Northeast India fire: Identity issue, illegal migrants dominate public debate.

published on November 15, 2012
NEW DELHI: Months after the July-August unrest in Assam, the issue of illegal migration continues to dominate the debate on northeast in public space.

In a seminar organized by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) here on ‘The Multiple Crises of the Northeast”, demographic changes in the region arising out of illegal migration from Bangladesh and the question of regional identity was touched upon by almost all speakers.

While former DGP (Punjab Police) KPS Gill said that all communities except illegal migrants in Assam are under threat, former IAS officer Rangan Dutta, who is studying northeast insurgency, said that assertion of identity has to end as it has become a business and that the “northeast disorder” was due to autonomy granted to various regions.

Other suggestions included improving trade between Assam and Bangladesh as also identifying Bangladeshi migrants and denying them economic and political space if India is unable to deport them.

Gill, who has also served extensively in the northeast, said, “Assam is a tragedy waiting to happen. In Assam, all communities are under threat except illegal migrants. Identity (of the local population) has to be protected. However, both the state and the center have failed to do this.”

Gill also blamed the local people, whom he called victims, for selling of their land at cheap rates to migrants and then suddenly realizing that they needed to reclaim it leading to violent clashes. “How many people can you kill?” the former IPS officer asked.

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