Notes from North-East: Weekend Reading
This weekend, please find a selection of articles from the North-East, touching on some of the topics previously discussed here. More “Notes from North-East” next week. Stay tuned.
The first extract on Majuli, the world’s largest riverine island in the world and its “Satras“:
Majuli was one of the nerve-centres of the Neo-Vaisnavite Movement during its heydays. It was at Majuli (then known as Dhuwahat, Ahom territory) that Mahapurusha Srimanta Sankaradeva met his foremost disciple and apostolic successor, Madhavadeva for the very first time, in the 16th century. This event, referred to as Manikanchan Sanyog is the single most epoch-making event in the history of the Neo-Vaisnavite Movement. After this meeting, the Neo-Vaisnavite Movement gained momentum…
…Sankaradeva established the first Satra (“Hautra“) by planting a Bilva tree and naming the place Belguri.
…The most influential and affluent Satras of eastern Assam are Auniati, Dakhinpat, Garmur and Kuruwabahi, popularly known as cari-satras, and Kamalabari. The first three as also the last, are situated in Majuli. Each of the principal Satras mentioned above have several branches at different parts of Majuli and indeed at different parts of Eastern and Western Assam.
…The Satras of Majuli were, and still are, a religious centre, a school and a library. Not only the existing books were preserved with utmost care, but books were also brought from other parts of India. Every Satra possesses a library consisting of manuscripts to the extent of a few thousand copies. Big Satras like Auniati and Daksinpat once contained more than a thousand manuscripts, some of which are being preserved in different antiquarian institutions like the Kamarupa Anusandhana Samiti (Assam Research Society) and the Department of Antiquarian and Historical Studies (DHAS). One of these Satras is believed to contain the Bhagavata of Sankaradeva, written by the Saint himself, in his own handwriting, which he had presented to Damodaradeva.
It is not that only religious scriptures are preserved, but books on music, dance, literature, philosophy, painting and even medicine were carefully preserved. Some rare Sanskrit manuscripts like the Srihasta-muktavali of Subhankara, a treatise on the hand-gestures employed in the Satriya Dance), Satvata-tantra and the Hastividyarnava (a treatise on elephants) by Sukumar Barkath, in which is also depicted the Ahom royal court through excellent contemporary paintings, have been recovered from the Satra libraries of Majuli.
…The total number of manuscripts in Majuli is estimated to be around 4000.
…There are a total of about 30 Satras in Majuli..
Read more about Majuli and the history of its Satras
Next, the price that PA Sangma paid for “challenging most powerful lady” by Oken Jeet Sandham:
PA Sangma’s apology to Sonia Gandhi for raking up latter’s foreign origin issue 10 years ago is not unexpected. Sangma along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar, all senior Congressmen then, parted ways with Congress on Mrs Gandhi’s foreign origin issue.
…The recent massive electoral success under the leadership of Mrs Gandhi has further proved that her foreign origin issue is a dead issue. In fact the electoral success has silenced all the political leaders who were aspiring to be Prime Minister.
They have now started telling different stories, saying regrets of breaking up with Dr Manmohan Singh.
…But the greatest political loser is none other than their founder member, Sangma. Sangma has, of course, played his politics in India’s northeast. He could successfully make his sons elected as Members of Meghalaya State Assembly, while making his daughter Agatha Sangma as NCP MP in his place from Tura parliamentary constituency.
…Had he contested and won, he would have been inducted as one of the senior Union Cabinet Ministers.
Sangma’s apology to Mrs Gandhi is also indicative of NCP’s coming to the Congress fold. But the problem is once NCP’s merger with Congress is effected, there will be hiccups in some states including Nagaland where the party’s legislators are part of the governments which are unfriendly with the Congress-led UPA government at the Center.
…Although NCP has been part of the Congress-led UPA Government at the Center since 2004, NCP in Nagaland has not been so. It is largely because of Sangma’s flip-flop politics in the region. In fact, in the last parliamentary elections, he went against the Congress-led UPA by campaigning for BJP candidates in Arunachal Pradesh.
…Sangma’s talent, intellect and maneuvering skill as Speaker of Lok Sabha was appreciated by almost all the parliamentarians.
Yet he misread his meteoric rise in the Indian politics by challenging a political family member belonging to the most powerful political family of the country. He has paid a price for it…
There are numerous crimes in the world like theft, robbery, killing, arson, murder etc. But there are two crimes related to psychology. The first is raising the hopes of people only to be thrashed later, which is done by politicians. The second making smaller communities and tribes feel their traditional beliefs to be inferior, something practiced by Christian missionaries.
