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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightArticlechevron_rightWas Partition their...

Was Partition their fault?


Prof VK Tripathi


Have you  seen  any of the  state or central  level ministers rowing  boats and  reaching out to those affected by the  ongoing floods in the several  regions of the  country?  Yes, severe flooding  destroying lives and the  very  livelihoods of  hundreds and  thousands,  yet the top political  brass  seems in no mood to  move  out from their  comfort  zones,  to be  there with those  ruined in the  flood fury.

What happens tomorrow and the day after? Instead of long term relief packages together with rectifying strategies to halt the floods, politicians harp on setting up of smart cities!  Why can’t the existing infrastructures get somewhat settled, so that the human form is left unsettled and is not washed away in raging waters!

Floods drag along an aftermath that one even shudders to detail.   Imprints hold out, compounded by hollow political assurances. Tell me, if the developmental theories carried weight then why these flood related disasters?  Unmanaged and uncontrolled fury of the flood waters hitting in these ‘developed’ times, when even an hour’s downpour spells doom.  Not just the roads cave  in but  the affected have to seek  refuge  in caves!

We always had the monsoon season,dripping with baarish ka –paani (rain wate), but  never  before this  level of  havoc inflicted on  structures, human and otherwise . Ironic it may seem that poets of yesteryears wrote romantic verse after verse, in the backdrop of rains and downpours.Now, of course, no poet will have the nerve to combine verse with the monsoon season.

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Needless to mention that in the flood-wrecked state like Assam, the situation compounds for the human being.The sheer worry and anxiety of being off the citizens’ list  could be enough to kill. Though no health -related research has been formally or officially conducted on  the  affected residents of  Assam - to  study the rising numbers hit by  strokes and heart attacks or  diabetes and blood pressure levels , it could be a very  important  finding.  Also, it would be significant to  know  if the sarkar of the day has  appointed medical healers and health care givers for those  falling  ill because of the  NRC ( National Register of Citizens) related stress.

Not to be  overlooked is the  fact that  people  surviving in the flood-affected states like Assam are  often left with  no  belongings,  then what to talk of  relevant  documents and  records and proofs!

To quote Professor V.K. Tripathi, who till recently was teaching Physics at  IIT Delhi (he also runs  the  Sadbhav  Mission and has been regularly  travelling to  Assam)  focusing on these   basics:  “Be they Hindus or Muslims, speaking Assamese, Bangla, Bodo, Hindi  or any other language, all working class masses are true sons of the soil, children of India. They are born here, their forefathers lived here for millennia, they laid their sweat and blood in the soil here and contributed half of their earnings to the nation. The piece of land where they live belongs to them. They never grabbed or robbed any one’s property, but have fallen prey many a time to the exploiters and oppressors. They have the fundamental right to live in the motherland with freedom and dignity, much more than those who rule, dictate and exploit.”

Professor Tripathi  also focuses  on the Muslim  population in Assam:   “In 1871 census, Muslim population in Assam was 28.7%;  in 1941, 25.72%;  in 1971, 24.56%;  in 1991, 28.43%; in 2001, 30.92% and in 2011, 34.2% (in total state population of 32 million).  However, their percentage share in land and assets is far less.  Only 7.9 % of them in cities and 5.8% in rural areas are in the formal (organized) sector.  For Hindus  these figures are 23.1% and 12.3%.  The rest of Hindu and Muslim masses are in the low income informal sector… 36% people in Assam are below the poverty line (against 26% All India average).  In districts where Muslim population is above 45%, with the exception of Dhubri, the percentage of people below poverty line is higher (Dhubri 28.6%, Goalpara 60.3 %, Barpeta 50.19%, Kaila Kandi 43.79%, Karimganj 48.23%, Nagaon 38.96%, Marigaon 80.14%). .. The per capita income in Assam is only 60% of the national average while growth rate is half of the national average.  The annual growth rate of wages in Assam during 1991-2000 has been negative (-0.12%) while for the country it was +3.36%. To this,  if we add the fear of insecurity (heightened by massive riots like Nellie massacre of 1983 that killed 2,800 people), Assam can’t be a lucrative destination for working classes from elsewhere. In fact in last two decades sizeable people from Assam have migrated to Kerala as many locals from Kerala moved to Middle East”

To  further quote Tripathi - “ Partition of India can’t be made an excuse to attack the citizenship of working classes.  The partition was merely the division of ruling authority – a few states came to be ruled by the Muslim League and remaining by the Congress. People could live whereever they wanted.  There was no consideration for the interests and plight of the working classes.  Justice demands that any one among the working classes born in India be treated as Indian citizen. In fact the 2003 amendment (Section 3) to Citizenship Act 1955 says".. any one born i) between 1950 and 1987, irrespective of the citizenship of the parents, is Indian by birth, ii) between 1987 and 2003, is Indian if one parent is Indian citizen, iii) after 2003 would be Indian if both the parents are Indian citizen."  The NRC must look afresh at the drop out cases in view of this amendment.  The government must strive to make India-Pakistan-Bangladesh borders porus for the working classes as these classes were never given their rightful due in British India or new born nations…Indians going abroad get the citizenship of that nation after working for a few years. Many countries give full citizenship to the children of illegal migrants born there. Here we are dealing with people whose forefathers, for millennia, lived here and served this land. They deserve at least the rights we demand for NRIs in other nations.”

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In a  recently  published  book – ‘Insider Outsider: Belonging And Unbelonging  in North -East India’ (Amaryllis),  relevant  questions  are asked,  in these turbulent times, when  those insider -outsider controversies are  doing the  rounds, when citizenship rows are the talk of the day, and when the term nationalism is  getting hijacked by political  opportunists.

To quote writer Preeti Gill from this anthology, “Who is an Indian really? Why are we made to wear  our nationality, our identity, on our sleeve? Why are we required to constantly prove ourselves as Indian nationalists, as patriotic citizens?  Can we not just be human, people who live together as neighbours, very different, very distinct, but still inhabiting thesame  space in a peaceable, gracious way?”

In fact, writer Samrat elaborates on the insider- outsider factor in the very preface to this anthology, “Among the stories from North-East India, a compelling and untold bunch revolves around the experiences of  the ‘outsiders’ in the  region.  This is a fascinating case of role reversal; people from communities that are majorities in India or the countries around its North - East live in the region as oft-persecuted minorities. Theirs is a story, that begins, typically, with the partition of Indian in 1947. It  is a story of those who suddenly, with  drawing  of  new  international  borders, found  themselves  as  nowhere  people  in hostile  lands. These people and their descendants are still, seventy two years on, victims of Partition. Their experience of  being and becoming  refugees is, two  or  three  generations  later, still  not  over  -  the  debate over  the National Register of  Citizens in  Assam is  proof…  The dividing lines between the insider and the outsider are often confusing and unclear, even for those who have grown up experiencing being the  'othered'.  In the hills of the region, in towns such as Shillong for instance, the clash was often seen as one between tribal insiders and non- tribal outsiders. However the Chakma tribals, the Chin tribals, and the tea tribes of Assam have all faced the outsider tag in the North East, and the discrimination that goes with it.”

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Yes, never before as in these so called hyped ‘developed’ times did we witness this turbulent phase! Compounded by the politics of the day; chaos and confusion reigns on the insider-outsider issue.

If lakhs and lakhs of human beings were to be unacceptable as citizens, then what happens to their lives!  Are we going to deport human forms because they cannot prove that they belong to this land?  What  if all their  identity papers and  relevant proofs and  documents have  been washed away  in these uncontrolled floods …fury of these controlled flood waters wrecking disasters on the  hundreds and  thousands  amongst  us.

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