Assam: 35% “declared foreigners” repatriated since '85

Assam: 35% “declared foreigners” repatriated since '85

Industries & Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary addressing press conference at Janata Bhawan in Guwahati on Thursday, February 01, 2018. Regarding the Advantage Assam - Assam's Global Investors' Summit 2018 which will be held from 3rd and 4th Fe

Less than 35% of the 1,03764 persons in Assam, who were declared foreigners by tribunals since 1985 has been repatriated to neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar so far.

Assam parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said this in the ongoing budget session of the Assembly on Monday. Patowary was replying to queries by opposition MLAs on the steps taken for repatriation of the illegal migrants, particularly from Bangladesh.

The minister said of the total 6, 26, 793 cases registered against suspected illegal migrants, 1,08815 were found by foreigner tribunals to be Indians while only 29, 829 of the 1,037,64 declared foreigners cold be repatriated.

“Illegal migration is a serious and very sensitive issue in Assam for long but deportation was difficult due to lack of a deportation treaty with Bangladesh. So the declared foreigners were earlier taken to the borders by our police and pushed back into the neighbouring country. Many of them came back and so the sole purpose of sending them to their native country did not work. But after NDA government came to power, the Centre had a discussion with Bangladesh and worked out a mechanism. Now our police takes the declared foreigners to the borders and hands them over to border guards of Bangladesh or Myanmar,” Patowary said.

Assam share 263-km of the border with Bangladesh of which 13-km (riverine border) continue to remain unfenced. The state had witnessed the anti-foreigners movement or Assam Agitation between 1979-1985, by people belonging to indigenous communities against “illegal migration” from Bangladesh through the borders. The agitation culminated into the signing of the Assam Accord with the Centre in 1985 that promised detection, deletion and deportation of illegal migrants with March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date.

The border branch of Assam police first issues notice to suspected foreigners, either based on complaint or on suspicion, following which the accused are asked to produce documents to prove their Indian citizenship. Cases of those failing to satisfy police are referred to foreigner tribunals, a quasi judicial body, for trial. The declared foreigners are send to detention camps inside jails for deportation. They, however, are allowed to challenge the tribunal’s order in Gauhati High Court.

Patowary said the National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951 is being updated only in Assam as per the Assam Accord for detection of the foreigners. The opposition MLAs, however, alleged that genuine Indian citizens are often harassed in the name of detection of foreigners.