The Assam government has decided to urge the Narendra Modi-led Union government to frame a policy for granting asylum to persons who have taken refuge in India after fleeing their country on grounds of religious persecution and discrimination. The decision was taken on July 16 at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.
The Cabinet’s decision has once again brought to the fore the controversial issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. Gogoi’s demand for asylum, seemingly targeting the Hindu immigrants from the neighbouring country, is in sync with a pre-poll promise that Prime Minister Modi made on February 22 at Silchar in Assam. “We have a responsibility toward Hindus who are harassed and suffer in other countries. Where will they go? India is the only place for them. As soon as we come to power at the Centre, detention camps housing Hindu migrants from Bangladesh will be done away with,” Modi said in a public rally.
The timing of the Cabinet decision is significant as it has come four days after four Muslim traders were abducted and killed by suspected NDFB (S) militants in Baksa, one of the four districts under the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts. Since 2012, over hundred people have been killed in BTAD in clashes between Bodos and Muslims alleged to be of Bangladeshi origin.
However, this is not the first time Gogoi has raised the issue of granting asylum to Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh. Weeks before the 2011 Assembly polls in Assam, he said that Hindu Hindu Bangladeshi immigrants should be considered as refugees. On April 20, 2012, he submitted a memorandum to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him that Indian citizens who had to flee due to religious persecution during partition should not be treated as foreigners on humanitarian grounds.