Bill 2016 is passed into an Act.

All things point to nothing materially changing for illegal migrants post release of second draft of NRC. One, India doesn’t have an agreement with Bangladesh in place (our eastern neighbours don’t even acknowledge influx of illegal migrants from its stable); Two, a porous border allows an extradited illegal migrant to return without hassle; Three, many lakhs of illegal immigrants are already spread all over the country, especially in metropolis such as Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Who keeps tab on them?

It’s worth remembering that the present exercise of NRC is at the behest of Supreme Court. The Centre has got nothing to do with it. BJP can’t abandon illegal Hindu migrants—which would be a stick they would be beaten with– nor antagonize local Assamese who have given vote in their favour in 2016 assembly elections.

This makes nobody happy. Certainly not people. But Congress is sure to fish in troubled waters which is largely a making of their own indifference, if not mischief. Congress has ruled Assam for decades and benefited immensely from the political umbrella it provided to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Despite then-PM Rajiv Gandhi signing the 1985 accord with leaders of the Assam movement, it remains an embarrassing fact for the party that only 2442 illegal immigrants were expelled from Assam between 1985-2012.

Not to forget TMC  and its head, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who is already stoking the fire in Assam from her den in order to appease illegal migrants in her own state who arguably are her vote bank; or Left which in the past sabotaged one such move by Shiv Sena-BJP combine in Maharashtra to deport illegal Bangladeshis in 1998.

Sooner than later though, illegal migrants must be taken off the election rolls; ways must be found to give refuge to millions of fleeing Hindus (and other Indic minority sects) from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh with full citizenship status (without worrying about Rohingyas or Human Right Activists—for Hindus have only India to turn to while Muslims and Christians have dozens of own doors to knock around the world); and illegal migrants legally committed not to indulge in political or religious subversive acts.

 

 

Pregnant women are not just Muslims

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of financial aid to pregnant women in his new year’s address has led to suggestions that Muslim women would benefit the most from this scheme as they produce more children than any other religious sect in India.

Muslims today comprise of 184 million people in India or around 14.5 percent of total population (compared to Hindus who have fallen below 80%) as of 2015.

A Pew Research Center report predicts that by 2050, India will overtake Indonesia to have the largest Muslim population in the world. The Muslims are expected to swell to 310 million, or almost 18% of the population while Hindus would hover around 77%. As of now, Indonesia has 209 million, followed by India (176 million) and Pakistan (167 million).

This has led to unseemly concern among Hindus that Muslims are in an overdrive to produce more children so as to skew the demographic profile of India. They put the arguments below in support of their theory:

  •  That Muslims in India are poorer and less educated which results in high growth rate;
  •  That Muslim women get married at an early age (16-20 years) which means higher fertility rate;
  •  That Muslims have younger children (0-6 years) population as compared to Hindus
  •  That Muslims in India are less interested in adopting family planning measures in India.

However facts and figures fly in different directions.

Muslims have witnessed a sharp fall in growth rate to 24.60 in the 2001-2011 decade compared to 29.52 growth of the previous decade (1991-2001). An average Muslim family is of lesser number (5.15) in 2011 than what it was a decade earlier (5.61). The average members of an Indian family is 4.45 persons. This points out upward mobility of Indian Muslims in terms of education and career growth.

Indeed, across all religious groups in India, there’s been a decline in population growth. Buddhists have shown the sharpest decline due to an ageing population.

As of now, Indian Muslims are in majority in two states: the Union Territory of Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir.

Just three states—Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam comprise of almost 47 per cent of entire Muslim population in India. Rampur is the only district with a Muslim majority in Uttar Pradesh.  The Muslim population in West Bengal and Assam has been fuelled by refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh.

So folks, hold your horses. Don’t see the PM’s announcement as a sop to Muslims. It’s an inclusive scheme for all Indians. Welcome it instead of tearing it apart on religious lines.

(As an aside, Muslims are likely to equal Christians by 2050 (around 2.82 billion). Hindus would be around 1.38 billion. The world’s total population is set to rise to 9.3 billion by 2050, a rise of 35%).

 

Angoorlata and her oath in Sanskrit

Angoorlata Deka, the newly elected BJP MLA from Batadroba constituency in Assam, has made front-page headlines with her oath in Sanskrit language. The newspapers are shocked at her audacity for don’t we all have given up the language as dead?

