The publication of the final NRC draft in Assam has once again brought to fore how sensitive the Northeastern states of India are to the problem of illegal migration, and that they consider migration a grave threat to the identity and political rights of the ethnic groups residing in the region.
The news of over 40 lakh applicants (out of the total 3.29 crore) being left out of the final draft of NRC spread like wildfire in the region. Contrary to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s high-decibel rhetoric that the NRC update was a ploy of the BJP government in Assam to drive the Bengalis out of the state, indigenous apolitical and political organisations in neighbouring Northeastern states of Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur which share boundaries with Assam, raised the alarm that those left out of the final NRC draft would flock to their states to avoid detection and deportation in Assam.
Organisations in the neighbouring states have firmly believed, though unnecessarily, that the over 40 lakh people left out in the final draft of NRC are illegal migrants which is not the case since a large number of indigenous people of Assam were excluded because of various issues in document verification, family tree veracity, etc. The Northeastern state's reaction was somewhat knee-jerk one.
Because of their overzealous instant tirade against infiltrations post-NRC, they did not care to lend their ears to what was being lucidly explained and assured by the Assam government and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs — that all of the over 40 lakh people who have been left out must not be branded as illegal migrants and sent to detention camp since it was only the final draft, and not the final updated NRC.
The government even said that that those left out in the final draft would be given ample opportunities to provide appropriate documents to become eligible for enlisting in the final NRC.
Such is the scare of illegal migration in the region that, NGOs in neighbouring states suo moto launched drives to check illegal migration, if any, to their state from Assam post-NRC.
Non-tribal travelers from and through Assam who are travelling to or through Meghalaya were asked to prove their Indian citizenship or show NRC documents at infiltration check posts set up by NGOs from 31 July, the day after publication of NRC draft.
People were subjected to harassment and that prompted Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to make a call to his Meghalaya counterpart Conrad K Sangma requesting the latter to intervene so that job of checking travelers from Assam is left only to the police.
The KSU and Hynnewtrep Youth Council (HYC) in Meghalaya have pressed for their long-standing demand for Inner Line Permit (ILP) system and setting up of entry and exit points to keep a tab on outsiders coming to the state. The ILP is in vogue in Arunachal Pradesh, parts of Nagaland, and Mizoram. Influential political parties like the United Democratic Party (UDP) too have joined the chorus in Meghalaya.
The All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU) has stated that it will resort to house-to-house check in the frontier hill state to find out people staying in the state sans any ILP.
Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) too has urged chief minister Neiphiu Rio to set up coordinated and comprehensive mechanism to check possible influx of illegal migrants in the wake of neighbouring Assam publishing the complete draft updated NRC. The Tribes Council has mooted creation of a separate cell to monitor infiltration of illegal migrants from or through Assam as the states shares a virtually porous inter-state boundary with Assam given that it is not possible for the police administration in the state alone to strictly enforce the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system.
The Tribes Council comprises of representatives of 14 Naga tribes and two non-Naga tribes (Kachari and Kuki) and was formed in 2013. The NTC demands that entire tribal state should be brought under the ambit of the ILP system doing away with the present de-reserved pocket in Dimapur area.
The Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) also demanded on Wednesday that the ILP system should cover all areas of the state.
The committee will function from next week and its role will be to support the government machinery in checking influx. It will monitor the functioning of the police administration, village councils and urban colonies.
The Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) in Manipur has conducted 'identification' drives where all 'non-indigenous' people are made to produce valid papers for being in Manipur.
They have attacked non-local vendors in the marketplaces as well as have issued ultimatums to those living in rented accommodation without 'proper papers'. All of this has been done in the name of 'protecting the indigenous culture of Manipur'.
The organisation has been at the forefront of the plan to introduce the ILP system in Manipur. It would be relevant here to see how this demand originated.
The ILP system was first introduced by colonial administrators in Assam through the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873. The statute sought to keep the 'wild tribes' in the hills from raiding the revenue generating plains by restricting movement between the hills and the plains. However, post-Independence, the system is now perceived as a means to 'protect' the 'indigenous' people from exploitative outsiders
The NRC in Assam is being updated in view of the burning problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh so that it becomes easier to differentiate between genuine Indian citizens and illegal migrants who had sneaked into the state after 24 March, 1971 which is the cut-off date mentioned in Assam Accord for detection of illegal migrants.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Aug 12, 2018 13:16:37 IST