The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal plays migrant card
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with singer Bhupen Hazarika, the BJP candidate for Guwahati

Guwahati, April 6: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today set the tone for the BJP’s Lok Sabha campaign in Assam by warning residents that they would become “minorities in their own land” if infiltration from Bangladesh continued.

Referring to the Sanskrit saying “atithi deva bhava (a guest is equal to God)”, Vajpayee said in front of a huge gathering here that the country had a tradition of welcoming visitors, “but not those who will occupy our house”.

The Prime Minister said he had raised the subject of infiltration with his Bangladesh counterpart, Khaleda Zia, but she denied that people from her country were crossing over to India. “Nevertheless, I made our position very clear.”

Vajpayee said the Indo-Bangladesh border was being fenced to stop infiltration, but the onus was on the people of Assam to root out the menace. “The time of reckoning has arrived,” he said.

The Prime Minister then shifted the focus of his speech to militancy and the National Democratic Alliance government’s efforts to end violence. “We signed an accord with the Bodo rebels. The Bodoland Territorial Council has already been formed. We are expediting the Naga peace process. We want to restore peace throughout the Northeast.”

Vajpayee asked Ulfa militants to shun the path of violence. “Violence cannot bring about change. Even if it does, that will not last long. We will not allow anyone to destroy the country,” he said.

The Prime Minister, who wished the people a happy Rongali Bihu — still over a week away — in Assamese, reeled off statistics to prove that India is shining. He also highlighted the “priority” given to the Northeast by the Centre.

As was expected, the Prime Minister referred to Pakistan and the friendship cricket series, too.

“There was a time when we were fighting with bombs. Now we are playing cricket,” he said to cheers from the crowd, which had waited for more than three hours to get a glimpse of him.

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