Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Saturday said that the problems of unemployment, providing healthcare and education were more serious ones for the State than the issue of “cross-border undocumented migration.”
Releasing a “White Paper on Foreigners Issue” brought out by the Home and Political Department at the Secretariat here, the Chief Minister said that “undocumented migration” of people to Assam from across the international border was not as alarming as in the past or as parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and organisations such as the All-Assam Students’ Union (AASU) were trying to project it.
Describing the White Paper as a “historical document,” Mr. Gogoi said that undocumented migration from erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) had been an issue agitating the minds of the people for a long time and up to 1971, the State recorded large-scale migration. However, from 1991 such migration started declining, he claimed.
He said that Assam witnessed decadal population growth higher than the all-India average from 1911 to 1991.
“The higher decadal population growth rate of the State has been attributed to migration of people from outside Assam. However, due to various measures taken by the government to curb cross-border migration, among other things, growth rate of population in 1991-2001 (18.9 per cent) and 2000-2011 (16.9 per cent) Censuses has shown a declining trend. This rate has been lower than the national growth rate, which was 21. 5 per cent in 1991-2001 and 17.6 per cent in 2001-2011,” states the 94-page White Paper that contains a historical account of migration of people during the pre-Partition period, post-Partition and post-Bangladesh creation and related documents and statistics
On the estimate of the undocumented migrants/foreigners in Assam, the White Paper states: “It is difficult to give a precise estimate of illegal migrants/foreigners in Assam.” Quoting figures from the White Paper, Mr. Gogoi said that various tribunals from 1985 to July 2012 declared 61,774 persons as foreigners and this figure includes those who crossed the Assam-Bangladesh border and entered Assam between 1966 and 1971 and the post-March 25, 1971 migrants.
In accordance with the Assam Accord, the 1966-71 stream of migrants are not to be deported but to be given time to register themselves as Indian citizens while post-1971 migrants are to be pushed back or deported. Of the 61,774 persons declared foreigners, 32,537 were of the 1966-71 stream and 29,237 were post-1971 stream. Of the 29,237 post-1971 stream, only 2,442 have been deported or pushed back.
Mr. Gogoi said that during intensive revision of electoral rolls in Assam in 1997, the letter “D” (doubtful/disputed) was marked against 2,31,657 persons who could not prove their citizenship, according to the Election Commission. The cases of such “D” voters were referred to the tribunals for determination of their citizenship. Of these 2,31,657 cases of “D” voters till April 2012, as many as 88,192 cases have been disposed of while 1,43,465 cases were still pending. Of those cases disposed of, 6590 persons were declared foreigners and this figure has been reflected in the total number of 61,774 persons declared foreigners by various tribunals while 44,220 “D” voters were declared Indian citizens and in 37,382 cases, the tribunals could not express any opinion.
Mr. Gogoi revealed that since 1985, the year in which the Assam Accord was signed to bring the curtains down on six-year long anti-foreigners agitations spearheaded by the All-Assam Students’ Union (AASU), altogether 4,52,667 cases had been registered of which 1,85,275 were disposed of and 61,744 persons have been declared foreigners.
The Chief Minister pointed out that while the former Chief Minister and AGP president, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, as the then leader of the AASU during Assam agitation, claimed the presence of “50 lakh “foreign nationals” in Assam, Mr. Mahanta could not give any estimate of undocumented migrants or foreigners in the State while replying to questions raised on the floor of the Assembly in both the terms of the AGP government led by him.