Guwahati, Sept. 12: Chief minister Tarun Gogoi today exhorted political parties to help identify foreigners staying illegally in Assam instead of just crying themselves hoarse over the issue.
“It’s no use crying hoarse over influx while doing nothing. It will need a concerted effort to check influx. Most talk about the presence of illegal foreigners but how many have reported to the authorities? All of us should keep watch on suspected foreigners and report the same. I appeal to all parties to join this effort. It’s no use politicising the issue,” Gogoi told reporters at the Sarusajai stadium here this afternoon.
“I urge Congressmen to take the lead in identifying suspected foreigners and reporting it to the thana, block and town committees, and to create awareness about this problem,” he added.
Gogoi said his government was committed to checking influx but was equally committed to checking harassment of genuine Indian citizens. He said those affected in the riots in Bodoland Territorial Areas District had repeatedly asked him why they were being dubbed as Bangladeshis.
“We are also against influx but we are against indulging in politics over the issue,” he said, pointing out that neither the BJP nor the AGP had done anything to check the problem when in power. “They did not think about NRC. We did. Though there are problems, we will update it,” he said.
The assertions come in the wake of Dispur’s efforts to strengthen the NRC directorate, publish a white paper by October on the foreigners issue and on what is being done to address the problem, and to appoint a commission (to be headed by a retired or a serving Gauhati High Court judge) on issues related to influx and the NRC.
The pressure mounted by Bodoland Territorial Council and leaders of Bodo organisations not to allow illegal foreigners to settle in the BTAD in the name of rehabilitating the riot-hit has brought the issue of influx to centrestage. The AASU, BJP, AIUDF and AGP have blamed Dispur for not taking steps to check influx, which they claim triggered the riots. They have also flayed Dispur for not completing the NRC update, which they believe will help check influx.
A few days ago, Gogoi had told a television channel that illiteracy was one of the reasons for the rise in Muslim population in the state.
He reiterated today, “The population growth in Assam is lower than the national average in both 2001 and 2011 provisional census report. But the population of Muslims is increasing because of illiteracy. Even my Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar had recently said that there was a need to boost literacy rate to check high fertility rate. I don’t say there is no influx but it has declined.” He added that the situation was improving in the BTAD.
Welcoming the move, first-time Congress MLA Debabrata Saikia said Dispur should also involve elected representatives at the panchayat, block, ward and state levels to monitor the situation and report the presence of people of doubtful nationality to the authorities. “This way there will be no complaints of being partisan,” he said. PCC general secretary Anil Raja said the Congress had issued a circular to all its units three to four years ago to keep a watch on suspected foreigners.
“We are contributing our bit in creating awareness. We are against influx but we will not allow any genuine Indian citizens to suffer. All should stick to the March 24, 1971 cut-off date,” he said.
Raja did not dwell on the response the circular evoked but Congress insiders said that doubtful citizens were reported to authorities but this was not made public.
“There is an element of risk involved in such an exercise,” one of them said.
Assam PCC spokesperson Mehdi Alam Bora said before the NRC update is resumed, political parties and organisations should keep an eye on suspected foreigners and report it to the authorities.
There are over 2.3 lakh cases pending in the foreigners tribunals.