The Assam government has objected to the Centre's proposal to allow visa-free entry to Bangladeshi nationals under 18 years and over 65 years into India. The Congress government in the state, headed by chief minister Tarun Gogoi, has also objected to the proposal to grant multiple entries to Bangladeshi nationals with a single visa.
The infiltration of Bangladeshi migrants threatens Assam's demography and culture and economy, and its residents are increasingly terrified of being outnumbered by illegal migrants. There are no official figures to suggest the exact number of the migrants in the state but it is believed to run into lakhs. The BJP-led government (ministry of external affairs) has written to the Assam government seeking its opinion on the proposals. The proposals were in connection with the visit of a central delegation to the neighbouring country to boost bilateral relations.
"We objected to the proposals as they will make matters worse for us. It is difficult to trace even those who come legally with valid visas. So if people are allowed to enter the country without visa, it will surely create problems for us," Gogoi said.
He added that the state does not have qualms with the proposed Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus service and the river transit with the neighbouring country for the promotion of trade and commerce.
Incidentally, the BJP has always been vocal on the issue of illegal migration. It won seven of Assam's 14 seats by playing on the threat posed by illegal Bangladeshi migrants. In the run-up-to the Parliamentary elections, the BJP had pledged to drive out the migrants if voted to power. Given the party's philosophy, the MEA proposals are being viewed by many as the party's 'double speak' on the issue.
"You can write it down. After May 16, these Bangladeshis better be prepared with their bags packed," Narendra Modi, then the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, had told voters at an election rally in West Bengal.