The BJP stirred a potential hornet's nest on Monday after it emerged that its 'vision document' for the Delhi Assembly election referred to people from the northeastern states living in the national capital as "immigrants".
A section of the document detailing steps the Bharatiya Janata Party would take for the welfare of people from the northeast if it comes to power was headlined: "North Eastern Immigrants to be Protected".
The section said special cells would be created in all police stations and a 24-hour helpline number would be established "for the protection of the North Eastern migrants". The document, released at a function attended by the party’s chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi, further said "special guardianships will be arranged with local families" to safeguard students from the region.
On social media, the use of the word "immigrants" drew criticism. Twitter user @alokupd posted: "what's the meaning of immigrants? They're from the same country as we are."
Another user, @whymeumesh , tweeted: "'Immigrant' - a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country:As per dictionary/common use.Migrant the word."
Reacting to the criticism, the BJP’s Delhi unit clarified that its vision document was referring to “migrants.”
People from the eight northeastern states, which share borders with Bangladesh, China, Bhutan and Myanmar, have been the target of dozens of racial attacks in Delhi and other metros in recent years.
The central government formed a special committee headed by North Eastern Council member M P Bezbaruah to recommend steps to address the concerns of people from the region living across the country after a student from Arunachal Pradesh was brutally beaten to death in Delhi last year.
Residents of the resource-rich but under-developed northeast have often complained about being neglected by the central government and of being treated as foreigners in metros.
In its report submitted to the government last year, the Bezbaruah committee recommended that people across the country should be educated about the northeast. It suggested that universities should change their curricula to include courses on the history of the northeast and its role in the freedom movement.
Talking about the implementation of the committee's recommendations in January, home minister Rajnath Singh told the media that the government was framing an action plan for educating people about the rich cultural heritage of the northeastern states.