Does Bangladesh need to do more to “assert” itself?

I’m sharing a short link on what’s going on in Assam; frankly it’s pretty disgusting.

The NorthEast wing of India has seen much ethnic turbulence:

(1.) Nepalis expelled from Bhutan

(2.) Bengalis from Assam

(3.) Rohingyas from Burma

Nepalese and Bangladeshis seem to be the hyper fecund Indo-Aryan ethnicities overwhelming the Sino-Tibetan populations. It’s a continuation of a millennia old pattern of the “Aryanisation” of the East.

Even though I laid Bangladesh’s dramatic achievements in social metrics; I fear it’s developing a “Wakanda” attitude towards events in its neighbourhood.

It doesn’t go without saying that I’m much more sympathetic with the Party of the Widow than I am to the Party of the Daughter. I can’t also claim to know anything about Bangladeshi politics but just venturing my opinions, as I do.

It would also be interesting to see how Bangladeshis perceive:

(a) the Indo-Bangladesh relationship post 1971

(b) the Rohingya issue and whether Bangladesh has to do something about it

(c) the “illegal infiltrators” in the NorthEast that makes Indians go apoplectic..

It doesn’t make sense to me that Bangladesh, which is a nation explicitly founded on an indigenous Indic identity, seems to attract so much ire.

Indians seem to think that South Asia will become Muslim in generation and a half at best; faulty reading of demographic trends make for good politics as we have seen in the West as well.

I’ll end on something rather off-topic but what I saw on a Facebook by a Persian girl in South Africa.

She turns to her friend and says “we are the only two coloured people in the room.”

Her black friend shoots back “And you’re in camouflage.”

The point of this narrative is that identity is complex and intricate..

54 thoughts on “Does Bangladesh need to do more to “assert” itself?”

  1. The situation has been partly contributed by the vote bank politics in India wherein politicians turn a blind eye to illegal migrations as long as they get a vote bank – instead of adhering to the law on immigration/emigration. Short term ism (and corruption) by politicians brings these kind of long term problems. I am not against people moving through borders – but it must be openly discussed and local populations taken into confidence. Policies – formal or informal – rammed down the throats of local populations create this kind of problems.
    In Switzerland, each canton has a say whether they want immigrants or not.

  2. Nothing is realistically gonna happen. No one would be deported, sent in to camps. There will be cases and counter cases in court. The BJP needed to make a political point (just like demonetisation) to its base which they have done. Now they will sit back and let it unfold.

    You could see the seriousness of the Govt from the fact that it has not discussed anything regarding the whole exercise to Bangladesh. Even Bangladesh knows its a cynical internal political move.

    1. Assamese will be really angry if nothing happens. I don’t think bjp can afford to sit back and watch everything unfold now. Mind you, assamese have massacred 3000 bengali muslims in past and it is a restive region.

      1. As you will see nothing gonna happen. The bjp will now de escalate ( not the rhetroric) since it’s back on front foot It was on back foot the whole time because of Congress and other parties gaining ground in Assam due to citizenship amendment act ( which the Assamese oppose ) Now the issue has been sidestep and we have anew issue in hand

  3. To get a perspective from the other side this article below should help –


    Economic migration within India is big thing today. But invariably when the migrants reach a big no. the local people develop insecurity which is quite natural. When you see a large no of alien unrecognisable people in your hometown threatening to marginalise you, how would you react ?

    There will be insecurity and this insecurity needs to be addressed. When the politicians refuse to address this insecurity for a long time, it can lead to a big problem. As per the 2nd article I linked, the population of Muslims in Assam has increased at a much greater rate than that of the Hindus and this certainly cannot happen without migration. The ethnic Assamese (who are also Indo-Aryan speakers) feel that they may become a minority in their own state.

    These are complex issues and have to be dealt with after a firm grasp of the situation. The leftist media of India obviously cares little for objectivity.

    1. So why doesn’t India just adopt Jui Sanguinis and restrict voting rights for migrants.

      States could even do the same thing; a migrant can only vote in their home state etc..

