In a historic judgement, the Meghalaya High Court has said that Bangladesh nationals who have settled in this north eastern state before March 24, 1971, should be treated as Indians and they be enrolled in the voters' list.
The judgement was based on a petition by over 40 refugees from Bangladesh, who were denied enrolment in the electoral roll by the district administration citing their citizenship was doubtful.
These refugees hailing from Amjong village near the Assam-Meghalaya border in Meghalaya's Ri-Bhoi district moved the high court after their citizenship certificates were seized by the deputy commissioner.
Justice S R Sen, in his May-15 order, directed the district Deputy Commissioner Pooja Pandey to return the seized certificates to the petitioners and enrol them in voters' list before the next elections.
Justice Sen said there was an understanding between the two countries as to who should be allowed to stay and who should be deported back to Bangladesh.
"It is clearly understood that the forefathers of the petitioners entered India much before March 24, 1971. As such there is no question of deporting them at this stage when they have acquired the right of permanent rehabilitation in Amjong village," he said.
Ruling out that they are Bangladesh citizens, the court said there was no scope for their deportation and directed the state government and the Centre not to disturb them, but to give them proper rehabilitation.
The state government had earlier argued that the petitioners and their forefathers were not permanent citizens and were rehabilitated temporarily by the autonomous district council.
Image: Locals take a ride in Mawkyrwat, Meghalaya.
Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com