A statement by General Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Army Staff, has not been taken well in the political circles of Assam. Badruddin Ajmal, the head of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), has said that he will take the matter up with the President, Ramnath Kovind.
Since India’s partition, the intrusion of people from neighboring Bangladesh in Assam has been a serious political and social problem. In the past, there was a 6-year-long agitation in the state on this issue – and now, the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is going on for the identification of ‘illegal intruders’.
In his statement on Wednesday, General Rawat indirectly hinted that people entering India (especially through the northeast) were the infiltration attempts of India’s neighbors. Even though he didn’t name any country, it’s clear that he was referring to China and Pakistan. He said this in reference to the near-impossibility of changing the population dynamics of a state like Assam. Here, he took the name of the AIUDF while indirectly attributing vote bank politics as the reason for its rise. Comparing the development of the Jan Sangh and the AIUDF, he said that the AIUDF was spreading faster than BJP.
In the conference, he said, “They will always try and ensure that this area is taken over, playing the proxy dimension of warfare. The proxy game is very well played by our western neighbour, supported by our northern neighbour.” He also suggested the need for identifying the ‘trouble-makers’ in the area, and the need to ‘amalgamate’ the people there.
These statements can be considered problematic in light of the fact that he also mentioned in the number of Muslim-majority districts in Assam (from five to nine).
The political scenario in Assam has come to a boil due to the AIUDF’s name being used by the General. The party, formed by the billionaire perfume businessman Badruddin Ajmal in 2005, currently has three MPs and 13 legislators in the Assam assembly.
Ajmal has said that he’ll complain to the President, citing the Army Chief’s statement as political. Although the army has described General Rawat’s statement as non-political, Ajmal stated, “It is not our fault, not our party’s fault that it has been growing faster than the BJP as said by the Army chief. It is the people who have voted for us. […] By making such statement, isn’t the Chief of Army Staff indulging into politics which is against the constitutional mandate given to him?”
He further said that parties like the AIUDF and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have grown because of the faulty governance of the big parties. Ajmal has also asked what’s troubling Rawat if a political party grows fast.
Apart from Ajmal, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi also criticised Rawat’s statement. Owaisi said that the Army Chief has no right to interfere in political issues.
Political observers say that due to the NIC issue, lakhs of migrants living in the state are already living under the sword of being pushed back to Bangladesh. In such a scenario, it is feared the Rawat’s statement may lead to an increase in communal tension. The remaining political parties of Assam do not seem to have commented on this issue so far. But, going by the AIUDF’s attitude, the political controversy will not probably die down quickly.