Sealing of the borders with Bangladesh will be completed in two year’s time to put an end to infiltration, Assam’s Chief Minister-to-be Sarbananda Sonowal said on Saturday.PTI
A product of the student movement of the 80s during the anti-foreigners agitation, Sonowal, who steered the BJP to victory in the elections, has put the issue of infiltration and attempts to check them as his government’s priority. BJP had made infiltration one of the major issues in the poll campaign.
“Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had given a two-year time frame for permanent sealing of the border. We will work towards finishing within that timeframe the border sealing work, including the riverine border,” he told PTI in an interview.
He was asked how he intended to seal the Indo-Bangladesh border, an issue he spoke about soon after his party romped home in the election on Thursday.
Rajnath Singh had during his on-the-spot visit to the Indo-Bangla border in Karimganj district of southern Assam in January this year had said construction of the barbed wire fence along the Assam stretch would be completed by the end of this year.
“As soon as the border is sealed permanently, the infiltration trend will stop automatically. Plus we will create awareness among the people to prevent infiltration”, he had said.
Asked what method or law he intended to apply to stop infiltration from Bangladesh as he was against the now repealed IMDT Act, Sonowal said, “When the final draft of the (ongoing) updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is published, it will be clear who are the citizens and infiltrators will get identified.
“The problem will get solved and action will then be taken against infiltrators as per existing law.
“Like the Wagah border in Punjab with Pakistan, we will also have a similar ceremony in Assam along the Indo-Bangladesh border. We will make it into a tourist spot where people can come and watch the ceremony. This will also stop infiltration”, he added.
What is the IMDT Act, 1983?
On October 15, 1983, the Government of India passed an Ordinance to set up tribunals ‘for determination of the question whether a person is or is not an illegal migrant.’
On December 12, 1983, IMDT Act was introduced and passed in Parliament.
Where is the act applicable?
Only in the state of Assam. In other states, detection of foreigners is done under the Foreigners Act, 1946.
Ironically, there was no member in the Lok Sabha from Assam’s Brahmaputra Valley when the act was passed, since elections could not be held in the state in 1980.
What is the difference between the IMDT Act and Foreigners Act?
Under the IMDT Act, the onus of proving one’s nationality or otherwise lies on the complainant whereas under the Foreigners Act, the onus is on the accused.
What did the act set out to do?
According to this act an illegal migrant is a person who:
(i) entered India on or after March 25, 1971.
(ii) was a foreigner
(iii) entered India without being in possession of a valid passport or other travel documents or any other legal authority.
Clauses 4 and 9 of the IMDT Act said those who came before March 25, 1971 would not come under the purview of the act as the issue of such cases ‘has been left for negotiations.’
But even in the case of post-1971 migrants the procedures were deliberately kept cumbersome. For instance, the Act provided for two individuals living within a radius of 3 km of a suspected illegal migrant to approach an IMDT Tribunal, deposit a sum Rs 25 and then file a complaint. (The three km restriction was subsequently modified and now the complainant could be from the same police station limits as the accused, while the deposit sum was reduced to Rs 10).
But the most contentious provision of the act was the condition that the onus of proving the citizenship credentials of a person in question lies with the complainant and the police, not on the accused. Under the Foreigners Act prevailing in the rest of the country, the onus is understandably on the accused. To cap it all, the act also provided that ‘if the application is found frivolous or vexatious’ the Central Government may not accept it.
In short, the country had two anti-immigration acts. By scrapping the IMDT Act, the Supreme Court has removed the anomaly.