It took the ‘efficient’ UP Government just 15 days to compile a list of 40,000 refugees living in the state, most of them for 50 years though the state government claims they have been living illegally.
Around 35,000 of them were refugees from Bangladesh, who came away in 1971 and were settled in the Pilibhit region. By rushing this list of 40 thousand refugees living in 19 districts, the UP Government claims to be the first state to have ‘implemented’ the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019.
Home Ministry officials of course have repeatedly pointed out that states have no role to play in implementing CAA, that citizenship is granted bv the Centre and hence when opposition-ruled states say that they would not implement the CAA, it practically meant nothing. But then, if states have no role to play in not implementing the CAA, how can UP have a role in implementing it ?
The state Government can of course recommend that citizenship be granted to these refugees. But since most of these 35 thousand Bangladeshi refugees have been living in India for five decades or so, it would be surprising indeed if they were not granted Indian citizenship. It would mean that none of these refugees ever voted in elections, got government jobs or availed of government subsidies and benefits.
Since such a possibility appears to be remote, chances are that the Uttar Pradesh Government has wilfully made a laughing stock of itself in its haste to score political points to counter the anti-CAA-NPR-NRC protests raging in the country. It is, however, possible that many of these refugees have continued as refugees and have availed of welfare measures as refugees.
What is more, by rushing out with a list it claims to be fairly comprehensive, the Yogi Government has unwittingly shot itself in the foot. That is because if the most populous state in the country claims to be hosting 40 thousand refugees, the total number of refugees in the country is unlikely to be very high, and certainly would be in lakhs rather than the astronomical figures that the BJP and the Government have been hinting at.
A senior government official said in Lucknow on Monday, “The list is made of largely Hindu refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh living across 19 districts in the state; We have sent the list to Union Government late last week but the response is awaited.”
The report prepared by the state government is titled, "Uttar Pradesh Mein Aaye Pakistan, Afghanistan Evam Bangladesh ke Sharnarthiyon ki Aap-beeti Kahani" and details the personal stories of the refugees. The officials claimed that the exercise to identify Hindu refugees had started around 15 days back and the list was ready last week.
The districts from where the 40,000 non-Muslim illegal immigrants identified are Agra, Rae Bareli, Saharanpur, Gorakhpur, Aligarh, Rampur, Muzaffarnagar, Hapur, Mathura, Kanpur, Pratapgarh, Varanasi, Amethi, Jhansi, Bahraich, Lakhimpur Kheri, Lucknow, Meerut, and Pilibhit.
The majority of refugees in Pilibhit are Hindus from Bangladesh who migrated to India during 1971. Camps were built there under the directives of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. These refugees acted as labourers in sugar cane fields.