Guwahati, 09.09.2015: We welcome the decision of the Central Government, on humanitarian ground to exempt Bangladeshi nationals belonging to minority communities who have entered India on or before December 31, 2014 from the relevant provisions of rules and order made under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946 in respect of their stay in India without such documents or after expiry of those documents, as the case may be.
However, we reiterate our demand made in 2014, by submitting a representation with the Union Home Minister, Sri. Rajnath Singh, highlighting that the problem of Bengali (Hindu) refugees from Bangladesh and that of trans-border indigenous and aboriginal communities of South Asia like the Koch-Rajbanshis, the Garos, the Khasis, the Mizos, the Rabhas, the Dimasas, the Mech, the Meities, and others (be it Animist, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian etc.) residing in Bangladesh are different and will need to be looked at from a different perspective. Like the Bengali Hindus the above mentioned Indigenous communities are in minority in Bangladesh vis-a-vis the Bengali Muslims. But unlike the Bengali Hindus the people from the said Indigenous communities like the Koch-Rajbanshis do not share the same language, literature, ethnicity, racial background, history, culture, etc like the Bengali Hindus and Bengali Muslims. The historical fact is that, Bengali nationalism could not keep the Bengali people united, as they got divided on religious line, otherwise for all other matters they are one and the same class of people. Whereas that is not true with the above referred indigenous communities, as within Bangladesh, they are the ‘minority within minority’.
Presently, the Indian legal framework has no uniform law to deal with the refugee issue, in particular that of trans-border indigenous communities; the Foreigners Act (1946) is the current law consulted by authorities with regard to refugees and asylum seekers. But the primary and most significant lacuna in this law is that it does not contain the term ‘refugee’; consequently under the Indian Law, the term ‘foreigner’ is used to cover aliens temporarily or permanently residing in the country. This places refugees, along with immigrants, and tourists in this broad category, depriving them of privileges available under the Geneva Convention.
CKRSD prayed for – (i) To enact a National Refugee Law for the Trans Border Indigenous People of South Asia having linkages with similar class of indigenous people in India, (ii) To have a separate ‘Task Force’ (like the one for Sindhi and Bengali people) for Refugees and Asylum seekers belonging to the Indigenous communities, (iii) In the North-Eastern states and in North Bengal, refugee and asylum status (including settlement) should be granted only to people belonging to Indigenous communities of South Asia having linkages with similar Indigenous communities on the Indian side.
Vikram Rajkhowa Arup Jyoti Das