Guwahati: Now that the ‘final draft’ of the National register of Citizenship’ has been prepared for Assam, the truth dawns that this is going to be a real political, logistical headache. The question is, what will the Assam government, and Government at New Delhi actually do with some 40 lakh people whose names aren’t on that register?
The Assam machinery will stare at a logistical nightmare should even five per cent of the 40 lakh-plus people whose names have not been included in the final draft NRC eventually turn out to be foreigners.
Staring way back in 1985, over seventy nine thousand people were declared aliens. So what happened to them?
According to the Assam government’s records, of the 79,000 persons declared foreigners by the tribunals since 1985, as many as 42,000 have gone missing while nearly 30,000 were pushed back.
More than 100 have been deported to Bangladesh while nearly 1,000 are lodged across six detention camps in jails at Goalpara and Kokrajhar in lower Assam, Tezpur, Jorhat and Dibrugarh in Upper Assam and Silchar in south Assam’s Barak Valley.
“Pushed back” refers to declared foreigners being taken to the border and sent back across it while deportation includes an official understanding with the foreigner’s country of origin.
Another 2.01 lakh cases of suspected foreigners are pending in 100 foreigners tribunals.
When asked in the Assembly last year, the state government could not provide information about the whereabouts of the missing “foreigners”.
So now what?
The Modi government in Delhi recently approved a new detention centre, with a capacity to house 3,000 people, at Matia in Goalpara district on 20 bigha of land at an estimated cost of Rs 47 crore.
But we’re now talking about 40 lakh foreigners!
Debabrata Saikia, leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, said “The Centre has to deal with the matter according to the rules. I have nothing to say.”
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) insists that declared foreigners must be deported.
Senior cabinet minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, reacting to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s statement that the NRC update was a political exercise that had singled out Bengali and Bihari people, said, “West Bengal is most welcome to take and keep all the people who are declared foreigners. Assam has done its best and accepted foreigners till March 24, 1971. Foreigners will now have to be deported. Bengal can take them now but it cannot be like this that they keep them for two days and send them back on the third.”
Former director-general of Assam police Hare Krishna Deka said it was not practical to detain or expel foreigners if the number was huge.
He said the Centre should have a special provision in the Foreigners Act to accept them as “resident foreigners” without political rights like it did with the Tibetan refugees.
Deka now leads a campaign against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.