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BJP, others spar over bill on migrants

G Vinayak in Guwahati and Shahid Mazdoor in Delhi | May 07, 2003 22:03 IST

The government's decision to introduce a bill in Parliament repealing the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983, which is applicable to Assam, has evoked mixed reactions.

In Guwahati, noted lawyer and president of the United Minorities Front, H R A Choudhury, called the move a 'political gimmick'.

"The BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] is hoping to gain some seats in Assam in the forthcoming parliamentary elections by demonstrating that it is fulfilling its longstanding promise. In the process, however, it is creating a communal situation in Assam," he said.

Abdul Muhib Mazumdar, considered to be the author of the act, said: "The NDA [National Democratic Alliance] government's decision will create a fear psychosis among even genuine Indian minorities, since removal of the IM(DT) Act will take away the judicial protection that the people have against harassment by the police."

The Foreigners Act, 1946, which will try all cases that have been referred to or are under consideration of the IMD Tribunals once the act is repealed, gives judicial powers to police in matters of detection and deportation of illegal migrants, they said.

The Asom Gana Parishad, however, welcomed the move. Leader of the opposition in the Assam assembly and president of the party, Brindaban Goswami, said: "The IM(DT) Act is a threat to the nation's integrity. The Centre's decision meets our longstanding demand. However, we will be completely satisfied only when the repeal actually takes place."

The All Assam Students Union, which spearheaded the anti-foreigner agitation in the eighties, also appreciated the move.

The AGP, born out of the agitation, which culminated in the Assam Accord, had rode to power in 1985.

The UMF intends to appeal to opposition parties in Parliament not to allow the repeal. "We have requested Abdul Muhib Mazumdar to go to Delhi and meet leaders of the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal to convince them about our stand," Choudhury said.

In New Delhi, Congress spokesman S Jaipal Reddy said his party would not only oppose the bill in Parliament, but also plead that the IM(DT) Act be extended to other states.

Congress insiders think the decision is a 'publicity stunt' to boost the morale of BJP workers in Assam.

"We think it is only to capitalise on the sentiments of the people who are opposed to this tribunal and to give some sort of a moral support to its [the BJP's] workers, who are gradually getting isolated due to the falling graph of their party," a Congress MP told

BJP parliamentary party spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra said the act prevents effective detection and deportation of illegal migrants, because of which the demographic pattern of the state is changing.

"The Congress and the CPI-M [Communist Party of India-Marxist] have been encouraging this [influx of migrants] to consolidate their vote banks. The Congress government has also been issuing ration cards to these illegal migrants following which detection becomes even more difficult," he said.

Malhotra also said that the draft bill might be tabled in Parliament during the monsoon session.

In the Rajya Sabha, BJP member Indramoni Bora raised the issue through a special mention.

"This act is discriminatory as it is only applicable to Assam."

Due to procedural difficulties only 1,485 persons have been deported in the last 20 years at an expenditure of Rs300 crore, the MP said.

"This act should be immediately scraped by proper legislation to save Assam from infiltrators," he demanded, even as Dwijendra Nath Sarmah of the Congress opposed his contention and disassociated himself from the special mention.

Bora claimed that illegal infiltrators take advantage of ethnic, linguistic and regional similarities with people living in certain pockets in Assam. They remain without any authority, which has given rise to serious demographic, social, economic and political problems. These people, with the patronage of a particular political party, have become voters and have also become a decisive factor in the power game in the state, he charged.

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