NEW DELHI: In view of a large number of illegal migrants, particularly Bangladeshis, indulging in crimes in India, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Citizenship Amendment Bill on Monday made a case for collecting biometric details of every person staying in the country in order to ensure national security more efficiently.
The joint panel, headed by BJP MP Rajendra Agrawal, said, “The Committee is deeply concerned to note that there isa large number of illegal Bangladeshi migrants residing in the country and some of them have been found to be indulging in activities prejudicial to the national security. In this context, the Director Intelligence Bureau’s submission that for the security of nation it is a must that every person staying in the country must have biometrics merits urgent consideration."
The Committee, in its report to the parliament, also cited a submission of the DGP of Assam as it advocated for biometrics. The JPC said that according to the DGP’s report, “a systemic improvement” has come in locating and apprehending illegal migrants after they started collecting biometrics, finger prints, photographs etc of foreigners, who were declared so by the Foreigners Tribunal.
Even as the JPC gave a go-ahead to the Bill and termed “appreciable” the government’s idea of accommodating Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, it observed that, “national security precedes all considerations, including the humanitarian approach”. The report said, “The committee is of the firm opinion that national security precedes all other considerations including the humanitarian aspect and as such rampant infiltration in to the country from foreign lands on one plea or the other has to be stopped."
The JPC said the idea behind the Bill is a “humanitarian” approach and that purpose of the Bill is to “enable acquisition of Indian citizenship by members of minority communities namely Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who were forced or compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution in their countries.”
The JPC also called for intensifying border fencing/patrolling/surveillance systems to apprehend, detain and deport infiltrators “in the larger interest”.
This was an election promise of the BJP in 2014.
A large number of people in Assam and other northeastern states have been protesting against the bill, saying it would nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after 1971 should be deported.
The Asom Gana Parishad, an ally in the BJP-led Assam government Monday announced that it would snap ties with the saffron party over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which is expected to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
The JPC report said, "The new cut of date implies that no more migrants would be legally allowed India after December 31, 2014 and it should motivate every stakeholder including the central government and the state governments to work in unison to ensure putting in place foolproof measures to prevent illegal migrants from entering the country, especially Assam, which has borne the maximum impact of influx from Bangladesh."
The committee observed that several Assamese organisations have protested against the proposed amendments on the ground that the burden of the illegal migrants would be passed on to the state besides conferring political and economic rights upon such migrants to the detriment of indigenous communities.
"In view of such protests, the committee is not convinced with the Ministry of Home Affairs' statement that there is no specific report on the unexpected demographic changes of certain North Eastern states, particularly Assam, due to the influx of migrants from Bangladesh," it said.
The JPC said demographic changes have been indicated in successive census but the illegal migrants claim that they are original residents and citizens of India as they have been able to obtain documents, including ration card, driving licence, passport etc.
"Therefore, in the committee's opinion, the cut off date of December 31, 2014 assumes greater significance as it has been intended to determine eligibility and prevent further influx into India, negating thereby the possible malafide design of the vested interests in the neighbouring countries," it observed.
In their dissent note, Congress Rajya Sabha members Bhubaneswar Kalita and Pradip Bhattacharya said on certain grounds, the bill may create ethnic divisions in Assam and the Northeast.
BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said in his dissent note that the bill contravenes the provisions of the principal Act and goes against the spirit of the Assam Accord.
In his dissent note, CPI-M member Mohammad Salim said the Indian citizenship flows from the Constitution that grants it as a fundamental right and the right cannot be religion specific or country of origin specific.
TMC members Saugata Roy and Derek O'Brien, in their dissent note, said the bill brings out the ethnic division in Assam and it should not be passed by sheer majority since this is a political effort not necessitated political realities in Assam and West Bengal.
(With PTI inputs)