Floodlights along border fencing, BOPs increased

GUWAHATI, Jan 13 – The threat posed to the security of the nation by illegal migration from Bangladesh dominated the proceedings of the Question Hour in the State Assembly today and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi sought the cooperation of all sections of people including the political parties to deal with the problem. Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition, Chandra Mohan Patowary pointed out to news reports that Bangladesh Government was spending huge sums of money to teach Assamese language to students in a bid to encourage fresh infiltration to Assam.

The question was raised by independent legislator Pranab Kalita and legislators of both ruling and opposition parties took part in the discussions that followed. The Chief Minister admitted that illegal migration is a matter of serious concern and said that the Government was taking all possible measures to check the menace. He said that cooperation of all sections of people including the political parties is required to deal with the problem. He said that all the legislators should help the Government in identifying suspected illegal migrants in their respective constituencies. However, at the same time, he lamented that most people preferred to stay away from the district and police station-level committees constituted by the Government for detection of foreigners.

The Chief Minister said that the Government is planning to make birth and death registration mandatory, while, process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of 1951 is on. He sought the opinion of the House on whether identity cards could be given to the citizens of Assam even before the process of updating the NRC is completed to reduce fresh infiltration. However, this suggestion was turned down by the Opposition members.

Gogoi further alleged that the AGP Government did not take any positive step to seal the Indo-Bangla border and only the present Government took up the issue seriously with the Centre. He said that the number of tribunals has been increased to expedite the process of identification of foreigners.

Earlier, raising the question, Pranab Kalita alleged that the Government was protecting the Bangladeshi nationals and certain of his remarks, which were expunged by the Speaker brought angry reactions from the ruling party members.

Chandra Mohan Patowary assured that the AGP would extend all support to the Government to deal with the problem of illegal migration. He said that according to reports, the Government of Bangladesh is spending 15 million Dollars to teach Assamese to students to encourage infiltration to Assam and a reward is given to anyone who helps Bangladeshi nationals to sneak into India. He said that during the tenure of the AGP Government in the State, the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act was a major hurdle in the way of detection and deportation of foreigners, but the Act was scrapped by the Supreme Court following a case filed by AGP MP Sarbananda Sonowal.

Jiten Gogoi (Ind) said that even after spending crores of Rupees, the border with Bangladesh has not been sealed.

Girindra Kumar Baruah (AGP) pointed out that even the Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram admitted the threat posed by illegal migration. He said that a small country like Bhutan disfranchised more than one lakh Nepali citizens and started the process of deporting them. It is unfortunate that a country like India has not been able to deport the foreigners living illegally in the country.

Drupab Borgohain (CPI) said that identity cards to the citizens should be given only after updating the NRC.

The Forest Minister, Rockybul Hussain informed the State Assembly that from time to time, the State Government has been taking up the issue with the Centre and central teams visited Indo-Bangla border 14 times during the period from 2001 to 2008. The Chief Minister and Union Home Minister visited the border in 2006 to assess the situation on the ground and the State Government would welcome a visit by the Prime Minister. He also said that during January to November last year, as many as 2870 Bangladeshi nationals were nabbed by the police.

Hussain said that because of the efforts of the State Government, the fencing constructed along the international border in the first phase is being replaced with better quality fencing and the Centre also agreed to install floodlights along the fencing. The number of border outposts of the BSF has also been increased, he added.