Assam NRC: A re-verification effort restricted only to districts neighbouring Bangladesh may not be fruitful

Confining re-verification of Assam NRC to the usual suspect districts which lie along the India-Bangladesh border or near to it may prove a futile exercise. Records show that the likelihood of detecting illegal immigrants in the districts far from the border is higher than those in the borders.

A recent answer by Minister of State of Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy in the Parliament shows that the number of people declared illegal immigrant by Foreigners Tribunal in the last 35 years in the districts far away from the India-Bangladesh border is way higher than that of those declared in the bordering districts.

 Assam NRC: A re-verification effort restricted only to districts neighbouring Bangladesh may not be fruitful

An NRC centre in Assam. Reuters

As per the answer presented in the Lok Sabha, 100 Foreigners Tribunals in Assam have declared 1, 17, 164 people as foreigners in the last 35 years starting from the year 1985.

According to the record submitted in Parliament, Foreigners Tribunals in Dhubri, a district right along the India-Bangladesh border have declared 4,215 people as foreigners since 1985 whereas during the same period 20,577 people have been declared foreigners in Nagaon, a district in central Assam which is far away from any border.

Another district Morigaon, in central Assam, has seen 15,633 persons being declared as foreigners, a number which is way more than the 8,151 number of people declared foreigners in Cachar, a district adjacent to Sylhet Division in Bangladesh.

Similarly, another district Karimganj which shares a riverine border with Bangladesh has seen only 2,920 persons declared as foreigners whereas 9,430 persons have been declared foreigners in Jorhat, a district in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra and hence far away from Bangladesh where the river meets the Bay of Bengal.

Recently, the issue of illegal immigration to the bordering districts of Assam gained traction in the media after the Assam government appealed for 20 percent re-verification of entries in the bordering districts and 10 percent re-verification in the rest of the districts as it doubted that names of illegal immigrants have made it to the draft NRC through loop-holes. The reason behind this doubt is the low exclusion rate in the bordering districts.

Assam minister Chandra Mohan Patowary recently said in the state Assembly expressing his discontent over the NRC update process, “According to data, 12.15 percent applicants’ names were excluded from the final draft. In districts close to the Bangladesh border, like South Salmara, 7.22 percent applicants were excluded from the draft NRC. This figure in Dhubri is 8.26 percent and in Karimganj 7.67 percent. But districts where indigenous people live, like Karbi Anglong, the figure is 14.31 percent and in upper Assam’s Tinsukia, where sons of the soil have been living for ages, this figure is 13.25 percent.”

The Assam government along with the Centre had moved the Supreme Court of India with the re-verification appeal but the apex court dismissed the same.

The reason why the detection rate of illegal immigrants is higher in the districts is often attributed to the convenience of concealing of one’s antecedents in these districts.

“There are multiple agencies of both the state government and the Centre active in the bordering districts. These agencies are always in a lookout for people who could be intruders. So it is unlikely to that they would settle anywhere near the border. Since there is hardly any such secret mechanism in place in other districts it becomes easier for an illegal immigrant without attracting much attention,” said a high-level source in the Assam Police.

Though the appeal made by the government for re-verification was turned down by the Supreme Court of India, a number of persons recently, reportedly living in Barpeta and Kamrup(Rural) districts received re-verification notices.

Barpeta district is adjacent to Dhubri, which a district along the India-Bangladesh border. On the other hand, the re-verification notices are handed out to settlers in riverine islands in Kamrup district.

But limiting the re-verification process to only the districts which are usual suspects may turn out to be futile.

Updated Date: Aug 09, 2019 11:11:50 IST