Guwahati, April 23 (IANS) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Monday said that he had raised with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the issue of granting refugee status to those people in the state who had fled their countries due to persecution, apparently referring to Hindus who were forced out from Bangladesh.
"For the first time I have raised the issue with centre so that there is more discussion on the topic. What I am saying is that these people should not be prosecuted when they enter our state or elsewhere in the country. These people should be given humanitarian treatment and refugee status," Gogoi said. He seemed to have referred to those people who came to Assam from Bangladesh after facing persecution, violence and atrocities.
The Chief Minister, however, did not refer to any community and only said that the issue was taken up with the prime minister during his visit to Assam on April 20 last, on grounds of "humanitarian" consideration.
During the last assembly election in 2011, the chief minister had raised the issue of giving refugee status to Hindu Bengalis, who fled Bangladesh and settled in the state. The Congress manifesto during the assembly elections in 2011 also mentioned about giving refugee status to Hindus who came from Bangladesh.
Gogoi's assurance of giving the Hindus refugee status during election rallies not only helped the Congress in garnering Hindu votes especially in Barak valley in 2011 elections but also blunted BJP's tool for consolidating Hindu votes.
His statement is likely to trigger a controversy in the state especially because the Assam Accord has clearly mentioned March 25, 1971 as cut-off date for deportation of those who entered Assam from Bangladesh.
The powerful students' body of the state-All Assam Students Union (AASU) has also been strongly demanding that irrespective of religious affiliations, whoever entering Assam from Bangladesh after the cut-off date should be deported.
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