Since the NDA came to power in May last year, it has proactively followed the case filed in the Supreme Court by two NGOs urging that Hindus and other minorities from Bangladesh migrating to India to escape religious persecution, must not be bracketed with illegal migrants and sent back.
In the words of one of the lawyers involved, the government made emphatic assurances that it would resolve the matter. Two initial hearings were handled by an Additional Solicitor-General, while Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi appeared at the last hearing, held on April 7, and told the court that the matter was being considered by the Home Ministry and a decision would be communicated soon.
According to sources, the Home Ministry has had to consider several variables while formulating its response that will decide the fate of thousands of Bangladeshi Hindus living in 19 States. Because the period in question is since 1971, the first variable is the number of Hindu migrants that the case will cover. Second, it has to fix timeframes — in order to argue that Hindus were persecuted in Bangladesh before coming to India, the Ministry has to cite specific events that took place in Bangladesh. That could complicate bilateral ties if the events mentioned happened to have occurred when the current ruling party in Bangladesh was in power.
The BJP has already declared that the immigration policy will be a major plank on which it will contest the Assam Assembly elections next year. “Some Hindus have come from Bangladesh owing to religious disturbances. The BJP will give all of them citizenship once we come to power in Assam next year,” party president Amit Shah had said at a rally in Assam on April 27. He said his party would also work towards giving Indian citizenship to all Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants across the country. At the same time, echoing the campaign speeches of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr. Shah said the BJP sought to get rid of illegal immigrants or “infiltrators” – read: Muslims who come over from Bangladesh.