FMR Home Secretary Bats For Giving Constitutional Safeguards To Assam’s Indigenous People

THE issue related to migration from Bangladesh to Assam and other parts of India are a national problem which can be resolved at political level, says former Home Secretary GK Pilllai. He had to deal with the problem for several years in the Union Home Ministry as  joint Secretary and later as Secretary. The preparation   of National Register for Citizenship in Assam has become   a major emotional issue for the people of the state having border with Bangladesh. Participating in a panel discussion on the National Register of Citizens (NRC), organised by ‘Axom – New Horizons’- in New Delhi  on Friday Pillai strongly pleaded  for issuing work permits to the illegal migrants without giving them any political  or citizenship rights. There were however no unanimous views with some questioning the manner in which the NRC updating exercise is being conducted. Some others alleged that people with documents were being levelled as foreigners and put in detention centres. The minorities who had come from erstwhile East Pakistan and now Bangladesh are being discriminated against, some of them alleged. “There is a problem in Assam. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had the Indira-Mujib Pact and The Assam Accord between the Central and Assam governments and the All Assam Students’ Association (AASU). The problem is still there. I think we need to look at those problems not from any political angle. Commitments were made by the government and it has to provide constitutional and legal safeguards to the indigenous peoples. These are the issues which the Government of India has forgotten. Between 1996 to 2001, when I was the Joint Secretary (Northeast), we had started this debate on how we look at the problem, do we provide constitutional safeguard, what kinds of safeguards and such, but in 2009, when I came back as the Union Home Secretary, I realised that there was no discussion at all. In 2009 we again reopened the whole issue and started setting up committees,” he said. The burden is not only on the State of Assam, because the issue of illegal migration is a national problem and how the rest of India can bear the burden of the illegal migrants, Pilllai said. These are the issues, which the Government of India has forgotten.  I realised that there was no discussion at all. In 2009 we again reopened the whole issue and started setting up committees,” he said.

Work permit is something on which a decision has to be taken at the political level. “You have to have all-party meetings and evolve a consensus on the issue. As it is a political issue, you have to find a political solution,” he said.Asked about the present situation, Pillai said the first thing is to ensure that a panic situation is not created. “Thereafter, the government must come out and say that for the next three years or so, we are not going to deport anybody. Everybody can stay in their home and we have got the list and are trying to find a political solution. The Government of India and Government of Assam and other States need to meet and take a decision to resolve the issue once and for all,” he said.“I think we have to give them work permits. The question of deportation is almost impossible. In 40 years, we could deport only a few thousand people and they have managed to come back the next day through some other part porous  border. So we have to find a practical solution and I think the political parties should sit down together and see how they can be given residence permit without giving them political rights,” said Pillai.Politically both Congress and BJP governments were against work permits. They said they cannot give work permit because there is so much of unemployment. Politically we don’t know whether they will do it but this is something you should start initiating a discussion on, he said.People outside NE are not aware of the problems in Assam. “It is very important for us to know about the Census. Documented evidence from Bangladesh reveals that the population of Hindus in Bangladesh has come down and obviously they are gone.” In 1996-1998, when we visited Dhaka, my counterpart said that the number of passports issued in the country is more than 200 per cent of its population,” Pillai said.The discussion, moderated by Gaurav Choudhury, was joined by Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti chief Akhil Gogoi, Supreme Court advocate Karuna Nandy, The Hindu Resident Editor Amit Barua and Amar Asom Editor Prasanta Rajguru, among others.

“These are the issues, which the Government of India has forgotten. Between 1996 to 2001, when I was the Joint Secretary (Northeast), we had started this debate on how we look at the problem, do we provide constitutional safeguard, what kinds of safeguards and such, but in 2009, when I came back as the Union Home Secretary, I realised that there was no discussion at all. In 2009 we again reopened the whole issue and started setting up committees,” he said.The burden is not only on the State of Assam, because the issue of illegal migration is a national problem and how the rest of India can bear the burden of the illegal migrants, Pillai said. These are the issues, which the Government of India has forgotten. Between 1996 to 2001, when I was the Joint Secretary (Northeast), we had started this debate on how we look at the problem, do we provide constitutional safeguard, what kinds of safeguards and such, but in 2009, when I came back as the Union Home Secretary, I realised that there was no discussion at all. In 2009 we again reopened the whole issue and started setting up committees,” he said.The burden is not only on the State of Assam, because the issue of illegal migration is a national problem and how the rest of India can bear the burden of the illegal migrants, Pillai said.(inputs from The Assam Tribune)

 

 

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