      Many ways around this without forcibly deporting desperate people..

      1. There are many ways and if you read the articles I linked, they suggest a few steps that can be taken. Deportation is looking at best as one of the methods.

        The NRC itself was not done at the behest of the BJP but the Supreme Court. But this is a step to merely identify the illegal migrants and it will only end by 31 st Dec 2018. Once the illegals are identified, the real question would be what next ? What should be done with these illegals ? The action on that front is going to be a real challenge.

    2. The Assamese speak a variant of Bengali like the Oriya but are originally Sino-Tibetan or some other exotic variant.

      The Bengali-Bihar axis of South Asia is fascinating but understudied compared to the hyper-analysed Punjab-UP dynamic (the Upper Indo-Gangetic plain versus the Low Gangetic-Brahmaputra delta)..

      1. There is no bengali-bihari axis. The Bihari is more into the UP-Delhi axis. The Bengali is in the world of its own, where (in his mind) its simultaneously perpetually the victim, perpetually different (read better) than the rest of India.

        1. Yes and that’s why Hindi-Urdu (Hindi mainly) has systematically destroyed all the languages in the Hindi belt; Bihar is a particular victim ..

          The fact that Bengali is a “super-central” language is because it binds two states ..

      2. The Assamese speak a variant of Bengali like the Oriya but are originally Sino-Tibetan or some other exotic variant.

        1) don’t ever tell an assamese person that 😉 or an oriya person

        2) i’ve never talked to a bihari person that looks to bengal culturally. i know some linguistic taxonomies put bhojpuri dialects closer to bengali, can’t judge. but with assemese and oriya it’s pretty obvious listening to them they’re part of the same grouping as bengali

        1. Yes but Dhaka-Kolkata can be quite a formidable pairing.. the hidden superpower of the Subcontinent; furthermore I believe Lord Curzon’s partition plan involved grouping Bihar and West Bengal to make it more substantially Hindu.

          W.r.t to the Assamese I suspected they were Tai-Kadai but judged myself ridiculous (the Thai coming all the way from South East Asia).

          The modern political groups have made it so that India seems a much more Northwestern country (Delhi-Punjab-UP) more than anything else so the idea of the Ahom coming from Yunnan in China to settle an Indian province seems fantastical. Maps alter our geopolitical orientation and India is far more focussed on being a West Asian power than an East Asian one..

          Just my two cents.

          1. W.r.t to the Assamese I suspected they were Tai-Kadai but judged myself ridiculous (the Thai coming all the way from South East Asia).

            the ahom were tai. the assamese are about 25% southeast asian ancestrally.

          2. “Yes but Dhaka-Kolkata can be quite a formidable pairing.. the hidden superpower of the Subcontinent; furthermore I believe Lord Curzon’s partition plan involved grouping Bihar and West Bengal to make it more substantially Hindu.”

            Bengal in pre partition was an amalgamation of bihar-bengal-north east-orrisa, and as soon as possible all its constituent parts tried to break away from bengal complaining of bengali hegemony(similar to punjabi hegemony). The whole point of 1st partion of bengal was to undercut the nationalist movement in bengal which was very bengali hindu upper class dominated. It would not make sense for curzon to include “hindu” bihar .

          3. We’ve got lots of Hindutvas (not taking names).

            I’m not a “PakNationalist”. I just happen to think Pakistan is a reality and that constantly being nasty about it is not productive. I also have an attachment to the country my parents come from.

        2. Good point. Odiya is actually a classical Indian language with a larger vocabulary and literary history than Bengali. Bengali speakers are just demographically dominant and exert a much stronger soft power than either Odiyas or Assamese.

          Also, this bucketing of Assamese as a Sino-Tibetan race group, that so many are assuming here is silly. Have you met anyone from Assam? There is obviously admixture and from personal expiences, I’d guess a pretty even mix of Ahom and indio- Aryan leaning heavily on latter.

