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Centre sanctions Detention Camp for “Foreigners” in Assam

Citizenship Amendment Bill
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As the day of publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft draws closer, the Assam state government has received sanction from the Central government to build a detention centre in Goalpara district. The state administration has however denied that the new detention centre is related to the publishing of the NRC draft. The centre is meant to house people whose citizenship is cancelled or in doubt.

Assam Home and Political Department Secretary LS Changsan said that the upcoming one at Goalpara will be a standalone detention centre, as the existing ones are all built on the premises of jails. The Goalpara detention centre will be able to hold 3,000 detainees.

Detention camps are meant to be a stop-gap arrangement for the detainees until they are sent back to where they are from. However, Changsan mentioned that there are several complications as most of the illegal immigrants are believed to be from Bangladesh and India has not entered into any repatriation treaty with Bangladesh till date. The new detention centre is expected to be qualitatively different from the existing ones.

The Assam state administration has however maintained absolute silence regarding the construction of the new centre. Similar stand is being maintained by the officials of Assam Border Police Force and the Sarbananda Sonowal-led state government at Assam.

As July 30 draws closer, anxiety flows across the state. There is no clarity regarding the fate of the people who will not find their names in the NRC draft. Being a Supreme Court administered function, even the Assam Chief Minister has been restricted from speaking on the NRC and related issues.

The National Register of Citizens draft is being formulated in accordance with the Assam Accord of 1985, signed by the Central government, State government and Assamese Nationalist groups that had led an agitation against the infiltration of foreigners since 1979.

The Assam Accord’s definition of foreigners is in accordance with the  Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983. The act laid down the following three conditions for defining illegal migrants:

  • “he is a foreigner” and
  • “ he has entered into India without being in possession of a valid passport or other travel document or any other lawful authority in that behalf”.

NRC state co-ordinator Prateek Hajela has clearly stated that the NRC is in no way related to the detention centres or D Voters’ issue.