New Delhi: The National Register of Citizens (NRC) needs to be extended to the entire country, not just Assam, while the country should “detect, delete and deport” illegal immigrants. Speaking at a seminar titled ‘NRC: Defending the Borders, Securing the Culture’ here in Delhi’s Constitution Club, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal made a pitch for a pan-Indian exercise in identifying illegal migrants, while BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said illegal settlers must be identified, then stripped of the resources of the state they have hogged, and then deported.

“This country has become a ‘dharmashala’; anyone comes and goes and nobody cares,” Madhav said. In a critique of the Congress and the Opposition’s anti-NRC stand, Madhav reminded Rahul Gandhi that it was his great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru who had passed the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act in 1950. “As I always say, he must read history,” Madhav quipped.

Targeting the West Bengal chief minister, Madhav said, “In 2005, Mamata Banerjee alleged that CPM government in West Bengal had allowed illegal immigrants owing to vote-bank politics. Now, in 2018, she has taken a 180° turn, standing with those very migrants.”

Madhav said, “There are many who argue that illegal migrants should be let to stay. No country in the world does not let infiltrators stay. Such as prosperous country as the US, with three times bigger land mass than us, it has one-third population than us. Despite all their resources, they are making a fence bordering Mexico. No country allows. Saudi Arabia expelled 7,500 Pakistanis. They don’t have any want of money and Pakistanis are co-religionists. Even then they do it. Bangladesh expels people of the same religion, including our brethren from Kerala.”

Sonowal, on the other hand, praised late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for having stood behind the NRC process and for having started a policy to block borders with neighbouring countries, which had, till that time, been neglected.

“The Northeast has seen incessant waves of large-scale migration from former East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh for decades. This is invasion by migration,” Sonowal said.

“The illegal migration from Bangladesh cannot be seen just as a problem for Assam. Assam accounts for only a fraction of the total illegal immigrants coming to the country. The population increase reflected in census in such States as West Bengal, Meghalaya, Bihar etc are far beyond the national average. Even Delhi and other metros has started feeling the pinch of this phenomenon. Besides being a law and order problem, they threaten the culture and resources of the country. I feel NRC must be there in every State,” said Sonowal.

The Assam chief minister said, “Largescale migration into Assam from neighbouring countries has altered the culture of Assam and threatens the identity of Assam. Prior to Independence, many people from different parts of India came to Assam and assimilated Assam’s culture. These people profusely contributed to the greater cultural identity of Assam and now this is under threat. Enormity of the problem Assam population doubled between 1901 and 1941. More than doubled, till 1971, from 1941. Between 1971 to 1991, the population increased by 52.44%. In the 70 years, between 1901 and 1971, it increased from 32.90 lakh to 146 lakh, that is 343.77%. This high growth of population happened largely due to migration from Bangladesh.”

Rajya Sabha MP and BJP leader Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, who chaired the seminar, recounted his experience of the Assam movement when he had visited the state as a journalist. “The Assam movement was a unique one as it saw the entire society ranged together to turn out illegal migrants to their State.”

Sahasrabuddhe added, “I remember in 2007, Congress was governing Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. AP decided that they would turn out illegal Bangladeshis. Over 3000 illegal Bangladeshi migrants were turned out and into Assam. Assam chief minister of Congress said he would want to probe the matter. He took three months. And then declared in all newspapers that they were all citizens of Assam only. They were Congress vote-bank.”

“Even the Majuli island saw how illegals were made to settle there. Infiltrators were invited to settle inside the reserved forests of Assam. What informed this was just votebank politics. Party-oriented and petty politics took precedence over national security. This is what the subsequent Congress governments in Assam and at the Centre did.”

“This is a question of economy, culture and demography.”

“This is not just a problem of Assam. It can land on our doorsteps if it goes unchecked,” Sahasrabuddhe said.

MyNation editor-in-chief Abhijit Majumder said that Assam’s NRC was perhaps the first potent policy weapon India had used against continuing economic and cultural takeover of “Bharat” in the past 700-800 years.

“However, illegal immigration is not restricted to just Assam. It spread to each and every corner of India. It just takes less than 48 hours of travel for an illegal immigrant to reach anywhere in India today. So, we must extend it to the rest of India. We must now use nationwide the four Ds that Assam agitation talked about — detect, disenfranchise, and deport illegal immigrants, and clearly demarcate the border.”

“In Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who had raised the issue of illegal Bangladeshi migration in Parliament many years ago,” added Majumder, “is their greatest champion and sympathiser now. So great is her sympathy, that for the last few years, Saraswati Puja and Durga puja, absolutely central to Bengal’s tradition and culture, have been challenged in several places. ‘Akashi’ colour, the blue of the skies, is has been changed to ‘asmani’ in schoolbooks. Even Ramdhonu, or rainbow, has been secularised by dropping the Ram and calling it Rongdhonu. This is how cultural takeover happens.”