Assam Minister defends PM on detention centres

Himanta Biswa Sarma. File  

Assam Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday defended Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assertion during an election rally in New Delhi that there are no detention centres in the country.

Mr. Sarma, who is also the chairman of North East Democratic Alliance, a forum of non-Congress several regional parties in the region, said: “What the PM meant was that the Centre did not create any detention camp. In the case of Assam, the detention camps were set up under order from the Gauhati High Court in cases related to D-voters [doubtful voters marked by the Election Commission of India]. The Centre merely provided funds for carrying out the court's order.”

In 2009, the court directed the government to set up detention centres to ensure that people declared foreigners by the Foreigners' Tribunals do not go missing. The government had accordingly identified six central jails for functioning as detention camps. These are the Dibrugarh, Goalpara, Jorhat, Kokrajhar, Silchar and Tezpur jails.

Different tune on NRC

Mr. Modi’s statement that there had been no discussion on an all-India exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) appears to have unsettled the BJP-led government in Assam.

The State government had rejected the “erroneous” NRC prepared under former Coordinator Prateek Hajela, as have organisations such as the All Assam Students' Union that is spearheading the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest, Mr. Sarma told newspersons.

“We had petitioned the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the exercise, for verification of 20% of the names in the NRC. If discrepancies are found, we shall ask the court to scrap the NRC and go for a new one," he said, insisting that Assam had issues that needed interventions different from other parts of the country.

Eye on social media

The government had to shut down mobile Internet services due to communal and inflammatory posts on social media from within and beyond Assam. “We had 58 such posts removed from social media platforms. Three of the posts from outside Assam were generated from Arab nations.” Cases numbering 288 had been registered for violence and destroying public property and 393 people arrested, he stated.

“Two leaders of the Popular Front of India who incited the agitators are in police custody. They deleted their Twitter accounts before being caught. The police also have evidence against a Youth Congress leader,” he said.

The authorities had kept tabs on people who provoked the tea plantation workers with rumours that 5.40 lakh Hindus excluded from the NRC would be settled in areas inhabited by the “tea tribes” (Adivasis). “The Hindus out of NRC are either living in their own houses or in rented accommodation. We are taking action against those spreading rumours and inciting the tea workers,” he stated.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:15:39 PM |

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