During the election campaign for the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi made a number of speeches in West Bengal and Assam threatening to deport "illegal Bangladeshi immigrants" when BJP came to power. He is neither the first nor the last political leader of India to target Bengali Muslims in India.
The bourgeoisie and its political parties deliberately persecute this section of our working people by painting them as "foreigners", "illegal immigrants", and a "breeding ground of terrorists". In Delhi, Mumbai, and other cities of our country, a large number of working poor, including housemaids, rag pickers and other workmen, are people from West Bengal and Assam.
They are part of the massive internal migration of our people in search of a livelihood. According to a study done two years ago, over 40% of the people of India are "internal migrants". They are people who are no longer living or working in the place of their birth. They include journalists, IT professionals, airlines workers, and other workers in the economy in industry and services.
Bengali speaking people are not the only victims of targeted attacks by the bourgeoisie. In Mumbai, workers and self employed from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are targeted on the basis of their culture, language etc. Just like the case with Bengali speaking people, these people are blamed by the capitalist class for taking away the jobs of locals. They are blamed for all the evils of capitalism, including prostitution.
All over our country, this repeats itself with different sections of our working people. In Bengaluru and nearby areas, Tamil speaking workers are periodically targeted for attack. In Punjab, people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are singled out for attacks. In Guiarat, workers from Odissa working in the diamond industry are attacked. In many cities of our country, people from the North East are victims of racist violence.
Migration of people in search of livelihood is inevitable fallout of the capitalist system, which gives rise to uneven development across the country. The bourgeoisie, not only in our country, but world wide, super exploits migrant labour and uses this to attack the conditions of the entire working class. It deliberately foments divisions amongst the working class and people on the basis of religion, nationality, language, region, race, customs, etc. It tries to use one stone to kill two targets. This is what people from India face when they migrate to Canada, Britain, US, Australia and other countries.
The Indian bourgeoisie has also pursued the colonial policy of forcibly settling peoples of one region in another.
In this it has followed the path of the British colonialist rulers.
For instance, after 1947, Punjabi farmers displaced by the Bhakra Nangal dam were settled in the border districts of Gujarat and Rajasthan, and along the Indira Gandhi Canal taking the waters of Bhakra Nangal to the deserts of Rajasthan. The aim was allegedly to protect the border regions from Pakistan.
Chakma refugees from East Pakistan (from the Chittagong hills), were settled by the Indian state in Arunachal Pradesh, on the Chinese border. This was allegedly to protect India in this region from China,
Displacement, and the “rehabilitation” of the displaced people are carried out with the utmost cynicism and self-interest by the ruling class. It is aimed to keep the people – both the locals and the migrants under threat, while fomenting tensions between them that can be brought to a flash point when it suits the state.
We workers and peasants must not allow the ruling class to divide our people on the basis of language, ethnicity, religion, region, race etc. In particular, we can never forget that the peoples of Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan and Afghanistan are united by a long history.
In this issue, we are carrying a piece on the history of migration of Bengalis to Assam, during British colonial rule, and after independence.