Guwahati: The National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been updated in Assam to identify illegal immigrants, yet it has come to light that a large number of names belonging to illegal foreigners has been allegedly added in the electoral rolls of the state.

Over 2.17 crore people will exercise their franchise in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The polls for the 14 constituencies in Assam will be held in three phases – April 11, 18 and 23.

Assam Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Mukesh Chandra Sahu said that the people who have been left out of the final NRC draft would be able to exercise their franchise in the election if their names figure in the electoral rolls.

The NRC was updated in the state to identify the immigrants, the names of over 40.7 lakh people did not figure in the final draft which was published last on July 30. The Supreme Court has directed the Union home ministry and the NRC authorities to publish the final list by July 31 this year.

Various organisations of the state have alleged that the names of a large number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the state are present in the electoral rolls.

The Assam movement which lasted six years was initiated as a protest against illegal immigrants in the state (mostly Bangladeshi), and to expel them from the state to protect the constitutional rights of indigenous Assamese people. 

In 1978, due to the death of Hiralal Patwari, a by-election was held in the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha constituency to fill the seat. During the election process, observers noticed that the number of registered voters had grown dramatically.

The Assam movement developed after the All Assam Students Union (AASU) demanded postponement in the elections till the names of foreigners were deleted from the electoral rolls.
After the six-year-long historical movement, Assam Accord was signed between the All Assam Students Union (AASU), the Union government and the Assam government on August 15, 1985, in the presence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

 According to the Assam Accord ‘foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law. Immediate and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners’.

As of January 2019, the Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam have declared 1,03,764 persons as illegal foreigners while the state government could deport only 29,829 persons. During the last state budget session, the Assam government admitted it in the Assembly.

According to government data, a total of 6,26,793 cases have been registered against suspected foreigners. The state government has deported a total of 104 persons in the past three years.

The state government had deported 13 persons in 2016, 26 in 2017, 65 in 2018 and 26 in January this year.

The question that has been raised now is if the Foreigners’ Tribunals of the state have declared 1,03,764 persons as illegal immigrants and the government was able to deport only a small number among them, where have the others gone?

Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of the AASU, said that a large number of illegal foreigners’ names had been included in the electoral rolls and they have voted during the past elections.

“It seems that the illegal foreigners will play a vital role in various constituencies in the state and it was proved in the earlier elections also. Even the Gauhati High Court in 2008, while observing how Bangladeshi nationals with their brute numbers have become ‘kingmakers’ in the state, had warned that the day is not far off ‘when the indigenous people of Assam, both Hindus and Muslims and other religious groups will be reduced to minorities in their land, and the Bangladeshis, who are freely and merrily moving around the fertile area of Assam, will intrude upon the corridors of power,” Lurinjyoti Gogoi said.

The AASU leader further said that the government has failed to detect and deport the illegal foreigners living in Assam.

“All political parties have used the illegal foreigners' issue as a political tool,” Gogoi said.

Two years ago, Assam police had issued an advertisement that over 38,000 declared illegal immigrants were missing.