Detect, delete, deport
T hat is the name of a campaign gaining ground in Assam, aimed at identifying and weeding out illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. There’s no denying that the infl ux of Bangladeshis has dramatically changed the demographics of the state, causing social and political unrest.
That is the name of a campaign gaining ground in Assam, aimed at identifying and weeding out illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. There’s no denying that the infl ux of Bangladeshis has dramatically changed the demographics of the state, causing social and political unrest. Anti-immigration sentiments have been simmering in Assam for decades, and led to the violent Assam agitation in the early 1980s.
The Assam Accord, signed in August 1985, stipulated that foreigners who entered Assam after 1 January 1966 and up to 24 March 1971 would be identifi ed and their names deleted from the electoral list for 10 years, while those who entered Assam after 24 March 1971 would be expelled. But most of it remains only on paper.
The very fi rst step, of identifying outsiders, is a humongous task, made even more diffi cult by venal politicians who see them as a vote bank. Most have valid or forged Indian identity papers, and many have even voted in elections. The drive to identify them was revitalised after the BJP won the April Assembly polls. “Our detect-delete-deport campaign is even more important because now, Islamic extremist groups from Bangladesh are also sending their people to India along with immigrants,” Samujjal Bhattacharya, a long-time activist, told The Washington Post recently.
The National Register of Citizens, which aims to list every Indian citizen, has been flooded with applications. To avoid fraud, offi cials are demanding proof in the form of family trees for the past two generations, which is crosschecked. “(This) is my real weapon against fraud. There is a lot of public anxiety... This project is like a river of fi re and we have to swim in it,” a top offi cial of the National Register of Citizens was quoted as saying. But then comes another massive challenge: where will they be deported to? Bangladesh has repeatedly denied its citizens are in India illegally, and has refused to accept attempts at pushing people into their country from India.