Terming as “extraordinary” the situation of Bengali-Hindu migrants in Assam, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed to examine a plea to grant refugee status to them.
“We are not underestimating your concerns, considering the current situation in the state... we understand it is not an ordinary issue,” said a Bench of Justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi.
M N Krishnamani and Pinky Anand, counsel for the petitioner, NGOs Swajan and Bimolangshu Roy Foundation, told the court that more than two lakh immigrants in Assam have been denied benefit of the proviso to Section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950, which bars Foreigners’ Tribunal from deporting from Assam persons “who on account of civil disturbances or fear of such disturbances in area forming part of Pakistan has been displaced from and has left his place of residence in such area and who has been subsequently residing in Assam”.
“Moreover, it is not a problem afflicting only Assam. Some other eastern and north-eastern states are also affected by this,” the counsel added.
The Bench said the petitioner should also implead these states and come back to the court for redressal after two weeks.
The court had initially asked the petitioner’s counsel to approach the High Court for a “more effective consideration” but they argued that citing a recent High Court order, the authorities were pushing out most of the migrants without granting them the benefit of the proviso.
“The present dispensation in the state has resorted to targeting both genuine citizens and also the ‘displaced persons’ belonging to the Bengali-Hindu community in Assam. These persons... are being apprehended and pushed back to no-man’s land along the Indo-Bangladesh border and left to die there,” the petition said.