R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Jan 17 - No Government agency has so far conducted a thorough study on the possible impact of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 on Assam. Meanwhile, the Government of India has so far not changed its stand on the Bill and efforts are still on to push it through in the ensuing session of the Rajya Sabha.
Highly placed official sources admitted before The Assam Tribune that no detailed study on the possible impact of the Bill in Assam has yet been carried out. The security agencies had warned the Government on the possible fallouts including agitations by different organizations much before the Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha. But what will be the impact of the Bill on the socio-political scenario of the State is yet to be ascertained and for that a detailed study will have to be carried out, sources admitted.
Sources also admitted that the Government does not have the figure of the number of Hindus, who entered India illegally after 1971. Though the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would give a fair idea of the number of foreigners living in Assam, the Register is not being updated on the basis of religion and it would not be possible to segregate the foreigners on the basis of religion. “So far, the Government only has a rough estimate of the number of Hindus who came illegally to Assam from Bangladesh after 1971 but as most of them did not carry any valid travel documents, it is impossible to have the exact number.” Sources also pointed out that the situation is totally different in case of the people belonging to the minority communities of Pakistan and Afghanistan as they came with valid travel documents and sought shelter in India claiming that they were facing religious persecution in their own countries.
Official sources admitted that the failure of the Government to maintain records is another major problem as the records of the refugees, who entered India during the Bangladesh liberation war of 1971 are also not available. It may be mentioned here that during the process of updating the NRC, back-end verification of the refugee registration certificates submitted by some applicants could not be verified as the records were not kept properly by the concerned Government departments.
Sources admitted that though the Hindu population of Bangladesh has been dwindling since the time of liberation of the country, in recent times, there have been no report of any large scale atrocities on the Hindus in that country. In recent times, there have been no major report of any religious persecution in Bangladesh and during the recently concluded general elections, 18 Hindus were elected to the Parliament, while, two became Ministers. The Durga puja festival also went off very peacefully in Bangladesh last year.
As per records available, there was an exodus of Hindus from the then East Pakistan in the 1960s as they were targeted mainly for land grabbing, while, the 1971 war also saw exodus of Hindu people from that country to India. Interestingly, the Government now does not have the records of how many refugees actually came to India during the war and how many actually returned. From time to time, during the rule of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Government in Bangladesh, there were reports of attacks on minorities but no such report came during the tenure of the Awami League Government. In fact, India has not taken up the issue of religious persecution in Bangladesh in any international forum formally since 1971, sources admitted.