| Suspected illegal migrants in Imphal. (PTI)
Imphal, Sept. 22: An Imphal court has sentenced 22 Bangladeshi nationals to two years in jail. The illegal immigrants had been rounded up last month during a raid in a Muslim colony here.
Passing the order yesterday, the chief judicial magistrate of Imphal East, W. Tonnen, also directed the state government to send two minor children, who came from Bangladesh with their parents, to the juvenile home run by the state government till the time their parents came out of jail.
The foreigners were convicted under Section 14 (A) of Foreigners Act, 1946 and will be deported after completing the sentence. The court also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on each foreigner, faling which they will have to serve an additional six-month jail term.
Police said the 22 foreign nationals and the two children were detected during a raid at Hatta Golapati here on August 30 as part of a statewide verification process for detection of foreign nationals.
The state government ordered the foreigner detection campaign in the wake of the violence that broke out in neighbouring Assam and the alleged threats to Northeast students and workers in other cities of the country in retaliation to the Assam violence.
The campaign also comes in the wake of the growing demand for implementation of inner line permit system in Manipur. Succumbing to pressure from citizens’ groups, the Assembly resolved to urge the Centre to introduce the system earlier this year. However, the Centre reportedly does not have any plan to introduce it.
Sources said the state government is apprehensive of an outbreak of Assam-like trouble if illegal migrants are not detected and sent back.
This is the first conviction of foreign nationals in Manipur since the Assam violence. A hundred foreigners have been detected during the current verification process. While 22 have been convicted, the others are in judicial custody and chargesheets are being framed against them, the police said.
“Manipur police did not have to face the allegation of harassing people in the name of detection of foreigners staying illegally in the state during the time of the raid,” a policeman in the state said.
At Tirap coal area in Tinsukia district of Assam, 60 suspected Bangladeshis were detained after being detected by the All Assam Students’ Union today. The issue of illegal migrants in Assam has returned to centre stage after the BTAD riots, which is blamed on influx from Bangladesh.
Siddhartha Bhattacharyya, a lawyer in Gauhati High Court and a BJP leader, while refusing to comment on the Manipur court’s verdict, said the greatest hurdle in deportation of illegal migrants was that India did not have an extradition treaty with Bangladesh. “Even if the court declares someone an illegal foreigner, it is tough to deport the person because of non-existence of an extradition treaty. Many illegal foreigners in the state have gone missing even after being convicted by the court,” he added.
He said it was unfortunate that despite a clear definition of illegal foreigners in Indian laws, the police in Assam had to face the allegation of harassing people whenever they conduct raids. He said the problem arises because the illegal migrants belong to a particular religion and some forces try to scuttle the process by taking advantage of such religious affinity.