Political parties and student groups in Assam rejected demands by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for issuing work permits to Bangladeshi migrants who entered the country after March 25, 1971 and providing refugee status to Hindu infiltrators.
"The idea of issuing work permits to Bangladeshi migrants is simply absurd and we are not going to tolerate any such move. It would amount to encouraging more illegal Bangladeshis to enter India," said Dilip Patgiri, adviser of the influential Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), a radical students' body.
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh told the Rajya Sabha that Bangladeshi migrants post-1971 should be given work permits and citizenship without the right to vote.
"The BJP's stand is bizarre and nobody in Assam is going to buy their argument. There would be a mass protest if such a proposal was considered," said Uddhab Barman, a Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) legislator in Assam.
The central government has already fixed March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi migrants as part of the historic Assam Accord signed in 1985 to end a violent six-year-old anti-foreigners uprising in the state.
"Our stand is that the government should detect and deport all Bangladeshis who entered the state after the cut-off date. No work permits and no citizenship demands could be even tolerated," said Samujjal Bhattacharya, adviser to the All Assam Students' Union (AASU), the group that spearheaded the anti-foreigners movement.
The BJP's stand on granting refugee status to Hindu Bangladeshi infiltrators has also come under fire.
"The question of Hindu or Muslim Bangladeshi migrants simply does not arise. Be it Muslim or Hindu, illegal foreigners must leave the state," Patgiri said.
The issue of illegal migrants has for long been a sensitive matter with political parties often blamed for using Bangladeshis during elections to further the vote bank politics.
"The state's demography is under threat and political parties must desist from trying to make political gains out of the Bangladeshis," the AASU leader warned.
India shares a 4,095 kilometre border with Bangladesh, with more than half lying along the northeastern states.
Over 40 percent of the border remains unfenced with concrete pillars separating the two countries.