Hiren Gohain has been a respectable individual all along. His leftist viewpoint is a lone voice raising the issue of gross social inequality and the State inability to address the same. He was one of the few to oppose some unreasonable aspects of the Assam Movement (1979-1985).
In recent times we are a bit surprised by some of his political statements. Just before the Assam assembly elections 2016 he appealed the people of Assam not to vote for the BJP. Taking side is alright but perhaps he should have stated whom to vote for. We remember that in the 90s he made an appeal to vote for the AGP ( which is considered by some as a parochial and almost rightist regional party) in a municipality election. We expected him to make a similar appeal at least to vote for left democratic forces in the elections.
His opposition to granting citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis is even more difficult to understand. The ground reality is that there are millions of Hindus and Muslims of Bangladeshi origin in Assam. Despite the Assam Accord, NRC , repeal of IMDT etc the number of immigrants entering Assam post 1972( the cut off year to decide legality of entering into India as per Assam Accord) is no significant figure as validated by efforts of Government agencies. The point is that within the legal framework the date of entry of an immigrant can not be established at all. Therefore except for a small minority, may be 3 lac as reported in newspapers rest all Hindus and Muslims of Bangladeshi origin have voting rights and therefore they already have citizenship of India. However our assumption is that the Government of India is willing to grant citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindus who are already in India for hostilities in Bangladesh but not sending a message to Bangladesh to send rest of its Hindu population for settling in India.
We expected Hiren Gohain to call for granting citizenship to Muslim Bangladeshis also rather than opposing citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis which would have signaled a rationale debate.
From what we have seen over the years is that detection and deportation of Bangladeshi immigrant based on Assam Accord or our legal framework is just waste of time. Therefore the current debate on granting citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindus ( hope this is not an open invitation to Hindus in Bangladesh) is unnecessary .
But definitely there are valid issues on the 3 lac already doubtful Bangladeshi origin people and millions of Bangladeshi origin people whose date of entry into India can’t be ascertained, specially in the context of Assam’s volatile political and ethic configurations. We only hope that an intellectual of Hiren Gohain’s stature would come up with more pragmatic views.