When it comes to safeguard the border with Bangladesh, the Assam government takes recourse to doublespeak in a manner that is unbelievably brazen. After the Indo-Bangla land swap deal was passed by Parliament recently, the Tarun Gogoi government piously proclaimed that the deal will now make it possible to seal the border by plugging remaining gaps with barbed-wire fencing. The people of Assam have no way to test the sincerity of Dispur, but it was starkly exposed again in the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The apex court pulled up both the Central and State governments in no uncertain terms for ‘dragging their feet’ over the cross-border influx issue. Displeased with the sloppy way fencing work is progressing at the India-Bangladesh border, the apex court has appointed a one-man commission on its own to verify the border fencing, floodlighting and other works and submit a fil report by June 30. In December 17 last year, the Supreme Court in an observation had noted that as on December 31, 2001, the estimated number of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India was 1.2 crore. The apex court had then directed the Centre to build motorable roads alongside the Bangladesh border and install floodlights to prevent infiltration and cross-border trafficking. The apex court had said it would monitor the progress of this work, but is now so unhappy that it has decided to have a look at it independently. Drawing a parallel with the western border with Pakistan, which is ‘not only properly fenced but properly manned too and not porous at any point,’ the Supreme Court has even questioned the government’s resolve to secure the country’s eastern border 67 years after Independence.
The present Central government may yet muster enough gumption to answer this question with a ‘yes’, but the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam has prevaricated and misrepresented the border fencing issue umpteen times in court. The upshot is that the Supreme Court has now taken serious issue not only with the progress in border fencing works, but also the non-selection of presiding officers and members of 64 Foreigners Tribul sanctioned by the court, as well as 36 Foreigners Tribuls still remaining headless. Significantly, the Supreme Court has criticised the Gauhati High Court for this lapse, directing it to complete appointments in all the tribuls within 45 days. Having reduced the work of Foreigners Tribuls in the last 14 years to a complete mockery, the Tarun Gogoi government’s nefarious designs now stand exposed. The situation has reached such a sorry pass that whenever some Foreigners Tribul gets around to identify a Bangladeshi infiltrator or two, an orchestrated hullabaloo begins in the State Assembly questioning the tribuls motives in ‘harassing genuine Indian citizens’. In the light of the Supreme Court now directing the 100 Foreigners Tribuls to be completely operatiol by 18 August next, it remains to be seen how the powers-be in Dispur cooperate with this directive. As for the NRC update process in Assam, there are still several unresolved questions of law about the issue of granting citizenship. On this issue, the NRC State Coorditor had to inform the Supreme Court that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Registrar General still have not answered his queries made in February last. An annoyed Supreme Court has now fixed a deadline on 14 July for the government to file its responses. What comes through loud and clear about the illegal influx issue — is an unwilling government being prodded every step along the way by the apex court to be serious about the threat to the very survival of indigenous people, be it about fencing the border with Bangladesh or allowing the Foreigners Tribuls to work effectively or updating the NRC properly.