GUWAHATI: As the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is being updated to detect the illegal immigrants, some organisations in southern Assam's Barak Valley are at work to drum up support for statehood for the valley.
The divide between Bengali-majority Barak Valley and Assamese-majority Brahmaputra Valley has widened in recent times over issues such as NRC and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which the Centre wants to pass to grant citizenship to the non-Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh besides Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"The way things are being said against Barak Valley and the Bengalis, it is not possible for us to live in Assam. If we are a cancer as being said, we should be removed. They (Brahmaputra Valley) are at liberty to separate Barak," All Cachar Karimganj Hailakandi Students' Association founder president Pradip Dutta Roy told reporters.
"The way a section of media and intellectuals in the Brahmaputra Valley and the Assam Sahitya Sabha are behaving, we thought they are anti-Bengali. As the NRC is being updated, their pro-Assamese sentiment has grown so much that we are running out of patience. We want a separate Barak state," he said.
Roy, who is an advocate in Gauhati High Court, said once the process of NRC updation was over, they would go to people, both Hindus and Muslims, to seek support for the proposed Barak state. Stating that they have already made an appeal to political parties seeking their support, he said they were confident the political parties would not oppose the idea.
He also said that they would approach the Bodos as well as the Karbis for support. The Bodos have been fighting for long for "Bodoland" state. "Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal tried a lot to achieve unity between the two valleys.
He sanctioned funds for Barak's development but given the kind of emotions being expressed by Assamese groups and organisations, his unity dream will remain a mirage," Roy said. "The Assam Sahitya Sabha said a person must not get a state government job in Assam unless he or she knows Assamese. Bengali has been the official language in Barak since 1961 and hence, Assamese cannot be imposed here. We will oppose Assamese as the official language in Barak tooth and nail," he added.
The Barak Valley is located in virtual isolation where development has remained a far cry. It comprises three of Assam's 33 districts. The Bengalis in the valley are miffed as the names of a large number of them did not figure in the "Part NRC" published last year.
The Part NRC had the names of 1.9 crore of Assam's 3.29 crore population. The Supreme Court, under whose direct monitoring NRC is being updated, has set July 30 as the deadline to Assam government for the publication of "Complete NRC".