Will withdraw cases against Gorkhas in foreigners’ tribunals: Assam CM Sarma
GUWAHATI: The Assam cabinet has decided not to prosecute members of the Gorkha community under the Citizenship Act and withdraw all cases against community members in foreigners’ tribunals, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a tweet after the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The decisions, which were part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s vision document ahead of the 2016 assembly polls, have been welcomed by the Gorkha community in Assam.
According to the Assam unit of Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangh (BGP), nearly 22,000 Gorkha people in the state have been declared as ‘doubtful voters’ or D-voters, issued summons to appear before foreigners’ tribunals to prove citizenship and some even put in detention centres meant for illegal immigrants under the citizenship law.
“Nearly 2,500 Gorkhas actually faced charges as D-voters, some were issued summon and some even spent time in detention centres. With our efforts, most of these cases have been resolved, but some are still pending,” Nanda Kirati Dewan, national secretary of BGP said.
Dewan said the cabinet decision will come as a huge relief for Gorkha families who were prosecuted under the citizenship law. “It would also remove the tag of illegal immigrants or foreigners from members of the community who are residents of Assam and are Indian citizens. We want that the D-voter tags of Gorkhas removed so that they can exercise their right to vote,” he added.
Persons against whom cases are pending in foreigners’ tribunals and their family members apart from those who are called D-voters in electoral rolls due to questions about their citizenship were not included in the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam.
The complete NRC, published in August 2019, also excluded names of 1.9 million of the 3.3 million people in the state who applied to include their names in the list that sought to weed out illegal immigrants.
While most of those excluded were people who had roots in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh), the list also left out several people from the Gorkha community including Sahitya Academy Award winner Durga Khatiwada.
In October 2018, the Union home ministry clarified that members of the Gorkha community who were Indians at the time of commencement of the Constitution, those who are Indian citizens by birth or those who have acquired citizenship by registration or naturalization are not ‘foreigners’ as defined by Foreigners Act, 1946 and Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and their cases should not be referred to foreigners tribunals.
Citing the 1950 India-Nepal friendship treaty, the MHA clarified that members of the Gorkha community of neighbouring Nepal who entered India by land or air, with or without passport or visa and stayed in India for any length of time shall not be treated as illegal immigrants as long as they have some identity documents issued by Nepal government. They too shall not be referred to foreigners’ tribunals, it added.