The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is taking up for final hearing from 14th of February the question whether the cut off date for grant of citizenship to migrants/infiltrators from erstwhile East Pakistan/Bangladesh should be 19th July 1948, as prevalent for rest of India ( Article 6 of Constitution) or should it be 25th March 1971 in terms of the Assam Accord of 15th August 1985 and the consequent amendment in the Citizenship Act, 1955 by insertion of Section 6A giving a statutory status to the cut off date of 25th March 1971.
The stand of the BJP Government in Assam is not that of one elected on the promise of protecting the identity, land of indigenous people, rather that of a Government controlled by Bangladeshi immigrants. The State Government in an earlier affidavit filed during the tenure of the Congress Government, where Himanta Biswa Sarma was the Assam Accord Implementation Minister, had supported the cut off date of 25th March, 1971, which stand is reiterated in the written submission filed by the present BJP Government on 1st of May 2017. There is now yet another dimension to this that is the land policy Mission Basundhara 2.0, launched by the present Chief Minister in November 2022, in terms of which migrants from Bangladesh encroaching upon Government lands of over 4,50,000 acres will be granted ownership rights only on a nominal identity proof and proof of encroachment prior to 1st January 2011. This policy therefore determines a new cut off date of 2011, undermining the Constitution, Citizenship Act and the Constitution Bench hearing.
The written submissions filed by the State Government is reflective of a stand in favour of infiltration/immigration and against the affected local population.
Firstly, it says that the political rights of the indigenous people are not affected by illegal migration, enabling foreigners to become voters. This argument is justified on the logic ‘process of delimitation of constituencies can also be said to affect the political rights of citizens’. This logic least to say is ridiculous. This is a situation where a large number of foreigners getting voting rights has increased the voting population, whereas delimitation does not increase the population excepting redefining constituencies, population remaining intact. Without illegal migrants becoming citizens and voters, AIUDF, a political party representing their interest to the detriment of indigenous would not have been formed. Delimitation would not have created the AIUDF, if there was no influx. This stand of the Government is contrary to the 2005 IMDT judgement of the Supreme Court where it is clearly said that “unabated influx…has reduced the Assamese people to a minority in their own state”.
Secondly, it has supported the grant of citizenship by birth to children born of foreigners in Assam because it is permissible under the existing law and further elaborates saying that, “it is the result of exercise of valid power as to inclusion of foreigners as citizens.”
Thirdly, it makes a ridiculous assertion that there is no factual foundation to show how many foreigners have been enrolled as voters, against clearly contrary to the 2005 Supreme Court IMDT judgement where it is clearly stated “Assam is facing ‘external aggression and internal disturbance’ on account of large scale illegal migration of Bangladeshi nationals.” It is also said in the judgement that “local people of Assam have been reduced to a status of minority in certain districts”.
Even in the face of such a judgement the Government still says that “there is no factual foundation laid” to show how the fundamental rights of indigenous people to preserve their language, script and culture is affected.
Fourthly, the Assam Accord prescribing a cut off date of 25th March 1971 is justified on the ground that a large number of lives have been lost in the conflict between foreigners and local people and the Accord by conferring citizenship upon 23 years of additional immigrants from 1948 to 1971, peace was brought into the state. The logic of this argument that all foreigners should be given citizenship to prevent strife.
The stand of the Central Government is a reflection of the State Government, one significant fact that emerges from the Central Government’s stand is that illegal infiltration is common to all border states of Bangladesh, it is only because there was an agitation in Assam, that an accord was signed. This clearly proves that but for the Assam Accord, the cut off date of 19th July 1948 as prevalent in the rest of the country would have continued to govern the field in Assam and that the people of Assam are worse off by agitating and signing an accord.
The Supreme Court will pronounce on the validity of the cut off date of 25th March 1971 only in respect of Assam, but in the meantime by notification of 11th November 2022, under the land reforms project, Mission Basundhara 2.0, the present State Government has announced a scheme for grant of ownership rights upon land which are grazing reserves to encroachers upon such land if they can prove their encroachment upon such land prior to 1st January 2011., over 4.5 lakh acres ( 14 lakh bighas).The identity proof required is Aadhar, Driving Licence or PAN Card, which are easily procured by Bangladeshis and bypassing the NRC requirement of documents (electoral rolls prior to 1971, 1951 NRC legacy data etc.). Through this scheme a new cut off date has been now determined by Chief Minister Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma’s Government, which undermines the entire ongoing Constitution Bench matter, the Citizenship Act and the Constitution.
For a party which came to power on the plank of protecting the identity of the local indigenous people, the stand and actions of the present BJP Government in the state into its second term has been consistently in favour of Bangladeshi immigrants and raises a large number of questions.
If the CAA has been enacted, why can’t the Government support the cut off date of 19th July 1948?
Why is it that the safeguards recommended to protect the local population from becoming a minority under Bangladeshi influx by the Committee constituted by the Government under Clause 6 of the Assam Accord recommending reservation of land, employment, trade etc., are not being implemented?
Why are the actions and policy of the Government elected on a non-Bangladeshi vote, acting only in the interest of Bangladeshi immigrants and not disincentivizing them through legislative/policy measures denying them access to land, jobs, trade etc, disincentivising infiltration?
Copyright©2024 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today