The Telegraph
Friday , September 28 , 2012
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The influx ‘anomaly’

Book title: Immigration and Demographic Transformation in Northeast India

Editor: A.C. Borah

Publisher: Purbanchal Prakash

Pages: 159

Price: Rs 425

Immigration and Demographic Transformation in Northeast India, which is a compilation of 18 select research papers, focuses on one of the burning issues of the country — illegal influx from Bangladesh, Nepal and countries neighbouring the Northeast.

Though Assam, which shares a long border with Bangladesh, faces the brunt of this illegal influx, the other states of the region, too, feel the heat.

The influx from Bangladesh has not only affected these states economically and socially but also changed the demographic profile. It, therefore, is time that the Centre and the people of these states realise their condition and take proper and peaceful steps of bringing things back to normal without harming the political and economic relations with its neighbour, Bangladesh.

Each paper presented by the researchers has shown how the demography of the region has changed and how it has affected the people living in these states.

Discussing the issue, some of them have recommended preventive measures too. They have observed that the immigrants who have occupied land by permanently moving to these states have, however, not assimilated with the original inhabitants. They have not accepted and followed the language and culture of the indigenous people, posing a hindrance in integration, says B.S. Mipun in one of the papers. They have not only retained their social practice, language, customs and behaviour but have also disrupted the social set-up getting involved in crimes like robbery, theft and arson.

The most affected districts of Assam, according to the 1901 census, are Goalpara, Kamrup, Darrang and Nagaon. The reason for these districts attracting such a huge number of immigrants is that these have abundant fertile land and cultivable chars. Gradually, the increase in surplus labour resulted in a rise in unemployment in Assam.

This rate is quite alarming and worth attention, as statistics show that the increase was 40 per cent during 1951-71, according to A.K. Neog and M. Borkotoky.

The effect is noticed not only in population and unemployment, but the forestry sector too. Many forest areas of the state have been destroyed to exploit resources and occupy land. The outcome, subsequently, has been harsh, with a present study showing only 21 per cent of the state’s green cover as reserve forests now.

The influx has resulted in an array of issues for Assam. Some of such issues are – occupation of land by foreigners, clashes between indigenous people and the foreigners over land rights, an identity crisis among the locals and a growing sense of rebellion among locals against the foreigners. It is because of these, and mainly because of the last reason that the state is in turmoil today.

Other than these, many minute but important details about migration of foreigners to Assam and its harsh impact on the state has been discussed and brought to light. The push and pull factors affecting the migrants, too, are clearly highlighted, making it easy for readers to grasp the reason behind such large-scale influx of migrants to the state.

The editor, A.C. Borah, has done a good job of putting the compilation together and highlighting a burning problem of the Northeast, particularly Assam.

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