Citizenship to Aliens

It would appear that the present NDA government at the Centre is more favourably disposed to Bangladeshis living in Assam than even the UPA government was. The Union government is reported to be considering offer of citizenships to Bangladeshis settled in enclaves on the Indian side as part of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA). This has turally triggered off a fresh wave of unrest in Assam, where organizations are already up in protest against the land swap deal. According to reports, on Wednesday, India apprised Bangladesh about the status of ratification of their Land Boundary Agreement, indicating that a Constitution Amendment Bill may be taken up by Parliament to demarcate the boundary between the two countries. Apparently, Union Home Secretary L. C. Goyal told his Bangladesh counterpart Mozammel Haque Khan that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs had unimously approved the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill, 2013 for its consideration and passage by Parliament. The BJP and the Trimool Congress had earlier been opposed to the Bill.

New Delhi is reported to be discussing the modalities of execution and implementation of the LBA on the ground. The proposals mooted include offering Indian citizenship to the Bangladeshis settled in enclaves in India, while giving Indian citizens settled in enclaves across the border the option of moving base to Indian territory. The latter category is proposed to be compensated in suitably rehabilitated upon arrival in India, media reports said, even though there has been no official word from the Central government. According to the agreement, India will cede 111 enclaves (17,160 acres) while Bangladesh will cede only 51 enclaves (7,110 acres). Since more than 51,000 people live in these enclaves, the government of India is considering the grant of Indian citizenship to these 51,000-odd Bangladeshis. People in Assam are turally perturbed at the implications of the LBA and the proposal to grant Indian citizenship to Bangladeshis living in enclaves that are on the Indian side of the border. This is seen as total disregard of the wishes and aspirations of the people of Assam who had carried on a six-year-long movement against illegal migrants living and voting in Assam. And though it is hardly our purpose to claim any legal and constitutiol status for the Assam Accord of August 15, 1985, the fact remains that the Union government itself had given the Assam Accord a quasi-legal status. The Assam Accord, signed at a time when there were Congress governments both at the Centre and in Assam, stipulates deportation of all foreign tiols who came to Assam after March 25, 1971. The present stand of the NDA government thus represents not only a rejection of Article 6 of the Constitution but of the Assam Accord as well. Most people familiar with the present demographic scerio of Assam are of the view that the government of India should have sealed the borders and signed a bilateral agreement to ensure that Bangladesh would take back all its citizens living in the enclaves that are in Indian territory. That would have been a far more satisfactory arrangement considering that India is already offering such terms to Indian tiols living in Bangladeshi enclaves. Why should it be ucceptable to have the same terms for both Indian and Bangladeshi tiols? The proper course of action would have been to compel Bangladesh to accept the repatriation of Bangladeshi tiols living in enclaves on the Indian side of the border instead of thinking of granting them en masse Indian citizenship.

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