The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gogoi ‘no’ to IMDT avatar

Guwahati, July 18: Caught in a bind with even minority organisations and the All Assam Students’ Union working towards a rapprochement, chief minister Tarun Gogoi today ruled out the possibility of enacting a new law to replace the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act.

Gogoi claimed during a news conference here that the UPA government had constituted a group of ministers to find ways to end illegal migration rather than suggest an alternative to the legislation. “That (an alternative law) is not on the agenda,” he said.

The Supreme Court struck down the IM(DT) Act on July 12, five years after student leader-turned-MP Sarbananda Sonowal filed a petition. Delhi has indicated that it will not file a review petition.

The chief minister had rushed to the capital in the wake of the apex court’s verdict, ostensibly to discuss the repercussions of the development with the Congress high command.

Gogoi said he never broached the topic of an alternative law during his meetings with senior leaders.

The statement was meant to silence those who believed that Delhi had formed a group of ministers to examine legal grounds for a review of the judiciary’s ruling on the IM(DT) Act and, if required, bring in a new law.

BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan, who oversees the party’s affairs in Assam, was among those who had said that the Congress would surely explore the option of enacting a new law.

Gogoi described Mahajan as “an expert at fishing in troubled waters”.

He also accused the BJP of trying to create a Gujarat within Assam by making the repeal of the IM(DT) Act a communal issue. “We will not allow the BJP to vitiate communal harmony in Assam. The events in Gujarat cannot be replayed in Assam, which is the land of Ajan Pir and Sankardev.”

The chief minister said his government was laying emphasis on updating the National Register of Citizens with March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date. “Once the national register is complete, the problem of detecting illegal migrants will be permanently solved.”

Gogoi said he would recommend to Delhi the reconstitution of 32 tribunals under the Foreigners Act to expedite the process of detecting and deporting illegal migrants. The process could be completed by the first week of next month.

On the new-found bonhomie between the AASU and organisations representing the minorities, the chief minister said any initiative to remove mistrust deserved to be lauded. “We welcome all such initiatives, no matter who is behind those.”

The BJP, on the other hand, demanded a judicial probe into incidents of violence during the All Assam Minority Students Union-called statewide bandh on Friday.

State BJP president Indramoni Bora said the government machinery was a mute spectator to violence unleashed by activists of the organisation. “A bus was set ablaze in front of a police contingent.”

The party decided to form a committee to monitor the preparation of the National Register of Citizens, organise rallies and distribute pamphlets to “educate the people” on illegal migration.

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