After getting a stunning mandate in Assam, riding on its anti-illegal migration plank, the BJP-led government at the Centre is preparing to put its agenda on the ground. Highly placed sources said that efforts are being made to complete the national register of citizenship (NRC) in two-three years.
The NRC aims to stop the influx of illegal Bangladeshis by sifting them from Indian citizens by putting the onus on the people to prove that they are bona-fide residents of the country since before January 24, 1971.
Minister of state (home) Kiren Rijiju minced no words in describing the issue if illegal Bangladeshi migrants as a national problem that needs to be resolved expeditiously. "The issue of illegal migrants and infiltrators in the northeast, especially the issue of Bangladeshis, is a cause of concern for all of us...This is a national problem…We have to look at these things from the national perspective. So action will be taken but we have to work along with the state government," said Rijiju.
Incidentally, the funds of Rs 260 crore released on May 14 were based on the decision taken by the UPA-II government towards the fag end of its tenure.
"Of late, the UPA government too had realised the potential dangers of demographic changes in the border districts and had finally decided to prepare the NRC on the basis of 1971 electoral rolls. The difference is that the UPA would still have gone in a phased manner to implement the NRC whereas the BJP wants to do it on a war footing," a senior home ministry official said.
Senior government officials see a great deal of difficulty in completing the process that is soon going to start and concede that it could prove to be troublesome and difficult in several regions and can even lead to a backlash.
Officials also concede that even if they manage to mark out illegal Bangladeshi migrants, it would be an impossible task to deport them to Bangladesh. Already bearing the brunt of population explosion and reducing landmass, neighbouring Bangladesh is expected to refuse any deportation by maintaining that they have no records of such people.
Conscious of this scenario, the Centre plans to take away the citizenship rights of such illegal migrants but allow them to work here and earn their living.
This would not only bring down the threat perception on our demography but also anti-Bangladeshi sentiment among people of the northeast which is threatening to create social unrest on a large scale in the near future, sources said.
The completion of NRC in Assam is expected to have far reaching impact in other places too where illegal Bangladeshi migrants have found safe havens and have got legitimate documents such as voter ID and ration cards.