An impression has been growing among citizens in Assam that once the exercise to update the tiol Register for Citizens (NRC) is completed and the State’s border with Bangladesh sealed, infiltration from the neighboring country will be a thing of the past. Nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact, it is a dangerous misconception — doubtless promoted by vested interests — that can lull the people into complacency and our somnolent authorities into complete iction. Even 31 years after the Assam Accord, the fencing at the Bangladesh border is still a work in progress. Riverine and land stretches measuring around 61 km remain open; of the 224 km fenced, long sections have rusted away to form gaps. Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal now wants the Army to be vested with the task of sealing the border. It remains to be seen how seriously the Modi government at the Centre takes its own promises to seal the border within a year or two. But ad-hocism with just the Assam part of the intertiol border will not solve the influx problem. There are three other Northeast states adjacent to Bangladesh with long stretches of unfenced borders. Tripura has 136 km, Meghalaya 123 km and Mizoram a considerable stretch of unfenced border with the neighboring country. So, without a systemic view encompassing all the four NE states including Assam, piecemeal border fencing will not do. There have been many instances documented in media about Bangladeshi infiltrators sneaking across West Bengal and Tripura borders, equipping themselves with the necessary documents, and then fanning into Assam, Delhi, Mumbai and other parts of the country. It is a highly organized racket, encouraged and nurtured by a section of the political establishment and subservient administrative machinery.
The latest such instance came to light on Monday at the Guwahati railway station where a Bangladeshi tiol from Sylhet district was bbed with a bofide Tripura resident. From their prelimiry interrogation, it transpires that the Tripura resident visits Bangladesh regularly to help migrants cross the border and provides them with forged Indian papers. A couple of months back, he brought over this Sylheti man, fixed for him a new identity with matching ID proofs like voter photo card, Adhaar card, PAN card, ration card and school certificate for age and education proof. Each of these ID proofs is granted by a separate, clearly defined authority through a supposedly exhaustive procedure. But the racketeers have accessed all these ID proofs as if these were an assortment of commodities in some department store. What is more, many such ID proofs are not outright forgeries amateurishly done. Rather, there are clear pointers that such papers are forged at the very sources — in concerned departments and offices with the help of conniving staff. Armed with these identity cards, documents and licenses, infiltrating foreigners are turning overnight into Indian citizens, exercising their votes and benefiting from government welfare schemes. Back in 1996, a Bangladeshi tiol with a Pakistani passport med Kamaluddin took the cake when he filed nomition from Jamumukh in the assembly elections. Were his papers not scrutinized by election officials then? If yes, how did he get hold of these papers in the first place? Kamaluddin could very well have won that election and entered Assam assembly. This puts into perspective the formidable challenge facing NRC officials as they go about verifying the documents furnished with application forms. Fingers are being pointed against an authority like SEBA too, for forged HSLC admit cards submitted as birth certificates along with fake marksheets. The Sarbanda Sonowal government must go thoroughly into all these aspects, identifying various official sources through which racketeers and middlemen are accessing ID proofs. Any political patroge to such rackets should be exposed. The entire system needs to be cleaned out at the earliest.