The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Consensus signal on migrants decree

Guwahati, April 2: In a development that could lead to the political consensus required to repeal the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the All-Assam Minority Students’ Union today agreed that the legislation has outlived its utility.

Both organisations, however, added a rider to their support for the repeal of the act. They said the National Register of Citizens should be updated with March 25, 1971, as the cut-off year before formally doing away with the legislation.

AGP chief Brindaban Goswami said he was not opposed to the idea of scrapping the legislation, but insisted there should be an alternative mechanism to protect “genuine citizens” of the minority community.

“That alternative is an updated national register of citizens,” he said at a convention jointly organised by the minority students’ union and the All-Assam Minority Yuba Parishad to discuss a host of subjects relevant to the state’s minority community.

“If the register is updated with March 25, 1971, as the base year and identity cards are issued to genuine citizens, I believe 90 per cent of the problems of the state will be sorted out,” the AGP chief said.

He described the contentious act as the biggest stumbling block in the way of building “a greater Assamese society”.

Echoing Goswami, the adviser to the minority students’ union, Samsul Haque, made it clear that support for the repeal of the act was subject to the national register being updated to remove the “weed of mistrust” from the minds of the minority population of Assam. He called for efforts to create a consensus on the issue by soliciting the views of all the parties concerned.

Goswami criticised both the BJP and the Congress for making the campaign for the repeal of the act a poll plank. He said doing away with the legislation would not rid the state of foreigners, but updating the citizens’ register could facilitate the detection and deportation of illegal migrants.

The AGP chief said the act had become a tool for most political parties to divide the people on the basis of their religion and language. He accused some parties of trying to divert public attention from the real problems of the state by creating hype over the proposal to repeal the legislation.

Goswami advised leaders of the minority community to concentrate on rehabilitation of the people displaced by floods and erosion instead of sowing the seeds of mistrust and hatred among uneducated and gullible people.

Addressing the rally, academician Abdul Mannan expressed concern over the abysmally low literacy rate and socio-economic condition of the minority population in Assam, particularly in the char (riverine islands) belt.

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