The India’s Assam state government is set to deport 17 Bangladeshis on Monday. Three of them are Hindus who were allegedly hounded out of bordering Bangladesh, Hindustan Times reports.
The deportation comes six months after Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government of India introduced a bill to facilitate persecuted non-Muslims from neighboring countries become Indian citizens.
The 17 were among 54 people from Bangladesh and Myanmar who were caught after illegally entering India during the past few years. They had been languishing in a detention camp in Silchar Central Jail mainly due to the lack of communication with officials of these two neighbouring countries until 2015. Silchar, the headquarters of southern Assam’s Cachar district, is 330km from Guwahati.
“Their deportation followed two rounds of talks between officials of border districts of Assam and Bangladesh. All formalities have been done to hand them over to the Bangladesh authorities via the Border Security Force in the Karimganj sector about 10am today (Monday),” Cachar superintend of police Rakesh Roushan told Hindustan Times on Sunday.
Among those to be deported to 11 districts of Bangladesh are Bhagabati Goala, 50, from Madhabpur district, Rahul Das, 23, from Habiganj district and Mou Das, 18, from Sunamganj district. Months ago, they were quoted as saying they had fled religious persecution in Bangladesh.
Last year, on October 13, southern Assam officials had deported 10 Bangladeshis. This followed bilateral meetings between the two governments in 2015 – first in January at Silchar and then in October at Srimangal in Bangladesh’s Maulvibazar district.
The deportation comes amid a raging controversy in Assam over the BJP’s decision to grant citizenship to non-Muslim “refugees” from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Assam is particularly wary of becoming a haven for Hindu Bangladeshis if the BJP succeeds in amending the Citizenship Act.
“The BJP says it will drive out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Then, it contradicts its position through its move to grant citizenship to Bangladeshi Hindus by amending the Citizenship Act,” three-time former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress wondered. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the BJP’s ruling partner in Assam, is angry too.
“Assam shouldn’t be made a dumping ground by being forced to accept non-Muslim immigrants,” senior AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said. A few weeks ago, Mahanta petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee against the Centre’s move.
While other parties define non-Muslims from Banadesh as illegal immigrants, BJP says they are refugees and victims of partition, who fled to India in the face of torture and religious persecution. As per the Assam Accord of 1985, the immigrants, irrespective of faith, who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, will be deported.
The Accord was signed in August 1985 by the Rajiv Gandhi government with the All Assam Students Union (AASU) that spearheaded an often violent six-year agitation for ejecting foreigners from Assam.