April 07, 2020
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The Native's Partisanship

The Native's Partisanship
The Assam governor, Lt Gen (retd) S.K. Sinha, is once again in the news for the wrong reasons. This time the governor is at loggerheads with Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi over the contentious Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983. Sinha is a staunch proponent of scrapping the controversial Act and looks askance at the Congress government’s keenness to retain it.

Gogoi, peeved with the way the governor is going about airing his personal views on the subject, has decided to write to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam asking him to restrain Sinha.

Worried that his deteriorating relationship with the Congress government might undermine his own position, Sinha moved quickly to mount a damage control operation. He took great pains to emphasise in a public statement that there was no rift between him and the chief minister.

The IM(DT) Act, applicable only in Assam for identification of foreigners, puts the onus of proving a person as foreigner on the accusing party. This is in contrast to the Foreigners Act, 1956, which puts the responsibility of proving nationality on the accused. Other parties have for years accused the Congress of being soft on illegal migrants from Bangladesh and see the Act as an instrument for electoral ends. The Congress, in turn, has always blocked moves to repeal the Act in Parliament, stating that even local Muslims will face harassment.

Gogoi and Sinha have never been on the best of terms. On the eve of the state assembly elections in May 2001, the two had engaged in a verbal cross-fire, with the Congress accusing the governor of taking a stand in favour of the AGP.

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