New Delhi: As fault lines over the contentious National Register of Citizens grow deeper, the Union government came to the rescue of 1,00,000 Gorkhas whose names were left out of the NRC final draft and who now stand to face scrutiny before the foreigners’ tribunal.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has told the Assam government that Gorkhas or people of Nepali origin cannot be referred to the foreigners’ tribunal.
MHA in its letter to government of Assam has stated, "Members of the Gorkha community who were Indian citizens at the time of commencement of the Constitution, or those who are Indian citizens by birth, or those who have acquired Indian citizenship by registration or naturalization in accordance with the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 are not “foreigners” in terms of section 2 (a) of The Foreigners Act, 1946 as well as The Registration of Foreigners Act,1939, therefore, such cases will not be referred to the Foreigners Tribunals."
Citing the Indo-Nepal friendship treaty of 1950, MHA has informed the Assam government that any person who holds a Nepali identity document cannot be referred to the foreigners’ tribunal.
The Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship allows free movement of Indian and Nepalese people into each other’s territory, own property, participate in trade and commerce and enjoy other privileges except voting rights.
The Centre’s clarification comes after the All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union recently met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and highlighted the plight of Gorkhas who have been referred to foreigners’ tribunal and in some cases even sent to a detention centre.
“The mandate of the foreigners’ tribunal is to deport people of Bangladeshi origin. The Gorkhas owe their origin from Nepal so referring them to FT was a mistake,” a MHA official told CNN-News18.
The official added that there are some concerns that a few Gorkhas have tried to register themselves under the NRC, which will also give them voting rights, something that the 1950 treaty did not envisage.
"Union government is in consultation with the Election Commission on how to deal with this problem. One suggestion is that such cases be referred to the EC and they take a decision whether the names of these people should be removed from the voters’ list. But no decision in this regard yet has been taken yet," the official told CNN-News18.
Union government has also asked the all Assam Gorkha Students Union to carry out an accurate assessment of how many Gorkhas have been referred to the foreigners’ tribunal and specific cases of Gorkhas being held in detention centers so that more corrective steps can be taken.