Impact of CAA on Assam

The Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019 effectively amends India’s Citizenship Act of 1955 and allows non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, to become citizens of India. The earlier cut-off date for granting of citizenship to immigrants for the state of Assam was March 24, 1971, whereas for the rest of India it was 1951. Thus, Assam was accepting immigrants as citizens for an additional 20 years compared to the rest of India. The revised date of December 31, 2014 through CAA brings in following threats to already downtrodden state of Assam –

Land Encroachment –

Immediately after independence, due to the imminent threat of livelihood of the indigenous assamese which is primarily agriculture, Assam government circular dated 4 May 1948, which reads, “In view of the emergency created by the influx of refugees into the province from East Pakistan territories and in order to preserve peace, tranquility and social equilibrium in the towns and villages, the government reiterates its policy that settlement of land should be in no circumstances made with persons who are not indigenous to the province. The non-indigenous inhabitants of the province should include, for the purpose of land settlement during the present emergency, persons who are non-Assamese settlers in Assam though they already have lands and houses of their own and have made Assam their home to all intents and purposes’ (Revenue Deptt. no. 195/47/188 dt. 4.5.48).”

This circular is now a forgotten history and land encroachment has become a serious issue in Assam. Prior to independence, the area of undivided Assam was 145668 Sq. KM and after independence and after carving out Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh the area of Assam is 78438 Sq. KM. Whereas the population of Assam increased from 6.7 million prior to independence to 31.2 million today. The data, given in response to an RTI application by Nityananda Kalita, identified as many as 26 out of 33 districts in Assam have suffered encroachment due to illegal immigration with a total encroachment adds up to 3,87,885 hectares. Approximately 14,000 hectares in three national parks and seven wildlife sanctuaries have also been encroached upon in a chain of developments that had its origin in the early 1990s. Approximately 1820 hectares of Sattra (Assamese Vaishnavite monastery) land also been encroached by illegal immigrants. Agricultural lands are being converted to nonagricultural lands and Agri-production of Assam has reduced by manifolds since independence.

In addition, the certain parts of Assam, such as Bodoland Autonomous Council are excluded from CAA as these lands are protected under 6th schedule of Indian Constitution. So, the complete impact CAA for Assam will be borne by the 56,700 Sq. KM Brahmaputra Valley. With the revised date of 13-December-2014, how much load of population and such immigration this small state can take?

Linguistic Minority

The seventh amendment of Indian Constitution (State Reorganization Act of 1956) reformed the boundaries of Indian states and territories on linguistic lines. In 1971, the Assamese-speaking populace was 60.89% of the total population of Assam. But it came down to 48.38% as per the Census data of 2011. The decrease was 12.51%. In 1971, the total Assamese speaking population was 89,04,917, Bengali-speaking 28,82,639; and the Hindi-speaking populace was 7,92,481. In 2001, though the Assamese-speaking population constituted 48.80%, it got reduced to 48.38% in 2011 showing a decrease of .42%.

In 1971, the percentage of Bengali-speaking populace in Assam was 19.70% but it shot up to 29.91% in 2011. This jump is due to the influx of illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Unless this is stopped and rectified, very soon Assamese will be a linguistic minority in our own state.


Economic Impact

In the economic index of India, Assam falls in the middle of the pack. The two states with highest Bangladeshi immigrant problem are West Bengal and Assam, while the GDP of West Bengal is $190 Billion, that of Assam is mere $54 Billion. 29% of Assam GDP is agriculture (60% of that is from Tea), 22% from Industry and 49% from Services. So, it is apparent that the major impact this act will be in the services sector and government jobs. This will lead to an widespread problem of unemployment in the state which is already one of the key problem for the indigenous assamese people.


Violation of Assam Accord

Assam Accord of 1985 was the treaty inked on the blood of 855 martyrs who died for the greater cause of Assamese people and Assam. On 15th August 1985, after 6 long years of intense struggle, Union Government of India and Leaders of Assam Movement signed the Accord with following key promises –

  • The Government of India committed to provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.
  • International border shall be made secured against future infiltration by erection of physical barriers and intensified patrolling by security forces on land and riverine routes all along international border and erection of an adequate number of check posts
  • Prevention of encroachment of Government lands and lands in tribal belts shall be strictly enforced and unauthorized encroachers are evicted

In return, Assam will accept immigrants of all religion till March 24, 1971; and illegal immigrants after March 24, 1971 shall be detected, detained and deported.

Since 1985 when the Assam Accord was signed, Assam is the only part of India where the cutoff date for being an Indian is not 1951 but is 1971. So, Assam is already accepting immigrants including persecuted ones for additional 20 years than the rest of India. This new date of 31st December 2014 directly violates Assam Accord.

The onus and authority of implementing the tenets of the Assam Accord was/is with the Union Home Ministry, not with the state Govt. of Assam

Therefore, our plea to Central and the State Governments rise to the occasion and ensure that the Citizenship Amendment Act,2019 is not carried forward in Assam and implement Assam Accord of 1985, otherwise it would jeopardize the very existence of the indigenous people of Assam