Guwahati: The issue of giving citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindu migrants in Assam is creating hindrances for Modi government where elections to the 126-member assembly will be held in two months.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a notice in September last year for leasing minors of Bangladesh and Pakistan who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, can stay in the country without any documents.
According to the Indian Home Ministry, the decision was taken under Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and Foreigners Act, 1946.
But the notice is now gathering steam in Assam.
Under the Assam Accord of 1985, anyone who entered from Bangladesh to the state after the midnight of Mar 24, 1971, is considered a foreigner.
Regional political parties such as Asom Gana Parishad, once an ally of the BJP, are opposing the decision of Assam bearing the burden of the migrants. All Assam Students’ Union that spearheaded an anti-foreigners’ agitation from 1979-85 also has the same point of view.
But other organizations like All Assam Bengali Youth Students’ Federation (ABSYF) are building pressure on the Modi government to provide for the citizenship of Bengali Hindu migrants.
The ABSYF has questioned New Delhi to clear the issue and stop ‘playing politics’. Its general secretary, Nirmal Kanti Seal, wondered if the notification on Hindu migrants was just an eyewash.
“The BJP has been promising Indian citizenship for Hindu refugees from Bangladesh but is dragging its feet. In reality, Bengali Hindus staying in Assam are victimised as D-voters,” Seal said.
The ‘D’ in D-voters stands for ‘doubtful’.
Congress, which ruled Assam for 15 years, is also using the notification issue as a major political repellent. The Congress said the notification of joining migrants with Sikhism, Christianity, Hinduism and other religions as a “meaningless document’’.
Ripun Bora, vice-president of the Assam Congress unit, said given that citizenship was the choice of the central government in New Delhi.
“The state has no responsibility in this regard. The Modi government is misleading the people with such a notification that is nothing with the constitutional amendment,” Bora said.
“It is a ploy for garnering votes.”
The Congress leader said his party is not against granting citizenship to Bengali Hindus to have escaped religious harassment in Bangladesh.
“All minorities who have been forced to come to India should be granted citizenship, but Assam alone will not take the burden,” he said.
Bijay Gupta, the BJP general secretary of Assam said the notification allows the migrants to stay until the Indian government takes a final decision on giving citizenship.
“There will be no problem in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) regarding the constitutional amendment, but it could get stalled in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) where the BJP does not have majority,” Gupta said.
He also considered it as a decision of law court which government sets up periodically on the issue of detection of foreigners in Assam.