The ruling Congress in Assam has expressed regret for not giving the problems of the Bengali migrants the importance they deserved and said they should be given “refugee” status, implying they will have the rights to settle in the state.
“We are sorry for not realising the gravity of the issue,” said chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Tuesday.
He, however, added it was better late than never.
“Migrants who left their country because of danger to life and property, persecution and entered India should be given refugee status on humanitarian grounds. This is our stand on migrants and we will take it up with the Centre. We will include it in our election manifesto,” said Gogoi.
The Assam accord of 1985 says people who came after March 25, 1971, will get “refugee” status.
Gogoi insisted there was nothing wrong with the Congress’ rethink on migrants prior to the polls.
Though he did not specify religion, the issue of granting refugee status pertains to the Bengali Hindus. The BJP has been vocal about this, and the Congress u-turn is seen as an attempt to counter the saffron party in the Bengali majority Barak Valley in southern Assam.
The Bengali Hindus hold the key in at least 10 assembly seats in the Barak Valley and 15 more in the Brahmaputra Valley.