Our ignorance deserves a reality check. Sanskrit is one of the 22 languages listed in a Schedule to the Constitution. It’s the official language in the state of Uttarakhand. Since 1967, Sahitya Akademi has been giving award for literary works in Sanskrit. It’s true of adult as well as kids’ literature.

In all, there are 15 Sanskrit universities, thousands of Sanskrit colleges. Features films are being made in Sanskrit, the ones on Adi Shankaracharya, Bhagavad Gita and Mudrarakshasa (a film on great emperor Chandragupta Maurya) instantly come to mind.

An animated film in Sanskrit, “Punyakoti” is scheduled for release in 2016. There are more than 75 dailies, weeklies and monthlies in Sanskrit. We have television news in Sanskrit. No less than our Prime Minister tweets in Sanskrit. In Karnataka, two villages of Mattur and Hosahalli has everyone speaking in Sanskrit to this date.

All the 125 major languages and 1500 minor languages of the country can trace its origin on Sanskrit. It’s not just India alone, Nepal’s motto is a pick from Valmiki’s Ramayana. There’s Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the word Angkor meaning “City” in Sanskrit.

Initially, Sanskrit wasn’t known by its present name. It was called Bhasha. This was a fact at least till the 6th century BCE. It was essentially a spoken language. When rendered into writing, various different scripts were used. The use of Devanagari is of a recent vintage. In its grammar, letters and words freely merge to form compound letters and compound words. Two of these principals are called sandhi and samasa.

The greatest proponent of Sanskrit language was poet Kalidasa. His classics, such as Malavikagnimitram (the love story between King Agnimitra and Malavika), Abhijnanashakuntalam (the famous Shaknutala story) and Meghadutam (Cloud as messenger) haven’t lost its lustre till this day.

It’s a fallacy to believe that Sanskrit was only spoken by Kshatriyas and Brahmans in ancient times. Instances abound where commoners were known to use the language. In the Rig Veda, 21 out of 407 rishis were women. There was no gender bias in the use of the language.

Since 2003, India has a National Mission for Manuscripts (Namami). Its task is to list, digitize, publish and translate manuscripts at least 75 years old. As of now, Namami has a listing/digitization of three million—the anticipated stock of manuscripts in India is 35 milion. There are at least 60,000 manuscripts in Europe and another 1,50,000 elsewhere in South Asia. Ninety-five percent of these manuscripts have never been listed, collated or translated. To give you an idea of the enormity of the task: Since the advent of printing only an estimated 130 million books have been published in all languages of the world.

We don’t know the treasure waiting to be rediscovered. Take the instance of Arthashastra for instance. The classic on political economy and governance was written by Kautilya (350-275 BCE). But it was rediscovered by R. Shamasastry in 1904, published in 1909 and translated into English in 1915. We don’t know how many Arthashastra we have lost in all these centuries.

Same is true of many variations of scripts of Sanskrit. The sharada script, popular in Kashmir at one time in history, is completely lost. Same is true of Paishachi language and a very famous work in this script, Brihatkatha. Both are lost to us. Many Buddhist and Jain texts were written in Sanskrit too. And lest we forget, Ayurveda, the treatises on medicine, the work of Charaka (2nd century CE), no longer survives.

And here is the surprise of all surprises: “A Companion to Sanskrit Literature,” authored by Sures Chandra Banerji, has an entire chapter on the contribution of Muslims to Sanskrit. This volume traverses 3000 years of Sanskrit literature.

Naheed Abidi was bestowed with Padma Shri in 2014 for her contributions to Sanskrit literature. Her first book in 2008 titled “Sanskrit Sahitya Mein Rahim” is an account of the Sanskrit leanings of renowned poet Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana. Another bookof hers, “Sirr-e-Akbar” is a hindi translation of 50 Upanishads, earlier translated by the Mughal prince, Dara Shikoh into Persian. Naheed has published a Hindi translation of Vedanta, translated into Persian by Dara Shikoh and also the Sufi texts by the prince.

There is no denying the crisis though. The last Census in 2011 still don’t tell us how many speak Sanskrit in our country. The Census of 2001 had put the number to 14,135. There is an initiative from the government for the long-term vision and roadmap for the development of Sanskrit. Angoorlata’s act of oath has brought the Sanskrit language into popular mainstream and we ought to be grateful to her.

(The background of this article is largely based on Dr. Bibek Debroy’s speech in Paris on the occasion of International Mother Tongue Day, organized by UNESCO on March 3, 2016).