Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Monday strongly pitched for a stringent immigration policy in India and rolling out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) updating process in all States for tackling the menace of rampant illegal migration.
Chief Minister Sonowal also said the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a tool for making the distinction between a bona fide Indian citizen and a foreigner.
He was speaking at the seminar on the topic ‘NRC: Defending the Borders, Securing the Culture’ organized by Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini at the Constitution Club, New Delhi, on Monday.
Highlighting the need for updating the NRC, Sonowal said, “Large-scale migration into the State has threatened to alter the very identity of the Assamese community which is shaped by assimilation of number of tribal and other communities and their harmonious co-existence.”
During the 70 years between 1901 and 1971, Assam’s population increased from 32.90 lakh to 146 lakh, which is 343.77 per cent increase over a period when the population of India had increased by only about 150 per cent and this is clearly the result of illegal migration, he stated.
Asserting that infiltration cannot be allowed to go unchecked which otherwise could have disastrous consequences on social harmony and territorial integrity of the country, the Chief Minister reiterated that the NRC process in Assam can be a model to emulate across the country for tackling the problem of illegal migration.
He also said that the draft NRC has come out through a legal process and the State and Central Governments are doing their constitutional duties under the directions of the Supreme Court to bring out a flawless NRC.
Thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for according top priority to seal the Indo-Bangla international border and his efforts to fix the boundary through the land swap deal, Sonowal said that to plug vulnerable gaps along India’s borders, a ‘smart fence’ project has been rolled out in Assam on a riverine stretch with Bangladesh.
The problem of illegal migration can be solved permanently once the border gets completely sealed, he commented.
“It is also imperative to update the NRC in the rest of the country to ensure that immigrants in the State do not find shelter in any other part of India. Otherwise, the ongoing exercise in Assam will be a futile one. It does not serve the larger interests of India to cleanse Assam of illegal migrants and then have them resettle in other parts of the country,” the CM opined.
Pointing out that Assam accounts for just a fraction of the total number of illegal immigrants in the country, Sonowal said that Census reports showed that population increase is far beyond the national average in some states of the country during last few decades. This explains the intensity of influx of illegal immigrants in the country where even the national capital city Delhi and other metropolitan cities have started experiencing the perils of illegal migration, he remarked.
Allaying apprehensions and accusations that NRC is a politically motivated exercise against a particular section of the society, Sonowal pointed towards peaceful environment in the state in the aftermath of draft NRC publication as a clear indication of people cutting across religious, linguistic divides extending full cooperation for publication of the draft.
It was only possible because the people saw that the entire exercise was being carried out in an impartial, transparent and meticulous manner under the directive supervision of Supreme Court, he said.
The Chief Minister informed that all genuine Indian citizens will get adequate opportunities to get themselves registered in the NRC through the process of claims and objections and sufficient opportunities of being heard will be given before each claim and objection is disposed of.
He also said that the Citizenship Rules provide that any person who is not satisfied with the outcome of claims and objections can appeal in the Foreigner’s Tribunal. Thus, there is no question of anyone being put in a detention centre after the publication of NRC, as rumoured by certain vested interest groups, he said.
National general secretary of BJP Ram Madhab, editor-in-chief of ‘My Nation’ Abhijeet Mazumdar also spoke in the programme which was chaired by Rajya Sabha MP Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe.