Indian Home Minister Amit Shah said on Sunday that his government would ensure that ‘not a single illegal immigrant will be allowed to stay back in India.’ Addressing a meeting of Chief Ministers of eight north eastern states in Guwahati, Shah said "questions are being raised about the National Register of Citizens (NRC) by different sections. But today, I just want to say this that the BJP-led government is committed to ensure that not a single illegal immigrant enters the region."
The NRC in Assam has also been completed within the stipulated time-frame, he said in his first comments on the final NRC since it was published on August 31. Shah's visit to Assam came just a little over a week after the publication of the final NRC which excluded 19.6 lakh people.
Shah assured the north eastern states that the federal Indian government would “not touch” Article 371 of the Indian Constitution that is applicable to the Northeast.” He said that after Article 370 of the Constitution which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped last month, there were attempts to "misinform and misguide" the people of the Northeast that Article 371 would be scrapped by the Centre.
"I have clarified in Parliament that this is not going to happen and I am saying it again today in the presence of eight chief ministers of the Northeast that the two Articles are different and the Centre will not touch Article 371," Shah said. The Constituent Assembly had framed Article 370 as a temporary provision but Article 371 is about special provisions in the Northeast and there is a vast difference between the two, the Home Minister said.
"I think it is important to clarify the difference between the two. Let me make it clear that the Prime Minister and the BJP government respects Article 371 and 371 (A)," he said. Most of the states that have been accorded special provisions under Article 371 are in the Northeast and the special status aims to preserve their tribal culture.
There was an attempt to give “a wrong message” that the BJP-led government would scrap Article 371 and this was done by people who did not want peace in the Northeast or the region to become an engine of development, Shah said. He said that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi there has been a "drastic decline" in terrorism and militant activities. "I do not want to quote statistics but the entire country and the world knows that we have been able to control it."
“There are still misguided people who indulge in armed activities but "our minds are open and hands stretched for those who want to lay down arms. For those who want to continue, the governments at the Centre and the state will follow a zero-tolerance policy," he said. “The miguided people who take up arms are our own but are tools in the hands of vested foreign forces", Shah said.
He said border dispute between the different states of the Northeast is a major issue which must end. "If India-Bangladesh border dispute can be resolved, why not disputes among our states in the region? Rise above border disputes and support each other so that the entire region can develop together," Shah said. He said the Northeastern region was earlier known for terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, social tensions but now it is known for development, infrastructure, sports, connectivity and India’s outreach to South East Asia.