…Now we have the overt and covert practices of Christian missionaries who are systematically converting people into the Vatican city religion. With alien languages and alien beliefs, Arunachal Pradesh will slowly lose its original heritage.
…The tactics of conversion by missionaries is not exactly forced, but coercive. Poor, illiterate people are lured with the prospect of free education and free health care. Has the government of India kept a track of where this money comes from?
Who provided the funds to build a massive statue of Jesus Christ in Miao?
…Unlike Buddhism and Hinduism, Islam and Christianity brings in a homogenous culture where youngsters look down on their ancestral heritage and embrace customs imported from Mecca and Vatican. A part of us is lost.
…The middle class and upper middle class children who study in day schools run by missionaries are unaware of the coersive conversions which go on sly among the missionary circles. Children from poor families and tribal areas are given free education and free hostel facility provided they take up Christianity as their religion.
…I urge the chief minister Dorjee Khandu to wake up and take necessary precautions to curb conversion oriented activities by vested interests in the land of Donyi-Polo. Arunachal Pradesh should not be reduced to Nagaland, Mizoram or Meghalaya.
A view of the mighty BrahmaPutra
Finally, two extracts related to “demographic invasion” I wrote about in my previous post. In the first one, D. N. Bezboruah writes about “A head-count to disaster”
…This year, there are two different kinds of head-counts going on all over the country. One is the usual enumeration for the census operations that takes place every ten years. The enumerations for the census of 2011 have got started. But this year, we have an additional head-count called the National Population Register (NPR) that Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram has decided on at a cost of Rs 3,490 crore to the national exchequer. This is a head-count that began on April 1 and was supposed to have been completed on May 15 – in just 45 days. The enumerators (school teachers rounded up for the job at considerable loss to the academic activities of school students) landed up also at my place on April 21. They asked me all kinds of questions about the number of people in my house (males and females), their dates of birth, what each one did, whether we had cars and/or two-wheelers, refrigerators, computers and so on, What they did not ask me was my nationality, my religion and the language I spoke at home (or my mother tongue). This was indeed intriguing, because what kind of a national population register would we come up with that did not record the nationality, religion or language of the inhabitants of India.
…I was amused that I should be asked questions about the kind of vehicle I used and how many computers I had at home but none about my nationality, religion or mother tongue. Were these questions somehow deemed irrelevant for the NPR enumeration or were they deemed inconvenient?
…I am curious about the Government of India’s acute sense of discomfort over all questions relating to the break-up of the country’s population along religious lines. This is a bit of statistical data that is easily available for every country in the world. The World Almanac and Book of Facts that is published every year and widely used by journalists all over the world has a whole section on “Nations of the World“. The very first paragraph on every country listed has the religious break-up of the country’s population. Quite naturally, many people want to know what the principal religions of a country are.
Even in India, this was not a sensitive issue at all until the census operations of 1991 and 2001. This data in respect of the 1991 Census and the 2001 Census was treated like classified information. It will be recalled that the data on the religious break-up of the Indian States and the country as a whole after the 1991 Census was released only in 1993.
Likewise, the same information relating to the 2001 Census was released only in 2004. The very release of the data caused a furore in Parliament, and the Census of India was virtually chastised for releasing information that was an integral part of the census and had been released after every census that we can recall since 1901.
The Census of India was asked to delete this data in respect of Assam and Jammu & Kashmir, as if the mere deletion of the data relating to the abnormal increase of the Muslim population in these two censuses would change the reality. Had this been a normal population growth resulting from a higher fertility rate among the indigenous Muslims of Assam or due to the fact that Muslims are permitted to be polygamous in India, there would have been no earthly reason to be unduly sensitive or guilty about this fact.
But everyone knows that the indigenous Muslims of Assam are monogamous by choice and that the fertility rate of the people of Assam is fractionally lower than the national average. As such, the abnormal rate of growth in the Muslim population of the State was the result of large-scale illegal influx of polygamous Muslims from Bangladesh actively encouraged by the ruling parties in Assam for electoral gains. This is something the Government of India did not want the people of India to know because the obvious inferences were so easy to arrive at: the government of the State was itself partly responsible for what was happening.
