Ground Report From Dhubri: Will Border Issues Polarise Voters In Assam?

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Ground Report From Dhubri: Will Border Issues Polarise Voters In Assam?

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Illegal migration from Bangladesh has been a part of Assam's political discourse for over 30 years.

Guwahati:  With Assam heading for elections, the political focus in the state has shifted to the India-Bangladesh border. The Centre plans to quickly seal the gaps in this border as a part of its election promise to check illegal migration from Bangladesh.

Last week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh inspected the India-Bangladesh border at Dhubri, a district in lower Assam that shares 135 kilometres of border with Bangladesh. In election season, Mr Singh's visit signals that his party, the BJP, is all set to raise the issue of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, which has shaped the state's politics for nearly 40 years now and polarised voters.

"I understand this is a serious concern and it is sad that borders have been neglected... We have allocated funds to complete border sealing in Karimganj by 2016. Even for Dhubri, we have formed an expert committee and would start a pilot project to complete border sealing," Mr Singh had said during the visit.

With 44 kilometres of riverine border, Dhubri has always been a battleground for political parties.

The BJP and other regional parties often allege Dhubri to be a Ground Zero of illegal migration, cattle smuggling and fake currencies - a charge denied by the local MP and head of All India United Democratic Front or AIUDF Maulana Badaruddin Ajmal. His party is said to be very popular among Bengali speaking settlers.

"There are porous borders and the Supreme Court has clearly said that due to this there is 'internal disturbance and external aggression'.  It is strange that for 30 years government is struggling with the border issue yet in the west the whole border sealing has been completed in three years," says Samujjal Bhattacharjee, the Advisor All Assam Students' Union (AASU) that led a firebrand anti-migrant agitation in Assam in the 80s that led to the Assam accord.

But minority leaders don't subscribe to AASU's claims.

The ruling Congress, that's looking at a tie-up with the AIUDF, has accused the BJP of raking up illegal migration issue before every election.

Illegal migration from Bangladesh has been a part of Assam's political discourse for over 30 years. Various organisations in Assam have opposed the land swap deal with the neighbouring nation and also granting of citizenship to Hindu refugees.

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