Security personnel keep vigil in a curfew-bound area at Ambagan in Nagaon district on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos
New Delhi, Aug. 30: Turning proactive, the Centre has written to the Assam government to expedite the processing of a whopping 2.37 lakh cases of illegal migration from Bangla-desh pending in the 36 tribunals in the state.
Another 79,000 cases have been referred by superintendents of police of various districts in Assam to the tribunals, but notices on these have not yet been sent to the individuals.
Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told The Telegraph today that he would visit the border areas soon after the Parliament session. “Illegal migration has to stop and we will ensure the borders are sealed. It is a matter of better management,” he said. The home ministry had held a high-level meeting on the issue of influx yesterday.
Till now, the UPA government had been shy of admitting that violence in the BTAD had anything to do even remotely with the issue of illegal migration.
The push came after intelligence agencies recommended urgent action on various fronts — reviving tribunals earlier regulated by the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983, updating the National Register of Citizens as promised in the Assam Accord and sending back Muslims affected by violence in the Bodo areas safely to their villages.
The home ministry had sent a communication to Dispur on May 10, asking it to revive the tribunals as most of the cases of illegal migration were “pending for 20-25 years”. Three months later, on August 17, the Centre sent another communication to the Assam government asking it to “review” the working of tribunals and help them expedite the cases under the more stringent provisions of the Foreigners (Tribunal) Amendment Order, 2012.
A proactive attitude from the Centre on detection and deportation of foreigners could take the wind out of the sails of the BJP and RSS who have launched a countrywide campaign on illegal migration. As the BJP and AGP play on local sentiments in the wake of the recent violence in Assam, the Congress’s predicament is to act against illegal migrants but not destroy its minority vote bank.
Fears of revival of the anti-foreigner Assam Agitation and polarisation of communities has put the government in a fix. While the Congress has considered the Bengali-speaking Muslims in lower Assam as its vote bank for years, a leadership has emerged from within to throw up parties like the Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF.
However, there is pressure from within the Congress to act against illegal migration.
A Congress MP from Assam said the question was more of foreigners, of Assamese versus non-Assamese culture rather than religion. The tribal ownership of belts and blocks is a major bone of contention. So when the Bengali-speaking people came in, there was opposition. “In Sivasagar town there are 60,000 Muslims but there is unity because of cultural affinity. After all, Muhammed Ibn Bakhtiyar Khilji came to Assam even before the Ahoms came,” he said. “It is wrong to see it as a communal issue, it is of Bangladeshis in India.”
Intelligence sources pegged the number of illegal migrants in Assam at 17 lakh. However, there has been no survey to prove this. According to the Assam Accord 1985, those who have entered the country after March 25, 1971 are foreigners.
Text ban lifted
The ban on bulk texts that was ordered about a fortnight back was revoked this afternoon, a day earlier than scheduled.
Officials of various agencies, including the home telecommunication and information technology ministries held a review meeting and decided that the climate was conducive to recalling the ban which was decided in view of the rumour-mongering in wake of violence in Assam. The mobile phone texts with inflammatory messages had resulted in several thousand people from the Northeast living in cities like Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad returning to their native places in the Northeast.