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Assam forms police panel to check illegal immigrants crossing border, crackdown on facilitators

The committee of police officers are expected to take immediate and proactive steps to identify intermediaries involved in 'anti-national' activities.

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Guwahati: The Assam government has formed a committee of police officers to check illegal infiltration across the border, specifically targeting a group of “facilitators and intermediaries who are presumably involved in several anti-national activities”, a senior police officer told ThePrint.

According to an order issued Tuesday by Director General of Police Mukesh Agarwal, IPS, Special Directorate General of Police (Border), the committee has been constituted “to take immediate and proactive steps to identify the intermediaries, facilitators, collaborators facilitating the infiltration of illegal migrants from across the international border into Assam”.

The move comes at a time when the state is gearing up for assembly polls this year. Illegal immigrants and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a hot-button issue in the BJP-ruled state.

The NRC list, published in August 2019, became controversial for leaving out over 19 lakh names, which resulted in allegations that a large number of post-1971 illegal migrants were included through false documents while genuine Indian citizens were excluded.

The new committee is being chaired by the Commandant of 7th Assam Police Battalion  Subhrajyoti Borah, and includes Partha Protim Das (sub divisional police officer, Lakhipur, Cachar), and Assam Police officers Kakoli Banya Baruah (deputy superintendent of police, Special Branch), Sukanya Das (deputy superintendent of police, CID) and Rukma Buragohain (deputy superintendent of police, Border).

“This is on a continuum — we have a well-established mechanism to check illegal infiltration and we try to fine tune it … This was already being done — we were nabbing people who illegally crossed over, sent them to Foreigner’s Tribunal, and we also caught people who helped such infiltrators,” DGP Agarwal told ThePrint.

“This will be a dedicated team of officers. The superintendents of police (Border) in all districts will continue with their responsibilities. This team will mainly collect intelligence and will coordinate with officers, and initiate legal action against perpetrators,” he added.

Also read: This Assam village has its own ministry, 26 ministers, 16 departments and a Chief Minister

What the order states

The order, a copy of which has been accessed by ThePrint, dictates that police in all Assam districts, including Railway Police, will take “legal action in their respective jurisdictions on the recommendation of the Committee wherever required”.

“They will also render necessary assistance to the committee in performing its task, including utilisation of Border Staff of the districts as and when required by the committee”, it said.

The committee’s progress is to be supervised by the deputy inspector general of police (Ranges), with follow-up action being taken in their respective ranges.

The Assam Police Border Organisation, which comes under the Assam Police, is entrusted with the task of detection and deportation of illegal immigrants and preventing their entry from across the International Border into Assam, among other responsibilities, to check cross border infiltration.

The Assam Police Border Organisation was established in 1962 under the P.I.P. (Prevention of Infiltration of Pakistani) Scheme. In 1974, it started functioning independently as the Border Organisation under a newly created post of deputy IGP (Border).

After the liberation war of Bangladesh, the P.I.P. Scheme was renamed as P.I.F. (Prevention of Infiltration of Foreigners) Scheme. In 1985, the head of the organisation was elevated to the rank of IGP and in 1997 to additional director general of police.

At present, the Border Organisation is manned by 4,037 personnel of different ranks. Of the total strength, 3,153 are sanctioned by the Government of India under the P.I.F. Scheme and 884 personnel are sanctioned by the state government. The total strength includes both armed and unarmed personnel.

Also read: Not West Bengal, but it’s the Assam polls that is most crucial for Modi-Shah this year

Stopping infiltrators

In December last year, state NRC coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma told the Gauhati High Court in an affidavit that 4,795 “ineligible” persons made it to the NRC. Published on 31 August 2019, the “final NRC” excluded 19.22 lakh people out of nearly 3.3 crore applicants.

Earlier this month, while investigating the abduction of two men in Karimganj district of South Assam, police discovered how illegal infiltrators were sneaking in through hume pipe culverts under border roads.

These culverts, located about 10-15 feet below the patrolling roads along the Indo-Bangladesh border, are approximately 3 feet in diameter. Cattle smugglers move dexterously through these routes to slip cows and buffaloes, and more recently, humans to the other side.

The Foreigners’ Tribunals in Assam were created through the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964. These quasi-judicial bodies review cases of suspected citizenship. Before the tribunals came into existence, the decision on citizenship of any person, and thereafter their expulsion, was done exclusively by the border police.

Also read: New book captures Assam’s struggles with immigrants since landmark 1985 accord


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