Citizens’ register: Bangladesh not keen on accepting deportees from India

Bangladesh’s High Commissioner to India, Syed Muazzem Ali, interacting with mediapersons in New Delhi on Thursday.

“The deportations, as we exercise it, are for people who have crossed the border and could give us some verification regarding their identity,” said High Commissioner to India, Syed Muazzem Ali.

Bangladesh would ask for local identity documents from persons who India would deport once the second list of the National Register of Citizens is made public on June 30, Dhaka's High Commissioner to India, Syed Muazzem Ali, said on Thursday.

"The deportations, as we exercise it, are for people who have crossed the border and could give us some verification regarding their identity," Ali said during his interaction with mediapersons at the India Women Press Corps in New Delhi.

The envoy said that Dhaka and New Delhi had a "peaceful understanding" on Bangladesh's citizens who are in India illegally.

"We have a peaceful understanding regarding people who have lost their documents, who are either over-stayers or they have committed any trespassing. We carry out a verification of those people," he said.

A freedom fighter who played a role in the 1971 Bangladesh War of Liberation, Ali went on, "This is being done in various parts of India. Sometimes, consular officers travel to cities like Kanpur, Nagpur and Chennai to verify migrants."

Bangladesh's envoy, however, refused to make a detailed comment on the NRC issue, saying that he would make a statement once the process of deportations start.

Approximately 48 lakh residents of Assam, many Muslims living in districts bordering Bangladesh, couldn't make it to the first list of the NRC which was released on December 31 last year.

"Most of the people whose names didn't figure in the NRC live in the districts of Barpeta, Duburi, Nagaon, South Cachar, Morigaon and Sonitpur," Syed Azharuddin, National Secretary of Students Islamic Organisation of India, who is leading a fact-finding mission in Assam, told National Herald.

The NRC mentions the names of Indian citizens living in Assam. Those who didn't make it on the first list stare at deportations to neighbouring Bangladesh, unless their names feature on the second list due on June 30.

The changes to the Citizenship Law in 2016, before the release of NRC's first list, has made further complicated matters for the local Muslims. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill of 2016 proposed granting of citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis who entered India even after the cut off date, March 24, 1971, as per the original government policy.

Sending back “illegal” Bangladeshis was a campaign pledge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the lead-up to general elections in 2014. The updating of the NRC gained pace after the BJP came to power in the state in 2016

The changes have left the local Muslim community in the lurch. Assam's Muslims have often been accused of being illegal infiltrators from Bangaldesh, with the issue milked by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and like-minded outfits to reap electoral dividends in the north-eastern state, where Muslims constituted 35% of the total population in 2011.

In fact, sending back "illegal" Bangladeshis was a campaign pledge of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the lead-up to general elections in 2014. The updating of the NRC gained pace after the BJP came to power in the state in 2016.

The issue of sending back Bangladeshi migrants, however, faces a stumbling block in Dhaka, which is not so keen on accepting them. For the BJP government at Centre and in state, the whole NRC issue has the potential to affect the overall dynamic of relations with Bangladesh, one of the few countries in the neighbourhood that steadfastly stood by India amid China's economic onslaught in south Asia.

Envoy Ali sums it up,"Bangladesh is one of the major success stories of PM Modi's Look East Act East Policy."

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