The poor and the underprivileged Bengali speaking population of Assam may not have been fortunate enough to learn the Queen’s language but now they know one English alphabet for sure – D. Yes, the ‘D’ voter tag is today chasing every Bengali in the state of Assam, irrespective of his caste, creed or religion.
While the middle class somehow manages to hold fort, the poor and the downtrodden often have no answers to the probing questions asked by the police and election commission officials. Those belonging to the category of daily wage earners are not intelligent enough to maintain the necessary official papers to prove their nationality and therefore these hapless people find themselves at the mercy of the unscrupulous government officials.
Let us take the example of Sonai’s Begum Bibi. This poor beggar has been branded a foreigner despite the fact that her mother’s name figures in the 1965 voters’ list and there are land documents available by the name of her father. Is she being victimised only because she is poor and has nobody to fight for her? *
Concern For Silchar also acknowledges the fact that illegal migration from Bangladesh is a major problem for Assam. More than the Brahmaputra Valley, illegal migration is a bigger problem for Barak Valley where the migrants can easily camouflage with the rest of the population due to linguistic and cultural similarities.
However, the process to term innocent people as ‘doubtful voters’ seems like another vindictive aggression against the Bengalis and not just an effort to remove illegal occupants from the state.
|Protestors blocking railway tracks during a recent strike against the D-Voter issue in Silchar. Photo Courtesy: Dainik Jugasankha|
The Assam government cannot simply wish away the Bengalis from the state who form the second largest linguistic community after the Assamese. The Bengalis have lived in different parts of Assam since the pre-independence days. If the entire geographical area of Assam is taken into consideration, the Assamese never formed the majority in any case.
The state governments of Assam over the last many decades are responsible for this mess. For years and years, people were allowed to move in through the porous borders, corrupt officials and politicians got their names entered into the voters’ lists to boost vote banks. Now, in a bid to thwart this unmanageable monster they are victimising innocents.
Barak Valley is gearing up for another struggle now to tackle the ‘D’ voter menace and safeguard the rights of the people. We have earlier fought for our language, for better educational avenues (demand for the university) etc, now its turn to fight for our identity. I only wonder, for how long, will we have to keep fighting and struggling for legitimate rights and honours?
* As per a report on Dainik Prantojyoti, Silchar, July 24th, 2011.