Other States

Assam decision a relief for 22,000 Gurkhas facing “foreigner” test

Assam’s decision not to let Gurkhas undergo the citizenship test through the Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) has come as a relief for at least 22,000 members of the community in the State.

The Himanta Biswa Sarma Cabinet on Wednesday decided not to prosecute the Gurkhas under the Citizenship Act and withdraw all cases against members of the community in the FTs.

The Bharatiya Gorkha Parishangh (BGP) on Thursday welcomed the decision and thanked the Chief Minister for solving the problem the community has been facing since 1997.

According to the BGP, at least 22,000 Gurkhas in the State have been marked D-voters (doubtful voters) arbitrarily in the electoral rolls since 1997, and some 2,500 cases relating to citizenship were being heard at various FTs. About 500 cases have been disposed of since the notification for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process began in December 2013.

Some tried by the FTs were declared foreigners in ex parte (one-sided) decisions and thrown into detention camps.

“The Cabinet decision will come as a huge relief for the families of Gurkha people who have been prosecuted under the citizenship law. It will also remove the tag of illegal immigrants or foreigners from members of the community who are original inhabitants of Assam and are bona fide Indian citizens,” BGP national general secretary Nanda Kirati Dewan said.

D-voter tag

The D-voter tag on Gurkhas should now be removed as a mark of implementation of the Cabinet decision so that they could exercise their right to vote in the coming by-elections to four Assembly seats, he stated.

The BGP had challenged the NRC after the first draft was published on December 31, 2017, highlighting the difficulties faced by the Gurkhas being tried in the FTs and carrying the D-voter tag. The Ministry of Home Affairs, on September 24, 2018, issued a notification saying Gurkhas should not be tried at FTs.

But more than 1 lakh Gurkhas were left out of the complete NRC draft that was published on August 31, 2019, the community’s organisations said. They were among the 19.06 lakh excluded from the draft.

About 3.3 crore people had applied for inclusion in the NRC, whose process has been in a limbo for almost two years now.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 8:44:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-decision-a-relief-for-22000-gurkhas-facing-foreigner-test/article35742927.ece

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