It speaks volumes for the lethargy in our gov- ernance mechanisms, that a key provision of the Assam Accord of 1985, signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985, remained unimplemented for long. This six-year-long agitation, demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) in 1979 and culminated with the signing of the Accord, which spelt out the following:
• For purposes of detection and deletion of foreigners, 1.1.1966 shall be the base data and year.
• All persons who come to Assam prior to 1.1.1966, including those amongst them whose names appeared on the electoral rolls used in 1967 elections shall be regularised.
• Foreigners who came to Assam after 1.1.1966 (inclusive) and upto 24 March 1971shall be detected in accordance with the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964.
• Names of foreigners so detected will be deleted from the electoral rolls in force. Such persons will be required to register themselves before the Registration Officers of the respective districts in accordance with the provisions of the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1939.
The illegal immigrants have caused huge changes in the demography of the state which led to genuine fears that the local inhabitants were being marginalised in their own lands. However, vote bank politics of the Congress party ensured that the exercise of detection was not carried out. It was tragic that when the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) too came to power, they did not carry out this exercise to deport the illegal immigrants. Later in a travesty of the Assam Accord, the Indira Gandhi government in 1983 enacted the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal ) (IMDT) Act, as an Act of the Parliament. The provisions of the Act made it virtually impossible to detect and deport any illegal immigrant. Equally tragic was the fact that the existing Indian Law in terms of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964 was superseded by the provisions of the IMDT.
The IMDT Act was challenged in the Supreme Court in 2005 by Mr Sarbananda Sonowal in the Sarbananda Sonowal v. Union of India case. The Apex court ruled against the govern- ment and it was based on the orders of the Apex Court that the Assam Government has prepared the National Register of Citizens, which has detected over 4 million illegal immigrants. These individuals have the right to appeal, but the onus of proof rests on them. The work done by the Government of Assam needs to be applauded and also replicated in the rest of the country. Conservative figures put the number of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the range of 4 crore, spread out across the country. We also have a large num- ber of illegal Rohingya, settled in Jammu and in other parts of the country. These people too must be identified and disenfranchised and thereafter action must be taken to deport them. India is in peril if such action is not taken immediately.