Date: 9/20/2005


Infiltration in Assam: Threat to Nation’s Security /// by Shyam Khosla /// Supreme Court’s forthright assertion that Assam is facing external aggression and internal disturbance due to large-scale illegal infiltration from Bangladesh is a grim reminder of the grave situation that has developed in Assam as also in several other north-eastern states and West Bengal. Yet, the Congress-led UPA government is adopting delaying and diversionary tactics. The setting up of a group of ministers to study the apex court judgment on the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act is shocking. What was required of the government was to take immediate steps to set up tribunals under the Foreigner’s Act as directed by the SC to expedite the process of identification and deportation of illegal migrants that pose a serious threat to our economy, social harmony and national security. Instead, Congress leaders in Delhi and Guwhati initially talked of appealing to the SC for a review of its judgment as if the judiciary had erred gravely in drawing the government’s attention to the grave situation in Assam. Presumably advised by its lawyers not to take this route as the three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Mr Justice R C Lahoti was unlikely to review its unanimous decision, the government changed its strategy. /// Ministers and Congress leaders are making strange and unacceptable statements. The Union Law Minister, Mr H R Bhardwaj talked of taking a “subjective view” of the language used by the court. His remark that the court’s observations do not merit attention is a sad and uncalled for reflection on the highest judicial authority. Mr Bhardwaj, who is a member of the GoM that is to study the judgment, exuded confidence that the issue would be “resolved” amicably through talks with various stakeholders. Is there a dispute over the apex court’s judgment that needs to be resolved? It is painful that the government has done nothing to assure the people of Assam that the government at the Centre and in the state would implement the court order in letter and spirit. On the contrary, Congress leaders went to town assuring minorities that they would not be harassed. Their intention really is to reassure the illegal migrants that they would find a way-out to ensure that the judicial verdict was sabotaged. This is the depth to which political parties descend to protect their vote banks./// The SC judgment on the Assam Migrants Act is the judiciary’s gift to the nation. All patriotic Indians, barring those who are obsessed with vote-bank politics, are obliged to the judiciary for removing a major hurdle in the identification and deportation of infiltrators from Bangladesh. In a well argued judgment, the SC declared the IMDT Act and the rules framed under it ultra vires of the Constitution. It also ordered that all cases pending before the tribunals set up under the Act should be transferred to those under the Foreigners’ Act. The Court further directed the Assam government to set up sufficient number of tribunals under the Foreigner’s Act to effectively deal with the problem of illegal infiltration. The Union and Assam governments appear in no hurry to carry out the apex court’s directive./// The law that now stands abolished was a flawed and discriminatory piece of legislation as it applied to only one state — Assam. All other states are governed by Foreigner’s Act that is more stringent and effective. The IMDT Act was ineffective as it placed the onus of proving citizenship on the complainant instead of the person identified as foreigner as provided under the Foreigner’s Act. It is this lacuna in the law that enabled millions of infiltrators, who managed to procure ration cards and even got registered as voters with the help of obliging politicians, to stay on in the country. Consequently, out of the millions of infiltrators settled in Assam, only 2.5 lake could be identified as foreigners. The tribunals took their own time in deciding these eases. Only 1400-odd aliens could be deported during the past two decades. It is ironical that AASU that led a prolonged and highly popular movement for the identification of Bangladeshi infiltrators and removal of their names from electoral rolls was cheated by the Union government after signing the Assam Pact in 1985. It was agreed that all foreigners who came to the state after March 25, 1971 would be detected and deported and their names deleted from the electoral rolls. What happened on the ground is a measure of the duplicity of the Congress party and the Communists who did all they could to protect the illegal migrants under the garb of protecting minorities./// The judiciary has played its role but will the political class do its duty? The BJP and the AGP have hailed the decision as it has been on their agenda for long. However, the BJP had attracted a lot of criticism from its own supporters for its failure to annul this flawed law. Its claim that it did introduce a bill to repeal the Act does not carry conviction as it did it only at the fag end of its six-year tenure as the leader of the ruling alliance. It is a big blow for the Congress that had all along supported the Act that endeared it to the large Muslim population, particularly the illegal migrants. It is with the help of the Congress cadres in the districts that millions of migrants procured ration cards and got their names registered as voters. It does not hide its embarrassment and is apprehensive that it may lose its vote bank if these foreigners are defranchised. The party seems more interested in getting votes of these foreigners than ensuring the security and economy of the country. /// Meanwhile illegal migration through the porous Indo-Bangladesh border continues at an alarming speed. Official estimates are that 6,000 to 10,000 Bangladeshis illegally cross over to India every day. It is no secret that the forces deployed by both the countries on the border are involved in this illegal trade in humans. Money is changing hands to enable ill-fed and unemployed Bangladeshis seeking greener pastures on this side of the border. This silent invasion has caused social tensions and poses a serious threat to our security. Infiltrators constitute a fertile recruiting ground for ISI and other intelligence agencies. It is a cause of great concern to India. It can’t allow millions of half-starved Bangladeshis to cross over to India to compete with local people for food and jobs. What’s more worrisome is that nobody knows how many of the illegal immigrants are trained agents that are being pushed in along with “genuine” job-seekers to play havoc with our security./// The West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr Budhadeb Bhattacharya has publicly expressed grave concern over the demographic transformation in West Bengal, although his own party has been accused of sheltering aliens by facilitating their getting voting rights. He is equally vocal about the jehadi groups operating in border areas of his state. Manuj Features /// The presence of foreigners without valid documents in north-eastern states, West Bengal and Bihar poses a serious threat to national security. The UPA government is unlikely to effectively address this problem because of vote-bank politics. It is for the BJP and other nationalist outfits to go to the people to explain the dangerous consequences of allowing millions of aliens to settle down in India. A strong public opinion in favour of identification and deportation of infiltrators is the only way out of this difficult situation. Manuj Features /// .............................000000000