Wants refugees from erstwhile East Bengal to be granted Indian citizenship

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has called for legal measures to protect the rights of Bengalis from erstwhile East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and a solution through judicial process to the problem of suspected foreigners living illegally in Assam.

In a resolution adopted at its 20th party congress that concluded here on Monday, the party urged the government to honour Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's promise of sympathetically considering the legitimate demand of a large number of Bengali refugees from the erstwhile East Bengal to be recognised as Indian citizens.

Noting that a large number of the refugees belonged to the Scheduled Castes, the resolution said exclusion of these communities from the current Aadhar drive of citizen identification had only heightened their insecurity.

Recalling the support extended by all political parties during a discussion in Parliament on the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2003 for an amendment to protect these refugees, it said the law still considered them as illegal migrants.

Terming them victims of historical circumstances, the resolution said there were cases where they were treated like criminals. Demanding that an amendment to the Act in relation to the Bangladesh minority community refugees be brought in the coming budget session of Parliament, the resolution said the amendment should be introduced while protecting the Assam accord considering the specific situation in Assam.

Another resolution adopted by the congress said the continuing problem of marking as D-voters (doubtful voters) in electoral rolls the names of those who were suspected to be foreigners entering and living illegally in Assam was a matter of serious concern.

Calling for a judicial process to find a solution to the problem, the resolution stated that most of the Foreigners' Tribunals set up to identify illegal foreigners were non-functioning. There were many occasions when ex parte judgments were pronounced against many genuine Indian citizens classifying them as foreigners, it said, recalling a recent case of two married women belonging to the Koch-Rajbanshi community being sent to detention camps.

Citing a Gauhati High Court judgment in April 2011, directing all D-voters to be transferred to the Foreigners' Tribunals and be kept in detention camps till their cases were disposed of, the resolution said the situation had worsened for these people since then.

Though there was a stay order, the Assam administration was serving fresh notices on a large number of people belonging to the religious and linguistic minorities, resulting in harassment of Bengali and Nepali-speaking people.