          1. Most Aragonese is actually closer to Castilian.

            Even if Assamese and Oriya exist on a dialect continuum with Bengali, that doesn’t mean they aren’t their own languages. Otherwise you have to also say that French and Spanish and Italian are all the same language.

          2. “therwise you have to also say that French and Spanish and Italian are all the same language.”

            Charlemagne would be happiest!

            Oriya ,assamese didnt have a written script for a long time, probably thats the reason it was seen as appendage of bengali

          3. Oriya split off from Eastern Indo-Aryan before either Bangla or Axomiya did. Calling Oriya Bangla is like calling Romanian Italian. It is an entirely and famously (cf. Kalinga War) separate culture.

            Axomiya itself has serious Tai-Kadai substrate, evident in their non-Indic surnames: Bor-Baruah, Bor-Phuken etc. The only Indo-Aryan language to have no retroflexion.

      3. “The Assamese speak a variant of Bengali like the Oriya ”

        Where are these from?

        What is even a Bengali-Bihari axis?

        1. I should do a post on Assam / they are like the Bulgarians
          Of the NorthEast..

          Wasn’t Maghdada (sic) the historic capital of India and Calcutta the capital until a century ago..

  4. I read something on “The Wire” about the Assam issue the other day. From what I understood, the issue goes back to the fact that Sylhet District was attached to Assam during the colonial period. During Partition, a referendum was held and most of Sylhet District went to East Pakistan. The suspicion of Bengali Muslims goes back to that time. Also, I think the British imported Bengalis into the bureaucracy which the Assamese obviously didn’t like. There is a part of Assam where Bengali is the official language. So it’s a complicated situation.

    On a related note, Mamta Banerjee wants to rename West Bengal “Bangla” and use Bengali nationalism as a means to counter Hindutva.

        1. The BJP wants to keep “Paschim Banga”. Mamata wants just “Bangla”. The “West” is a legacy of Partition. There is no longer an “East Bengal” (it’s Bangladesh), so the “West” is kind of anachronistic.

          1. For a while, the two provinces were referred to as West Punjab and East Punjab. I don’t remember exactly when that stopped.

  5. To all those who are justifying this abomination on the grounds that “people must feel upset when a lot of outsiders come to their city…” : do you pledge never to leave your native village/town? And not protest when people you relate to are treated as interlopers in other states or foreign countries (or even driven out)?

    The Assamese government is descending into Bal Thackeray territory. If someone’s been around since 1971, I don’t care where they came from before that. They are not “foreigners” by any stretch of the imagination. Unless the government can prove that a person crossed the border recently from Bangladesh (and even there, my instinct is to be lenient), that person gets to stay. (And, to the larger point, being a part of India means a state or city does not get the right to stop others, of whatever region or religion, from coming in.)

      1. Because I read 1971 in the Caravan article. Anyway, what applies to 1971 applies doubly to 1947.

        1. I believe the Assam Accord says that those who entered India before Bangladesh declared independence (March 25, 1971) can stay in India and become citizens?

    1. I agree. The people justifying this must be against all kinds of immigration then. Guess they’re not moving to the US cause the Americans will feel “upset” when a lot of Indians come to their cities.

  6. There need to be more posts on Central Asia and Pakistan and Ummah. India is boring. Why can’t India dissolve so that Central Asians invade again and enjoy lording over these people. This time we will drink tea in Assam with Imran Khan.

  7. I have much more realistic/pessimistic/cynical view of the whole situation. However we may try to mask it, Hindus and Muslims are really two different cultures. They just can’t live together peacefully.

    Partition of India was a lunacy, but not completing the population transfer was ever bigger lunacy. Ideally all Muslims must have gone to Pakistan (both east and west), and all Hindus should have come to India.

    It can still be done. Bangladesh’s Hindu population is about the same size as the Bengali Muslim population of India. All Bengali muslims , whether they live in Assam or W Bengal, whether legal or illegal, all must go to B’desh, and all B’desh Hindus must come to India. That is when the problem will truly come to an end.

    Herculean task, but eventually will have to done.

