3.7 Bangladeshi
Migration and Role of Civil Society in Assam

The idea of civil society has made an
important mark in the realm of politics in the most diverse settings, analyst
and theoretical thinkers speak about civil society; its lack, its decline its
promise and possibility. David Held offers intriguing ways and measure what
could be termed as a sociological definition when he defines the “Civil
society” is which retains a “distinctive character to the extent that it is
made up of areas of social life the domestic world, the economic sphere,
cultural activities and political interaction which are organized by private or
voluntary arrangements between individuals and groups outside the direct
control of the state” (Mertzer, 2002). In the Hegelian concept Civil society
which could be in the economic or the political domain each individual is
concerned with his selfish goal. But each individual knows that he cannot
realize his goals without the help of others in society. Thus, it assumes the
form of universality because of its relation to others goals in society.
Therefore, each end or goal is attained by an individual only along with the
simultaneous welfare of others. Sudipta Kaviraj in a
state of the art essay on civil society identifies three contrasts, which help
exemplify the meaning of civil society. He writes, “It is defined through its opposition
to “natural society” or “state of nature” in early modern contract theory (for
instance, in Hobbes and Locke’s use);
against the state in the entire liberal tradition, and contrasted to community (gemeinschaft) in a
theoretical tradition of modern sociology” (Kaviraj ,2001 cit. in Mukherjee,2010). Basically, civil society is always force for democracy.
Civil society organisations are the bridge between citizen and government. 

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Mentioning of
civil society groups in Assam, the student groups play an important role in the
socio-political scenario of the place. In Assam student groups have emerged as
powerful pressure groups. All-Assam Students Union (AASU) is one of the most
active and popular student organization in the region. It came into such
influential position by leading the antiforeigner agitation during 1979-85 on
the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh and raising Assam’s
socio-economic development and political future, was the most important
highlight. These increased AASU’s social and political activism in Assam. With
the signing of the Assam Accord with the Union Government and the Assam
Government, majority of AASU leaders joined and formed a regional political
party, called the AGP (Asom Gana Parishad). Ironically, the same AGP failed to
deliver and instead became embroiled in political opportunism which was marked
by poor administration and this resulted in its decline in its support base and
masses started losing faith. The issue of illegal immigration became a popular
political agenda for central and state political parties who played politics
with the issue but were unable to provide any conclusive solution and it
essentially became a vexed problem occupying political and social significance
without any decisive stand by any quarters. Ironically, it was the AGP, who was
opposition of migration from Bangladesh (Sarma, 2015).

In this area of
peace promotion another important civil society organization is the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad
(AJYCP) which was a more cadre based organization and worked towards mobilizing public opinion for
peaceful resolution on the issue
of conflict resolution. The AJYCP also carry certain other objectives such
as-1) Full State autonomy by redefining centre state relations and establishing
socialism to secure dignity and interests of various nationalities, 2) Dual
citizenship for the people of Assam and 3) To establish state control over
interstate and international migration (Mahanta,2013).

Apart from AASU
and AJYCP the other influential student group was ABSU (All Bodoland Student Union)
representing the issues of ethnic Bodo people and fighting for its political
rights and social rights (Sarma, 2015). 

social movements in Assam led by the ethnic Assamese civil society organization
like AASU (All Assam Student Union), AJYCP (Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra
Parishad), ASS (Asom Sahitya Sabha), AGP (Asom Gana Parishad), etc., have
raised three important issues- immigration, underdevelopment and making Assam
the national province of the Assamese (Biswas and Thomas, 2006). In July of 1979
AASU and the newly formed body All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) launched
a mass movement in Assam with three broad objectives such as- 1) detection of
illegal migrants, 2) deletion of their names from voter lists and 3)
deportation of illegal immigrants (Assam Background, 2001). An unusually long
movement, which lasted for six years, began with the allegation that about
45,000 immigrants were enrolled in the revised voters’ lists in the Mangaldoi
Lok Sabha Constituency by-election after the death of its sitting member
(Sarma, 2015). The AASU demanded deletion of these immigrants’ name from the
voter list and also wanted them deported from the country (Ahmed, 2006). The
ASSU together with AAGSP launched a mass movement which was known as Assam
movement or Assam agitation against foreign nationals in 1979. There were
meetings, strikes and a mass signature campaign. The parliamentary election of
1979-80 was boycotted by the people, except in the Cachar district of Assam
(Sarma, 2015). As a result of the movement, in 1983 the Foreigners Act of 1946
was replaced by the Illigal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, known as
IMDT act in Assam (Sarma, 2015).   

Because of this movement the
Assam Accord, 1985 was signed between representative of the Governments of
India and the leaders of the Assam movements in New Delhi on 15 August 1985
(Sarma, 2015). Here government agreed to find satisfactory solution to the
foreigner’s issues in Assam. The All Assam Student Union (AASU) and All Assam
Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) also gives their suggestions and recommendations
regarding the solution of the foreigner’s issue in Assam. AASU sent or
presented a Memorandum to the Late Prime Minister dated 2nd February
1980 about influx foreigners and how they effect on the political, social,
cultural and economic life of the state. Than talks were held at the Prime
Ministers and Home ministers level during 1980-83. Further, several round
informal talks were held during 1984. Lastly formal discussion was held in
March 1985.

In 2016 Amendment
Bill of the Citizenship Act 1955 by the NDA government, under the consideration
of Joint Select Committee of the Parliament will make illegal migrants who are
Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parise and Christens from Afghanistan,
Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for citizenship of India. It indicated that
the Bengali Hindus who are migrated from the Bangladesh are eligible for the
citizenship (Bhattacharjee, 2016).
As a result of this amendment, the All Assam Students Union along with other
student unions has been protesting the amendment for granting citizenship to
the refugee from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

From the analysis
it is clear that the social movements in Assam
led by the ethnic Assamese civil society organization like AASU, AJYCP, ASS,
AGP etc., have raised three important issues- immigration, underdevelopment and
making Assam the national province of the Assamese (Biswas and Thomas, 2006). Because of this
movement, the Assam Accord was signed between representative of
the Governments of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on
15 August 1985. It is a commentary on the long-term ineffectiveness of the
antiforeigner movement that twenty years after the agitation began in 1979, the
same issues are still being paraded before the public in Assam by CM Prafulla
Kumar Mahanta’s successors in the student body (Hazarika, 2000). Though,
government of Assam is facing lots of problem to implement the NRC in Assam but
they successfully published the first part draft of the NRC in 31st
of December 2017, where 1.9 crore names were enlisted (Parashar, 2018) and the
full NRC will publish soon with all the names of the legal citizens of India
residing in Assam. So, people of Assam are in hope that implementation of NRC
will solve the problem of Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam.