A day after Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat attributed the rise of Assam-based political party AIUDF to illegal immigration from Bangladesh, the party on Thursday hit back saying his remarks were “political” and “uncalled for”.
The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) found its views echoed by All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi and the civil society which asked General Rawat to stay away from politics as that is not the Army’s domain in India.
AIUDF chief Maulana Badruddin Ajmal said the cause of his party’s rising popularity was not illegal immigration of Bangladeshi Muslims but disenchantment of the public with larger national parties – a trend Ajmal said was visible across the country including in Delhi where Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got a landslide victory in the last assembly elections.
The Army chief had on Wednesday said at a symposium that Pakistan, with support from China, was pushing illegal migrants from Bangladesh into India. Though he didn’t name the two countries but made his references obvious by calling them India’s “western neighbour” and “northern neighbour”.
“We will continue to see some migration happening. The solution lies in identifying the problem and holistically looking at it… There is a party called AIUDF. If you look at it, they have grown in a faster time-frame than the BJP grew over the years… Finally, what will be the state of Assam, we will have to take a call,” Rawat said.
The AIUDF, which has three Lok Sabha members and 13 MLAs in the Assam assembly, strongly objected to the remarks, asking why the heavens were falling over the electoral success of a “secular, democratic” party.
In its maiden electoral battle, the AIUDF won 10 seats in the 2006 Assam Assembly polls. The number went up to 18 in 2011.
Ajmal said he respected the Army and its chief but demanded to know if Gen Rawat’s comments against a democratic political party were not a violation of the Constitution.
He said the Army chief’s remarks came at a time when the work of compilation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is nearing completion and once the NRC is completed, it would deflate the false claims and apprehensions raised by communal forces of increasing immigration from Bangladesh.
He also underlined that the AIUDF is not a party just for the Muslims and by the Muslims, but people from all sections and communities are its members as well as voters.
Ajmal said he planned to meet President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue for an inquiry into the remarks that implied that the AIUDF’s rise was on account of Muslim migration encouraged by Pakistan and China.
Owaisi, Lok Sabha member from Hyderabad, reminded the General that the Army will always work under an elected civilian leadership in India.
“If illegal migrants are entering from Bangladesh what is the Modi government doing? The internal security is dealt by IB, police, not military. We have seen the draconian consequences in our neighbouring countries when Army got involved in domestic politics,” Owaisi tweeted.
The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM), an umbrella body of various Muslim organisations, asked the defence minister to take notice of General Rawat’s remarks and clarify whether the Union government approved of the political commentary of the Army chief.
“The AIMMM considers the statement of General Rawat as unfortunate and sees it as a beginning of the dangerous trend to politicalise the institution of Army which is revered by all, irrespective of political ideology and affiliation,” its president Navaid Hamid said.
The Army, however, defended its chief, saying there was nothing political or religious in Rawat’s comments made during a seminar on the northeast at DRDO Bhavan.
“There is nothing political or religious in the talk. The Army chief just mentioned amalgamation and development in the seminar,” the Army said.