Guwahati: Fear of mass deportation from Assam has gripped 4 million people, mostly Muslims, who may be stripped of their citizenship if they fail to allay the doubts of authorities. The buzz has been that Assam is building a new detention centre to process the “foreigners” who will be evicted in the coming years. Satyen Garg, a home ministry official who was present at the Guwahati press conference, however, said there “was no question of sending anyone to detention camps based on the draft list”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right wing BJP has been adamant in the past that illegal Muslim immigrants will be deported. But neighbouring Bangladesh cannot be expected to accede to such a request. It is a different matter that hundreds of thousands of people fled to India during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in the early 70s. Most of them settled in Assam, which has a near-165-mile (270km) border with Bangladesh.
Western observers feel the move will end up creating a huge class of stateless people, somewhat like the Rohingyas who fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. Many of the Muslim residents of the north-eastern state reject the charge of being illegal, saying that not only they, but their grandparents, were born in Assam and they know of no other place. The state functionaries of the Congress have latched onto the controversy.
“They are trying to isolate Muslims, the number that has come out is high and it is surprising,” said Ripun Bora, the state chief of the opposition Congress party, to a British daily ‘The Guardian’. “We are going to t0 fight it out.” The revised citizen list aims at identifying every resident who can demonstrate roots in the state before March 1971.