New Delhi: In an indication that the ruling BJP has started work behind the scenes for the nationwide rollout of National Register of Citizens, union home minister Amit Shah said the detention centres being constructed all over the country is the government "preparing in advance".
"The process (of detention) will be managed by the Foreigners Tribunals (FT). The government has its own preparations to make. There is a legal process where FTs are concerned. That process has just started," he told News18 Network Group Editor-in-chief Rahul Joshi in an interview.
The statement comes amid reports that one detention centre for illegal immigrants has already been built in Karnataka, around 40 km from Bengaluru, while land for another has been identified in Navi Mumbai in Maharashtra as well. Both are BJP-ruled states.
FTs are quasi-judicial bodies that determine the citizenship of a person in India. So far, FTs exist only in Assam to hear appeals of those whose citizenship is under question by the Assam Border Police and those who have been excluded in the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list.
Shah has repeatedly claimed that the Modi government would implement the NRC all over the country and “throw out infiltrators” from every inch of India, and he reiterated it during the interview, saying that it will be done before the 2024 general election.
When asked what will happen to those who are identified as illegal immigrants, he said: "A legal process will be followed. A United Nations Convention is set up, rules are there and those laws will be followed".
Although the BJP has insisted that the illegal immigrants will be deported, neighbouring Bangladesh will definitely not accede to such a request, leaving a big question mark over what would happen to those declared stateless.
There are also human rights concerns over the detention centres and fears of minorities being targeted after Shah recently said a law will be introduced to give citizenship to non-Muslim refugees.
Until recently, Assam was the only state with detention centres housed inside existing jails. The construction of the first and largest official detention centre in Goalpara began in September.
The camp, built at a cost of Rs 45 crore, will be able to hold 3,000 detainees. There are plans to be 11 such detention centres to house the lakhs excluded by the NRC and declared non-citizens by the FTs.
In September, the Maharashtra state government identified a three-acre plot to build a detention centre to house illegal immigrants. Authorities in the state, however, have denied links of this centres with the National Register of Citizen in the state. Instead, it being said that the space has identified to detain offenders of illegal passport cases.
In Karnataka, a detention centers has been built in Sondekoppa in Nelamangala, around 40 km from Bengaluru. Authorities managing the centre claim that it is not a jail, but rather a "movement restriction centre".