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EDITORIAL

Deporting the Illegal Migrants from Assam After the Release of National Register of Citizens

Though the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is just in its final draft stage, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, who is also in-charge of the North-eastern states, has said that India should work at the diplomatic level with Bangladesh in order to send back those people who had entered Assam, or for that matter India, from the neighbouring country. Madhav made this observation at a seminar held in New Delhi on Monday, which was aptly titled “NRC: Defending the Borders, Securing the Culture. The seminar was organized by Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, a Mumbai-based think tank and research organisation.

Madhav’s point was that while Bangladesh had already started examining the scope of sending back over 10 lakh Rohingya people who had illegally entered that country from neighbouring Myanmar and was talking to the Myanmarese government in this context, India too could take up the issue of sending back home those Bangladeshis who had illegally entered Assam or India. This is for the first time that a very senior and important functionary of the ruling party at the Centre had made such a statement, one that must be considered as having some kind of sanction or nod from the BJP at the highest level. More significantly, Madhav’s statement came within less than 24 hours of the conclusion of the BJP’s crucial national executive meeting held in the national capital. Till before this, the BJP was literally skirting the issue every time people asked what would be the next step after the final NRC was out.

While people in Assam would have naturally rejoiced at what the most powerful BJP national general secretary said about the next step after completion of the NRC, the possibility was almost simultaneously negated with Ram Madhav saying the BJP was also in favour of providing citizenship to all Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs who were facing persecution in the neighbouring country. This second statement does not go down well in Assam, because the Assam Accord does not distinguish illegal migrants or foreigners on the basis of religion and faith. Clause 5.8 of the Assam Accord very clearly says, “Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall continue to be detected, deleted (from the electoral rolls) and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.”

Two more crucial points that Madhav should have kept in mind while making the statement on Monday. One, that Clause 6 of the Assam Accord says, “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.” And two, the BJP-led government of Sarbananda Sonowal had won the Assembly election in 2016 by promising to protect the “jaati, maati, and bheti” of the indigenous communities.