A “planned” influx of people from Bangladesh into India's north-eastern region is underway as part of a proxy war being waged by Pakistan, with support from China, to keep the area disturbed, Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat has said.
He took recourse to the “faster” growth of the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in Assam, as compared to the BJP in the 1980s, to buttress his point on the increase in Muslim population in several districts of the state in the backdrop of the National Register of Citizens being updated and finalised to detect illegal immigrants there, reports The Times of India.
“There is a party called AIUDF. If you look at it, they have grown in a faster time-frame than the BJP grew over the years,” Gen Rawat mentioned, referring to the BJP winning only two seats in 1984.
“The AIDUF is moving at a faster pace in Assam,” he said at a conference in New Delhi on bridging gaps and securing borders in the Northeast region.
The Army chief then went on to stress that the “proxy game” was being executed by “our western neighbour [Pakistan]”, with support from across the “northern border [China]”, to keep the area disturbed.
“They will always try and ensure that this area is taken over, playing the proxy dimension of warfare. The solution lies in identifying the problem and holistically looking at it,” he said.
Gen Rawat pointed out that it was no longer possible to change the population dynamics of Assam, with Muslim majority increasing from five districts to eight to nine districts now.
Efforts should be made to “amalgamate” the people living in the region, said Gen Rawat.
“I think we have to understand, we have got to appreciate to live with all the people we live in the region, irrespective of their caste, creed, religion or sex. I think if we understand that, we can live together happily but the best part is to amalgamate the kind of people that are living there, than identifying the people trying to create trouble for us,” he noted, according to a report of The Indian Express.
“We will have more trouble in segregating people, identifying people. Yes, some people have to be identified who are creating trouble for us, who are illegal immigrants. But as was brought out, the Muslim population actually started coming into Assam from 1218 to 1226, that was the first time that the Muslims actually entered Assam.
“We have to understand that they are not late arrivers, they are the early arrivers, came concurrently with the Ahoms. Both these people have claim to the state of Assam and, therefore, to the North-East region,” he noted.
“Migration from Bangladesh is due to two reasons. One is they are running out of space. Large areas get flooded during the monsoon and they have constricted area to stay. The other issue is planned immigration, which is taking place because of our western neighbour. They will always try and ensure that this area is taken over. It is the proxy dimension of warfare,” Gen Rawat said.
The Union government is taking several measures to ensure development of the entire region, which will help sort out many problems, he added.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government has not yet come up with any formal reaction to the Indian army chief's comments.
But several senior officials of the foreign ministry told The Daily Star that Gen Rawat's remarks were unexpected as he tagged Bangladesh with Pakistan and China.
They said his statement has stunned Dhaka as it comes at a time when bilateral ties between Bangladesh and India have reached a new height.
The Indian army chief's comments may create serious controversy and also provoke reactions both in Bangladesh and India, they added.
Considering the importance of bilateral relations between the two countries, Gen Rawat visited Bangladesh in his maiden foreign tour as the army chief from March 31 to April 2 last year. He was appointed the army chief on January 1 the same year.
Yesterday, the Indian army defended its chief's comments, saying there was “nothing political or religious in the talk”.
The response came after AIUDF President Badruddin Ajmal questioned if the army chief was “indulging in politics” which is against the constitutional mandate given to him, reports The Hindustan Times.
“Gen Bipin Rawat has made a political statement, shocking! Why is it a concern for the Army Chief that a political party, based on democratic & secular values, is rising faster than BJP? Alternative parties like AIUDF, AAP have grown because of the misgovernance of big parties,” tweeted Ajmal, according to the news report.
The Indian army, however, said, “There is nothing political or religious in the talk. The army chief just mentioned amalgamation and development in the seminar on North-East organised at DRDO Bhawan on February 21.”
The AIUDF, formed in 2005 with an aim to champion the cause of Muslim community, currently has three MPs in the Lok Sabha and 13 legislators in the state assembly, mentioned The Hindustan Times report.