R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Aug 12 - Though the number of Tribunals set up under the provisions of the Foreigners Act has been increased to 100, even now more than 1.78 lakh cases are pending before the Tribunals. Worse, a large number of persons declared ‘foreigners’ by the Tribunals over the years are reported missing as there is no mechanism to keep a watch on the suspects while the trials are on. In fact, since 1985, only a small number of persons, who were declared as foreigners, could be deported and the process slowed down even further since 2013 when the new rules for deportation of foreigners came into effect.
According to records available with the State government, during the period from 1985 to July-end this year, 624,016 cases have been initiated by the Border Police Organisation against the suspected foreigners, of which investigations have been completed in 616,092 cases and 471,994 cases have been referred to the Tribunals. The Tribunals disposed of 296,386 cases, declaring 86,409 persons as foreigners who came to Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1971, but of them only around 900 could be pushed back.
During the same period, 1,547 persons were expelled from the country under the provisions of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, which was scrapped by the Supreme Court in 2005. The process of pushing back declared foreigners slowed down drastically after a new system was introduced in 2013 and during the period from March 2013 to May this year, only two of the declared foreigners could be pushed back to Bangladesh.
As per official records, 822 persons declared as foreigners are being kept in six detention camps set up by the government. These people are kept there till they are deported to their own country.
Of the cases pending before the Tribunals, more than one lakh cases are related to the persons termed as D-voters. Such persons were termed as doubtful voters and their cases were referred to the Tribunals.
The situation is much better in case of the convicted foreigners as such people came with proper documents and stayed back after their visa period was over and from 1985, more than 27,000 such
people were pushed back. Official sources said that pushing back such persons are not a major problem as they had come to India with Bangladeshi passports and proving that they are Bangladeshi nationals is not an issue.
The most disturbing fact is that a large number of persons declared as foreigners are reported missing. Official sources said that though the exact estimate of such persons is being prepared, the number would not be less than 40,000. Special teams have been formed in all the districts to try and detect such persons and so far, only 1,351 of them could be apprehended.
Sources pointed out that as there is no mechanism to keep a watch on the suspects when the trails are on, they go into hiding whenever they feel that the verdict would go against them and that creates a major problem as it is almost impossible to track such persons down when they shift from one district to another.