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Migrant tally belies Gogoi claim

New Delhi, July 14: Contrary to repeated claims by the Tarun Gogoi government that there has been no major infiltration into Assam, the Centre today came out with the staggering figure of an estimated five million Bangladeshis in the state.

The figure stands second only to West Bengal’s tally that is 7,00,000 higher than the northeastern state.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, minister of state for home Sri Prakash Jaiswal said a total of 1,20,53,950 illegal Bangladeshi migrants were residing in 17 states and Union territories across the country as on 31 December, 2001.

Among the northeastern states, Manipur, Mizoram and Sikkim drew a blank.

Tripura is next only to Assam with 3,25,000 migrants, followed by Nagaland’s 59,500 and Meghalaya 30,000 illegal Bangladeshis. Even Arunachal Pradesh has begun to witness a demographic shift with 800 infiltrators.

Despite the Assam government’s claims, the Union home ministry only last week put up a comprehensive estimate of “illegal foreigners” in the state.

Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, minister of state for home S. Reghupathy said there were only 26,490 illegal foreigners in the state, contradicting the ministry’s own admissions.

Sources said the figures placed in Parliament today were quoted from the report compiled by a group of ministers during the previous government.

The ministers’ group was assigned the task of looking into the depressing scenario of infiltration from across the Bangladesh border.

The sources said the home ministry’s admission could add fuel to the agitation led by the AGP and the BJP for the repeal of the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, which is perceived as a major hurdle to the detection of foreigners.

The IMDT Act puts the onus of detection on the executive authority and not on the suspected offender as is the case with the Foreigners’ Act, 1946.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition yesterday made a case before the Supreme Court saying the government was not inclined towards repealing the controversial act.

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