Monday, August 13, 2012

'Throw out illegal immigrants by process of law'

Excerpts from a speech made by the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, on 9 August, in a discussion on the recent incidents of communal violence that took place in Assam

In Kokrajhar, the Bodo population is significant. Adjacent to the region is Dhubri. The 2001 Census shows here, almost 71 per cent of the population comprises not the ethnic minority but migrants. When the results of the 2011 Census are declared, this figure is likely to cross 80 per cent. Where do you have 80 per cent illegal immigrants adjacent to the Bangladesh border? Right next to the chicken's neck. Therefore, that is the kind of security threat it constitutes to India, besides being an expansion of the territory.

Today, we have friendly relations and we hope to strengthen those friendly relations. But no country will allow encroachment into its territory by illegal immigration. We have allowed it to take place. So, a question then arises: How do we get rid of these people? How do you say all of them are foreign nationals? Sir, I was reading and in terms of jurisprudence, the most legendary and liberal name in the world, at least from our jurisprudence point of view, has been that of Lord Denning. On the due process of law, how do you get rid of these people who are foreigners, who immigrate illegally, whether it is in America or anywhere? Whether it is a Pakistani or a British citizen or a Bangladeshi, who comes without legitimacy and enters our territory, must be thrown out by a due process.

You cannot say that a due process is not possible and, therefore, we do not throw them out. But Lord Denning has probably done the most monumental work on the due process of law. He is universally regarded as a global authority on the subject. Now, England does not face these kinds of threats. They only have some illegal immigration. Now, a liberal like him, when he refers to England, says, and I quote, “In recent times, England has been invaded” — he uses the word ‘invaded’ — “not by enemies, nor by friends but by those who seek England as a haven. In their own countries, there is poverty, disease and no homes. In England, there is social security, a national health service, guaranteed housing to all to be had for the asking without payment and without working for it. Once here, each seeks to bring his relatives to join him. So, they multiply exceedingly”.

This, he is speaking about the developed country, and here we are dealing with these bordering districts of Assam which are, as it is, economically deprived. So, you allow because there is pressure on land in Bangladesh, there is pressure on the economy in Bangladesh. So, you allow an en masse migration to take place. The result of that en masse migration is that you have a complete demographic change in those regions leading to social tensions.

What was the government’s approach? And, I will make good this charge against the present government. You had a law which is there in every country, which is called the Foreigners Act. The Foreigners Act is a law by which you check the illegitimate entry of foreigners into any country. The Foreigners Act always has a provision that whenever the State feels this man has entered the country illegally, the onus of proof is on this person to show he is a legitimate resident or a citizen. So, the Foreigners Act worked very well. So, every time the government of India feels that somebody, whether it is from any friendly or unfriendly state, has wrongfully entered into India or overstayed, the Foreigners Act notice is given.

The onus of proof is on him to show he has entered the country unlawfully. You should have applied the Foreigners Act. After all you had the Assam Accord in 1985. But the government said in 1983 that this Foreigners Act will not suit Assam. The state which is most affected by illegal entry of immigrants is Assam. So, you said, “This Act will not apply. We will bring the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act (IMDT Act)”. We have a tribunal which will determine it. What you did was, in that tribunal, you created a law so that you could make impossible the detection, determination and deportation of illegal foreigners.

The change which you suddenly brought about for Assam was for the rest of the country, the Foreigners Act would apply, but for Assam, the IMDT would apply.

Now, this Act was challenged. My party always had a view that this Act should be repealed; go back to the Foreigners Act. The Supreme Court struck down this Act.

We thought after the Supreme Court’s judgement, at least the government would now learn. So, what they did was they went back to the Foreigners Act, and framed rules under the Foreigners Act. The Foreigners Act said: “The onus is on the alleged foreigner to prove that he is an Indian citizen”. They said that this provision will not apply to Assam. For Assam, the provision is: The state will have to show that he is a foreigner. So, what the court struck down in the first round directly, they brought in indirectly with laws.

The Supreme Court considered the challenge a second time, again struck it down and said, ‘This is completely unconstitutional, this is not acceptable.’ So, your rules have also been struck down as ultra vires to the Act. We are back to square one and you are not allowing the Foreigners Act to operate.

Now what is the position in districts like Dhubri and Goalpara where you have 60, 70 or more than 80 per cent foreigners? On local inhabitants there is pressure, there is pressure on land, there is pressure on economy, there is pressure on resources, etc. You can say that there are so many people in the relief camps, these cases have been registered, the CBI will now investigate matters. This will be at best — I regret to use that word — a clerical approach to resolving this problem. Fortunately, we have the benefit of Mr Shinde who is looking at this matter afresh as the new home minister. I would urge him to please reject this approach, please go back to your present leadership. I do not know, I am getting mixed signals from your present chief minister, from the statements I read.
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