Held for three years as ‘Bangladeshi’, Assam villager returns as ‘Indian
Mr. Rehat Ali had a discrepancy in age in his voter id with the one he submitted orally to the Foreign Tribunal in 2015 and due to poor knowledge of numbers he could not notice that his voter ID showed him 55-year-old.
The State has 100 quasi-judicial foreign tribunals by the Foreigners’ Act of 1946 to look into the matters of suspects to be Bangladeshi by the Assam Police’s border wing, which was formed in 1962 to initially prevent further influx of Bangladeshi migrants.He was put into jail which also serve as a detention centre — one of six in Assam — for people that are foreigners by (FT).
The documents that showed his grandfather possessed a land deed at Bagnapota, back in 1947 led his release on May 3 by the Gauhati High Court.
What is the issue all about?
India being one of the top ten immigration countries of the world is a home for a total of 2,89,394 refugees living in India (as on 31/12/2014) from 28 different countries which also included stateless people [According to State of Home Affairs,2016] .
During the British period people were transported from one region to another to work in mines and plantations. The end of the British colonial period and the subsequent partition of the Indian subcontinent resulted in protracted ethnic and religious strife leading to massive partition-led migration.India in its 70 years as an independent nation-state has seen its fair share of refugees coming.And so of course, it started with Partition itself.This included refugees who crossed over the newly formed boundaries between India and Pakistan,Tibet refugees in 1959,Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka in 1983, Afghan refugees who came to India in the years following the 1979 to 1989 Soviet–Afghan War and refugees from Bangladesh from fleeing the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.Most recently, India has been home to over 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar.
During the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 the Bangladesh-India borders were opened in order to protect Bengalis fleeing genocide by the Pakistan Army's for safe shelter in India.
The state governments of bordering states such as West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura had to establish refugee camps along their borders.The massacre continued and intensified which eventually resulted arrival of estimated 10 million refugees to India .This resulted in financial as well as regional conflicts in the north-eastern states of India .To this day, refugees continue to cross the border.In 2001 it was reported that many Bangladeshi Hindu families have crossed the border into India to escape repression in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh-India migration corridor is the top 5th in the world(World Bank,2005).
Bangladesh has been an increasingly important source country in labour migration since the 1980s. According to Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) Bangladesh data, since 1976 a total of 8,307,749 migrant workers have gone abroad on work (RMMRU, 2012). Other than this, cross-border mobility and other types of movements form part of the larger landscape of international migration in Bangladesh.
The discourse against Bangladeshi immigration in India is strikingly similar to what right-wing American politicians say about Mexican immigrants –claiming they pose a threat to the economy and their American culture.
The local communities and tribal groups have alleged that ‘refugees from Bangladesh and the continuous flow of illegal immigrants has made the locals having existential crisis being a minority in their own homeland’.There has been a spike in population in states bordering Bangladesh, and it has become increasingly difficult for the local governments to ensure basic amenities available in the area.
Taking look into the matter regarding this continuous , the Government of India formulated the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950. This act came into effect from 1950 and was enacted for expulsion of illegal immigrants from the state of Assam.To identify illegal immigrants, the National Register of Citizens was prepared for the first time in Assam during 1951.However, this measure too suffered a major setback.
With this continuous influx and negligence of government regarding this,student leaders in 1979 came out in fierce protest demanding detention, and deportation of the immigrants from Assam.One of the historic movement which came to be known as Assam Agitation or Assam Movement was initiated by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) lasted a span of 6 years(1979-1985).Reportedly, the six-year-long agitation left behind thousands of bleeding families and bloodstained fields.
Over the years,different political parties have attempted to make the issue a linguistic and cultural battle putting blames on each other and has been sympathetic to different communities promising them solutions of their interest.
The second and final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens—a list of all legal citizens of the state—was published on 30 july,2018 in which the names of 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore people were included.Also,the names of 40,70,707 people were not present in the list. Estimated 37,59,630 names have been rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 are currently on hold.And with the publication of the final draft of National Register of Citizens, the entire North Eastern region of the country is on the verge of turmoil. Village-level officials undertaking the NRC have been accused of being biased towards certain communities and reports have been made regarding harassment being faced by several families in the process.Meanwhile on May 12, The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) sent an urgent letter to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal demanding actions against incidents of life threats being given to those who had filed objections against inclusion of the names of certain individuals in the final draft of NRC.Supreme Court has the set said the deadline for publication of final NRC as 31 July and has denied extension beyond it.
What will be the future of those who are not included in NRC?
There have been debates regarding possibilities of deportation because deportation of immigrants without valid papers was raised by India in several meetings with Bangladesh and every time, it was rejected by the neighbouring country. While the state have declared them foreigners, there is no repatriation treaty under which they can be deported to Bangladesh.
So will such a large number of people be sent to detention camps? Currently there are six of the detention centres across Assam ,carved out of local prisons with reports of appalling living conditions. Also,reportedly Assam has also got sanction from the Centre to build the first standalone detention camp in the state, capable of housing 3,000 inmates.
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