    1. You are advocating ethnic cleansing, which is against International Law. That is really disgusting (not to mention against the Indian Constitution).

      India is part of the international system and as such has signed on to Human Rights law. Deporting your own citizens because they happen to practice a minority religion is not acceptable. Also, India is a secular state not a Hindu Rashtra (yet).

        1. Don’t be disingenuous. Ask the BJP what a “Hindu Rashtra” is. Hint: it is not what the Indian Constitution is based on.

          “Any Hindu society is by definition secular”– You must have a unique definition of secularism. A country in which Muslims are lynched for eating beef is not secular no matter what it says on paper. In a secular state, all citizens are treated equally regardless of the religion they happen to practice.

          I don’t want to get into another boring debate about “Islamism” vs Hinduism (or “Santhana Dharma”) so forgive me if I don’t respond to you from now on. I really don’t have time to play these games with you.

          1. LOL Zack,

            I just have no patience for Hindutvadis. Normal Indians I like.

            Also, I am rapidly losing patience for semantic games.

      1. I will take a balanced view to the above two. Partition was not supposed to be about population exodus from anywhere. In lieu of that, the solution lies in not making anyone move from anywhere where their livelihoods and ancestral heritage lies, but perhaps Bengali Muslims residing in India should be given Bangladeshi citizenship with Indian residency rights, and vice versa to Bengali Hindus residing in Bangladesh. Population exodus is what transpired in Punjab but this is not the case in eastern Indian subcontinent. The physical presence of Muslims is never a problem and I think all these security concerns are bogus (at an extreme, even a person born to Hindu parents can be self radicalized through ISIS internet propaganda… means to curbing these things is in better institutions and governance). The problem is in democracy the demographics are king and voting power of Muslims in post partition India is causing havoc in terms of pseudosecular corrupt governance guaranteed to give re-election as long as the Muslims are scared enough by some strongman (usually the locally dominant Hindu caste) to vote as a block. Also this is denying genuine liberalism in Indian democracy since it always has to make bedfellows with Islamist fundamentalists for electoral reasons.
        Again hindsight is 20/20 and the likes of Nehru etc didn’t foresee the functioning style of democracies when they established India as a secular democracy with voting rights to Muslims left in India. Up till that point the experience for democracies for providing security to minorities was really only how black Americans were getting demolished generation after generation with Jim Crow and a punitive majority. So the experience was not good. In India the experience of last seventy years indicates the extremism to the other end. Folks in eastern India are hoping that a wiser resolution can be reached. Bangladesh has achieved what the Pakistan dream (as envisioned by Bengali Muslims anyway) had desired, that is, a space for Bengali Muslim sons of soil to develop their own intelligentsia middle class etc. As supposed leftist as West Bengal is, Muslims in West Bengal are still the proverbial under class in West Bengal as was the case in pre 1947 Bengal/India. Getting Bangladeshi citizenship should be an attractive proposition for Bengali Muslims left behind in Indian territory and vice versa getting Indian citizenship is attractive for Bangladeshi Hindus. As far as movement, each individual should be left to their own discretion to move as they see fit or not move. Otherwise they remain as permanent residents wherever they currently are.

    2. Snake Charmer, why do you think about 40% of Gujarati muslims vote for Modi? Why do a majority of Indian Ja’fari twelvers Shiites, sixer Ishmaeli Shiites and Sufis ally with Modi, the BJP, RSS and Hindutva? Many of the largest muslim sites in India have as many nonmuslims visiting them as muslims. Many of the greatest masters of Sanathana Dharma [including her Buddhist, Jain and Sikh branches] deeply revere muslim masters and regard them to be on par with the eastern masters [Lao Tsu, Tirthankaras, 10 master parampara of Guru Gobind Singh, Zarathustra].

      India probably has over 50 million Bengali muslims. They are a part of India and loved by Hindus. Indians don’t want them to leave.

      PS. is Bahá’u’lláh an Eastern master or Western master of Abrahamic master? Or is he all of the above?

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