The Telegraph
Tuesday , August 5 , 2014
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AGP protests Dispur decision on asylum

Guwahati, Aug. 4: About 14 AGP protesters were injured when police caned them as they tried to walk towards the Assembly today, defying barricades, in protest against Dispur’s push to secure asylum for persons fleeing religious persecution in Bangladesh after March 24, 1971.

The party, however, did not raise the issue in Assembly, which held its first day of budget session today.

AGP general secretary Durga Das Boro and former legislator Jyoti Prasad Das were among the injured. The other injured were taken to a private hospital.

Tomorrow, the district units of AGP will hoist black flags and wear black badges to protest the Congress government’s “atrocity” on protesters. The party’s central committee has asked its district committees to organise protests on August 7, too.

The Tarun Gogoi cabinet had on July 16 decided to move the Centre to frame a policy for granting asylum to persons who had fled religious persecution and discrimination in Bangladesh and taken refuge in India on humanitarian grounds. The move saw leading organisations accuse Dispur of trying to abet influx for political gains.

AGP president Atul Bora criticised the government for allowing the police to cane “peaceful demonstrators”. He alleged that the Congress government was a protector of illegal Bangladeshi migrants and that indigenous people were not safe under it. “The indigenous people of Assam are suffering from an identity crisis because of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. As such, the state cabinet’s decision to give asylum is a violation of the Assam Accord and is politically motivated.”

The 1985 Assam Accord says the state will not provide shelter to any Bangladeshi immigrant entering Assam after March 24, 1971.

The AGP had earlier submitted a memorandum to governor J.B. Patnaik, seeking his intervention. They had also staged a protest near Dighalipukhuri. AGP leaders today said they would continue their agitation till the cabinet decision was revoked.

Those backing the move refer to the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh which has been implementing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise, made during electioneering for the Lok Sabha polls in Assam, of deporting Bangla-deshis illegally settled in India and rehabilitating those who fled to India because of religious persecution. MP has rehabilitated over 5,000 such migrants so far.

“These people, numbering 5,464, have been given citizenship, ration cards, shelter and employment. Reports say those rehabilitated are non-Muslim refugees. It is purely on humanitarian ground,” a supporter of the move said.

The MP government had informed the Supreme Court of the rehabilitations on a PIL filed by an NGO, Swajan, which had sought direction to the Centre and states not to deport those who entered India to avoid religious persecution.

Dispur’s decision has been welcomed in the Bengali-dominated Barak valley districts of the state.

Chandan Sarkar, a senior Congress MLA and parliamentary secretary, told The Telegraph that he saw nothing wrong in the government move. “It is being done on humanitarian ground,” he said.

A senior minister had told this correspondent after the cabinet meeting, “Those fleeing Bangladesh because of religious persecution, atrocities and insecurity to life and property such as Bengali Hindus and Buddhists deserve human consideration. The Assam Accord already accepts those who had entered the state upto March 24, 1971. We feel that those who have entered after the cut-off date because of religious persecution should be granted asylum,” he added.

The Congress, too, had raised the issue before the 2011 Assembly elections to neutralise the BJP, which had been championing the cause of Bengali Hindus who had fled Bangladesh because of religious persecution. The cabinet decision was also a step in this direction given the BJP’s success in the Lok Sabha polls.