Of late, there have been rather startling revelations about how the Assam government and the Union government have handled the vital issue of dealing with illegal immigrants from Bangladesh over the years. The sad part of the revelation is that largely because of the government’s failure to deal firmly with the problem, a certain inexplicable inertia seems to have stymied the functioning of the government in handling the problem of detection and deportation of these illegal migrants. By the look of things, the problem is unlikely to get resolved any time in the near future largely because of the unwillingness of the government to do anything about it.
There was a time, when the Illegal Migrants (Determition by Tribuls) Act of 1983—a piece of diabolic legislation ected exclusively for Assam—was largely blamed for the extremely slow pace of deportation of Bangladeshi infiltrators. There is no doubt whatsoever that the IM(DT) Act made the task of detecting and deporting illegal migrants far more difficult than the Foreigners Act of 1946 that was in force in the other States of India. In fact, people in Assam have not stopped wondering why a separate immigration law solely for the State of Assam was called for when the Foreigners Act of 1946 had served the country (including the State of Assam) quite well over the years. There is no denying that the IM(DT) Act effectively disabled the district administration from having anything to do with the detection and deportation of illegal immigrants. In fact, the separate immigration law for Assam made it impossible for the district administration to deal with any illegal migrant even when there was sufficient proof of the tiolity of the illegal migrants as well as the fact that the person had migrated illegally into India. Mercifully, the Supreme Court eventually struck down the IM(DT) Act in 2005. Even so, in 22 years, the IM(DT) Act did incalculable harm to the normal and efficient means of detecting and deporting illegal migrants from Assam even though other States of the Union had no problem in dealing with such illegal migrants. After 22 years of a mischief inflicted on the State of Assam through the imposition of a totally ineffective and discrimitory immigration law, the State has returned to the Foreigners Act of 1946, like the other States of the Union. Even so, nothing spectacular seems to have happened after the striking down of the IM(DT) Act by the Supreme Court in 2005 as one might have expected. The ground reality in Assam in respect of the detection and deportation of illegal migrants remained the same as it was during the 22 years when the IM(DT) Act was in force. One of the obvious reasons for this was that even though the Foreigners Act had been brought back for Assam as well, in the case of Assam the provision of detection and deportation having to be done by foreigners tribuls remained. A noteworthy difference between the Foreigners Act of 1946 and the IM(DT) Act of 1983 is that the Foreigners Act does not stipulate the detection and deportation of illegal migrants by foreigners tribuls. This was a remnt of the IM(DT) Act tagged on to the Foreigners Act in the case of Assam that took away much of the advantages of the Foreigners Act and made its implementation that much slower. One fails to understand why the State government meekly accepted such a perverse alteration in the provisions of the Foreigners Act.
What happened in the year 2013 made matters even worse for the task of detecting and deporting illegal migrants from Assam. In 2013 a policy decision of the Centre stipulated that persons declared as foreigners by the foreigners tribuls had to be deported through proper diplomatic channels to Bangladesh. This was strikingly different from the earlier practice of merely having to push those identified as illegal migrants from Bangladesh across the border back to their own country. Instead of simplifying the processes of deportation of illegal migrants, the policy decision of 2013 affected the extradition of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh from Assam to the neighbouring country. This is something corroborated by the records of the State government. In a shocking revelation, it has now come to light that following the Centre’s decision of March 2013, only two persons declared as foreigners by the foreigners tribuls could be deported from Assam in the last four years. This is largely because of the newly devised cumbersome process of affecting extradition only through diplomatic channels as opposed to the earlier practice of simply pushing them back across the border. This should be only too evident from the fact that between 1985 and prior to March 2013, as many as 27,218 Bangladeshis had been pushed back across the border. This figure includes those who had entered Assam illegally as well as those who had come to the State with proper legal documents, but had overstayed despite the expiry of their visas. According to the new rules that came into effect in March 2013, once a Bangladeshi tiol is declared a foreigner by a foreigners tribul, the border police obtains his or her address and shares it with Dispur, which subsequently sends the details to New Delhi. The government of India then shares the address with Dhaka. It is only when Dhaka confirms the address that the Bangladeshi is deported. There is no doubt that the new rules have further complicated the deportation of Bangladeshis illegally living in Assam. It is significant that despite 471,312 cases of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh having been referred to foreigners tribuls between 1985 and April 2017, only 2,447 Bangladeshis have actually been sent back to their country during the last 32 years. This gives us a clear idea of how committed our own officers are to the task of detecting and deporting illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They keep forgetting that they are answerable to the people of Assam. They also keep overlooking the fact that the government of Assam and its officers concerned are going to be held responsible for the very drastic and diabolic changes to the demographic composition of Assam that they have brought about through their disinclition to put in any hard work and their readiness to grasp the loopholes that the Centre created in this regard. They have totally failed to serve the cause of Assam and its people.