The deportation of 17 Bangladeshis from Assam, scheduled on Monday morning, has been postponed because district authorities in southern Assam did not get clearance from the union home ministry, police said. The exercise is likely to be carried out on Thursday.
The 17 were then taken back to a detention camp in Slichar, headquarters of the neighbouring Cachar district, more than 300 km away from Guwahati. Three of the 17 deportees are Hindus, believed to have been hounded out of Bangladesh.
“The delay in deporting these people who illegally entered Assam over the past few years is because of reasons beyond our control. We hope to complete the formality on Thursday,” Pradip Ranjan Kar, superintendent of police of Karimganj district, told Hindustan Times on Monday.
The 17 were among 54 people from Bangladesh and Myanmar who were caught after illegally entering India during the past few years. They had been languishing in a detention camp in Silchar Central Jail mainly due to the lack of communication with officials of these two neighbouring countries until 2015.
“Their deportation followed two rounds of talks between officials of border districts of Assam and Bangladesh. We had handed them over to the Karimganj police at 5 am for deportation via the Border Security Force (BSF),” Cachar district police chief Rakesh Roushan said.
“The 17 people will be deported from Steamerghat at Karimganj town (bordering Bangladesh). Personnel of the Border Guards Bangladesh will be receiving them at Zakiganj (Bangladesh part of the border check post),” said A Asthana, deputy inspector general (DIG), BSF, looking after the Karimganj sector.
Among those to be deported to 11 districts of Bangladesh are Bhagabati Goala, 50, from Madhabpur district, Rahul Das, 23, from Habiganj district and Mou Das, 18, from Sunamganj district.
Last year, on October 13, southern Assam officials had deported 10 Bangladeshis. This followed bilateral meetings between the two governments in 2015 – first in January at Silchar and then in October at Srimangal in Bangladesh’s Maulvibazar district.
The deportation comes amid a raging controversy in Assam over the BJP’s decision to grant citizenship to non-Muslim “refugees” from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Assam is particularly wary of becoming a haven for Hindu Bangladeshis if the BJP succeeds in amending the Citizenship Act.
“The BJP says it will drive out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Then, it contradicts its position through its move to grant citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindus by amending the Citizenship Act,” three-time former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress wondered.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the BJP’s ruling partner in Assam, is angry too.
“Assam shouldn’t be made a dumping ground by being forced to accept non-Muslim immigrants,” senior AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said.
A few weeks ago, Mahanta petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee against the Centre’s move.
While other parties define non-Muslims from Banadesh as illegal immigrants, BJP says they are refugees and victims of partition, who fled to India in the face of torture and religious persecution. As per the Assam Accord of 1985, the immigrants, irrespective of faith, who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, will be deported. The Accord was signed in August 1985 by the Rajiv Gandhi government with the All Assam Students Union (AASU) that spearheaded an often violent six-year agitation for ejecting foreigners from Assam.