Assam NRC sparks tensions in neighbouring states; NGOs, student unions check for 'illegal migrants'

After the publication of the complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam on 30 July, it has become more difficult for common people to travel to neighbouring tribal-dominated states. People have to pass through check gates manned by local NGOs who are out to prevent the ‘influx’ of illegal Bangladeshi migrants into their states from Assam.

Over 40 lakhs applicants, out of a total of 3.29 crore, have failed to make it to the complete draft NRC. Due to this, apprehension has gripped influential NGOs and social groups in neighbouring states of Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur about the possibility of the influx of ‘suspected illegal migrants’ who have failed to get enlisted in the draft NRC in Assam. As a result, there have been knee-jerk reactions from NGOs in those states, who have suo motu launched haphazard drives against such migrants.

The absence of any coordinated mechanism at the government level among the northeastern states has further spurred these NGOs into action.

Consequently, people travelling from Assam to and through Meghalaya, to Arunachal Pradesh and to Mizoram, are being stopped at the state boundaries and asked to show the NRC document having their names. It is difficult for every resident of Assam, as on date, to carry an NRC document with him/her, given that the process is not over yet, and what was published on 30 July was just the complete draft, not the final NRC.

Assam NRC sparks tensions in neighbouring states; NGOs, student unions check for illegal migrants

An NRC Seva Kendra in Guwahati. PTI

In Nagaland, an apex tribal council has mounted pressure on the government to have an effective mechanism in place to check infiltration from Assam. In Tripura, two tribal political parties have raised the demand for updating the NRC in their state to detect illegal migrants. Students’ bodies in Manipur are also raising similar demands.

The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and some other NGOs in Meghalaya have begun checking infiltration on highways on the inter-state boundaries. The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has launched an ‘Operation Clean Drive’ to drive out people staying in the state without an Inner Line Permit (ILP). The Mizo Students’ Union, too, has begun a similar process of checking at the boundary with Assam. The KSU has demanded the introduction of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in Meghalaya too.

The AAPSU, after having detected and pushed back over 2,200 ILP (Inner Line Permit) violators in Arunachal Pradesh in the first phase of Operation Clean Drive, has decided to intensify the second phase of the operation in the coming days. It has also decided to submit a detailed report to the state government giving suggestions on strengthening the ILP system.

The AAPSU has announced that the second phase of Operation Clean Drive will be taken up more rigorously from house to house and village to village.

The Nagaland Tribal Council (NTC), a banner organisation comprising 14 Naga tribes and two non-Naga tribes (Kachari and Kuki) has urged the Nagaland government to create a separate cell under the state home department to monitor strict enforcement of Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act 1873, Foreigners Act and Indian Passport Act on a day-to-day basis to check infiltration from/through Assam.

“Monitoring and checking of the influx has to be comprehensive, for which the government and civil society organisations have to work in tandem,” a representative of the NTC said.

Mizoram’s apex students’ association, Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP), has stated it would further intensify and expand the scope of its drive against illegal migrants if the state government “continues to remain silent and inactive.”

The students’ association held a meeting on Tuesday evening and decided to continue with the anti-influx operation that it launched on 20 August.

The MZP claims to have pushed back over 400 suspected illegal Bangladeshi migrants into Assam till date, as part of its operation following the publication of the complete draft NRC in Assam.
The MZP has set up “NRC check gates” along the Assam-Mizoram border at Vairengte, Bairabi and Saiphai, and has continuously manned them since 20 August. The association said the suspected migrants were checked and only pushed back after their names were not found in the draft NRC list which, as per the Ministry of Home Affairs, can’t be a base document to decide one’s citizenship status, as the final NRC was yet to be prepared.

In Tripura, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT) and Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura have now raised a demand for updating the NRC in the tiny frontier state which has borders with Bangladesh on three directions. The IPFT is a partner in the BJP-led alliance government in Tripura. The INPT held a rally in Agartala recently to press for its NRC demand, while the IPFT held a massive rally at Khumulung, the headquarter of Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council (TTADC), on 23 August to raise its voice for an updated NRC, besides pressing for a statehood demand. Out of Tripura’s population of over 30 lakh, the indigenous tribal population constitutes about 31 percent.

In such a situation, it is the right time for governments in the North East to create a coordinated mechanism to deal with the issue jointly. Governments should try to ensure that people-to-people ties are not strained because of attempts by NGOs to drive out illegal migrants.

As the BJP is either in power or in the ruling alliance in all the northeastern states except Mizoram, the situation is conducive for such a mechanism. While the different socio-political situations in each of the states pose a challenge, efforts can be initiated for the greater regional interest.

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Updated Date: Aug 31, 2018 06:47:45 IST

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