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Note for Gandhi Jayanti: Are we bringing on humanitarian crises by showing the door to illegal immigrants?

On this Gandhi Jayanti, in the name of the Father of the Nation, symbol of peace, icon of non-violence, we might well be moving towards a humanitarian crises of the nature we have never seen before. Our aim is to remove millions of aliens we allowed in and nurtured and send them back to their original homes decades after they found sanctuary in India — to countries that do not recognise them. If we don't know how to accomplish this are we creating homemade enemies?

Mohammad Azmal Hoque, served in Indian Army for 30 years, retired as a Junior Commissioned Officer. He is now accused of being an illegal immigrant by Assam Police and although he handed over all the relevant papers when asked in 2012 this harassment has been ongoing for over 5 years and there is no end to it.

 Note for Gandhi Jayanti: Are we bringing on humanitarian crises by showing the door to illegal immigrants?

Representational image. PTI

What is the big problem? Granted that the police check was conducted as per rules but once the papers confirming his bona fides have been submitted, the case should have been closed. Even the message by the Eastern Command Headquarters in Fort William Kolkata, after this story hit the nation in the solar plexus, is mystifying. It says, "The JCO has been contacted and necessary assistance will be provided till the issue is resolved."

What is there to resolve and why is there even another day's delay. The army has his dossier, all the proof they need that he has served three decades in uniform and a sheaf of papers indicating his parents were registered well before the 1971 deadline for creating the 'doubtful foreigner' category.

The GOC-in-C of Eastern Command should just call the home ministry and end this ordeal. Come to think of it why can't the home ministry unilaterally order the Assam police to back off and restore this retired soldier's dignity.

It is also necessary to spell out in these border states exactly what constitutes the doubt and how has this categorization been done. In the case of Hoque, surely there was a check completed on his background before he was sent for military service. That should suffice and the foot dragging on this man's status now that it has been proven legitimate should be ended forthwith.

Perhaps it is ignorance but when in India did these progroms start and what exactly is their purpose. We seem to be concentrating on the eastern states even though the alien 'diaspora' (for lack of a more expressive word) in India is now nationwide. Yet, no one has asked its state police to conduct these checks and last heard there were no tribunals (what an intimidating set up, reminiscent of the worst of world history) so why this arbitrary concentration only on the North East? Just like the 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, these millions of faux Indians are everywhere and if what has happened with Hoque is an indicator clearly the system isn't functioning particularly well. Activated in this clumsy fashion all it ends up being is an excuse to hassle people and cause them needless agony.

Most of India has not really registered this but Assam is being targeted because there are now an estimated 20 million illegal Bangladeshis in the country and the Assamese culture it is feared is being lost to the 'invasion.' That it finally boils down to the religious denomination cannot be ignored and this sudden 'enlightenment' to save the Assamese traditions seems a bit dubious seeing as how it has been nearly 50 years since the influx began and nothing was done then to control the refugees.

Certainly, the sons of the soil can feel threatened to an extent and the 'detect, delete, deport' operation, as it is called, is again an exercise in futility. You can find them, intimidate them by deleting them from the voting lists and rolls but you cannot deport them. India and Bangladesh have no treaty that allows for any sort of 'repatriation.' So far, Dhaka has only taken back 10 of its people in one specific case.

Third generation Indians, now many of them holding legal Indian papers and having no possibility of proving they were here before 1971 (who keeps papers when you are crossing a border illegally?) what exactly will be the next step for them? It is also a faint hope that these illegals are not all over the country and not just in Assam. How on earth are you going to round them up?

Are we going to create internment camps for these people after you have located them or shackle them in their homes. We cannot even find the 40,000 Rohingya Muslims that we wish to return to Myanmar, how will we find 20 million Bangladeshis?

There is no master plan or any genuine idea what the next step will be in tackling this very real problem and the more they are hassled the more this beleaguered youth will find being recruited by the terror groups attractive. We need to be a lot more sensitive and circumspect rather than heavy-handed and aggressive.

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Updated Date: Oct 02, 2017 08:49:53 IST