However, the deletion of the real data has not really helped the government because a lot of people had already downloaded the correct data before the government came out with what it chose to call the “adjusted” figures. This data is there for posterity to see what the government can do to the truth when the truth becomes inconvenient for the powers that be…
…Let me take my readers back to the beginning of the UPA regime when Sriprakash Jaiswal, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, gave the Rajya Sabha the correct information about the number of Bangladeshis in the country. He had put the figure at one crore based on Home Ministry data. The information, culled during the previous NDA regime, was as inconvenient for the Congress as the religion-wise break-up of India’s population in 2001. So Jaiswal had to withdraw the data furnished to the Rajya Sabha within a week as being incorrect, thereby committing two acts of breach of privilege of the House.
So, if the fact of there being one crore Bangladeshis in India was an inconvenient fact, the fact that there are about two crore Bangladeshis in the country now is an even more inconvenient and embarrassing fact. Something has to be done about this now since the responsibility of successive Congress governments in encouraging this illegal migration from Bangladesh is all too well known. So the NPR provides an easy means of achieving this. The NPR does not question the nationality of any resident of India – legal or otherwise – as claimed by the resident. So, when the Bangladeshi living illegally in India is questioned about his nationality he would obviously claim to be an Indian. Why on earth would he say he is a Bangladeshi and risk being thrown out? The instructions to the enumerators are to record the nationality of the resident as stated. No country in the world has ever thought up such a neat way of granting painless citizenship as Home Minister Chidambaram has done. So the two crore Bangladeshis who are in India illegally have got their Indian citizenship as easily as saying, “Hey, presto!” Can you think of anything more bizarre?
Sh S Gurumurthy also draws our attention to this in his article National pride, or shame?
…George Fernandes fixed the number of Bangladeshis illegally residing in India in 2003 at some two crore.
The infiltration has hugely distorted the religious demography of many areas in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, and even in far off Mumbai and Delhi. Most border districts of Assam and West Bengal have turned Muslim majority or nearly so, in less than two decades. The illegal Bangladeshis in India almost equal the population of Australia or Sri Lanka.
…A study on Bangladeshis in India by Sujata Ramachandran (Department of Geography, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada) for the Global Commission on International Migration sees the issue from a totally different perspective. Challenging the stereotype view of it as a case of ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘illegal migrants’ by international migration researchers, Sujata asserts that the Bangladeshi infiltration was ‘migration industry’ at work. She says, “it involves a well-organised network of dalals in Bangladesh and India — ‘manpower’ agencies, recruiters, touts, brokers, ‘travel’ agents, and their employees or contacts in many Bangladeshi villages. Dalals find, or pretend to find, employment for migrants and facilitate movement into and through India for substantial sums of money. In recent times, they also provide potential migrants with official Indian documents like passports and ration cards to minimise the risks of detention. Therefore, it is not surprising that many marginal Bangladeshi families end up in different parts of this country.”
The touts actually cheat the poor Bangladeshi Muslims. Sujata points out that some ‘three lakh Bangladeshi women are in brothels’. Yet viewing the two crore Bangladeshis out of the country as good riddance, the Bangladesh government claims, ‘not a single Bangladeshi immigrant is in India’.
Given the cultural, linguistic and other links between Bengalis on this side and Bangladeshis on the other, the Bangladeshis have just dissipated into India. It is almost impossible to distinguish between illegal Bangladeshis and local Bengalis.
Thanks to obliging politicians, corrupt officials the infiltrators also get all proofs needed to say they are residents here, Sujata notes. In the late 1970s, the Assam students revolted against this demographic invasion. They were ultimately cheated into a settlement by the Indira Gandhi government, which passed the Illegal Migrants (Detection by Tribunal) Act (IMDT Act) in the year 1983. That made it worse.
Under the IMDT Act, the onus of proving that a person was a Bangladeshi was shifted on to the police, while under the previous Foreigners Act, the onus was on the Bangladeshi to prove that he was an Indian. In 2005, that is, after 22 years, the Supreme Court stuck down the horrific IMDT Act as promoting, not curbing, infiltration. Yet, the UPA-I regime has re-enacted the IMDT Act as a sub-rule under the Foreigners Act. Between January 2001 and September 2006, the Assam government spent Rs 170 crore to identify 9,149 Bangladeshis, but deport only 1,864 to Bangladesh — that is, it took six years to deport 1,864 Bangladeshis, at Rs 1,80,000 per head!
…Sujata has rightly used the sub-title ‘Indifference, Impotence and Intolerance’ in her work referring to India’s approach to the issue. The word to note is ‘impotence’. This aptly captures the UPA government’s acquiescence through the NPR to turn the Bangladeshi infiltrators into Indians. What a grave risk to the future of India and its security? Is anyone listening?.