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No data on Bangladeshis in Assam: Gogoi

A week after putting the 'Indian' tag on over 3,000 suspected Bangladeshis ejected by Arunachal and Nagaland, Assam CM has said that their citizenship was being verified, reports Rahul Karmakar.
By Rahul Karmakar | Hindustan Times, Guwahati
UPDATED ON AUG 06, 2007 06:25 PM IST

Barely a week after putting the 'Indian' tag on over 3,000 suspected Bangladeshis ejected by Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has said that their citizenship was being verified.

In a written reply to a question by Independent legislator Pranab Kalita during the monsoon session of the Assam Assembly, Gogoi said that Arunachal Pradesh drove out 3190 persons into Assam till July 18, accusing them of being Bangladeshis. "We are verifying their citizenship status," he said.

Gogoi also said that his government had no dependable data on the total number of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. “But we have detected 12,914 Bangladeshis under the prevalent acts till June 30 this year, and they are in the process of being deported,” he added.

Gogoi’s reply was reminiscent of former chief minister Hiteswar Saikia, who in 1992 said there were 30 lakh Bangladeshis in Assam only to eat his words 24 hours later following protests from minority leaders. Similarly, Union minister of state for home Sriprakash Jaiswal made a volte-face after claiming Assam had 50 lakh Bangladeshis.

The issue of illegal migrants has been a sore spot in Assam’s politics since the six-year anti-foreigners agitation the All Assam Students Union (Aasu) had spearheaded in 1979. The subsequent Assam Accord of 1985 set March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for detection and deportation of illegal migrants, mainly from Bangladesh.

However, the imposition of the now-defunct Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act of 1983 allegedly put a spanner in the oust-Bangladeshi drive. The Supreme Court in July 2005 scrapped the contentious IM(DT)—it was applicable only in Assam—and replaced it with the Foreigners Act.

The foreigners’ issue cropped up again last month after Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland drove out some 3,500 suspected Bangladeshis—all Bengali-speaking Muslims—and accused Assam of protecting and pampering them. Mizoram and Meghalaya had earlier dumped suspected Bangladeshis in areas bordering Assam.

Gogoi maintained he would not allow Assam to be a dumping ground for suspected Bangladeshis. But these migrants kept in “quarantined” zones, have triggered a war of words between the Aasu and All Assam Minorities Students Association, which threatened to drive out all indigenous Assamese if the former did not stop harassing the migrants ousted by Assam’s neighbours.

Meanwhile, the North East Students Organization has demanded extending the inner-line permit (ILP) to all the northeastern states to keep out illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The ILP is mandatory in only three states—Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram.

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