Against the backdrop of violence in Assam, a group of eminent citizens Monday termed illegal influx from Bangladesh as a "national problem" and appealed to the government to send out a strong message that such migrants will be tackled under due process.
In a statement, personalities including Jamia Millia Islamia Vice Chancellor Najib Jung, Roshmi Goswami and Harsh Mander called upon political and other groups to "reduce the rhetoric", to help Assam and the region and other parts of the country pull back from an "abyss".
"It is our view that the Centre and state governments must assert in no uncertain terms that those migrants who have illegally slipped across the Indo-Bangladesh border to any part of the country since March 25, 1971 - the agreed cut off date - will be tackled under due process or even through a system of Special Courts to speed up the process," they said.
They said this is a problem "facing all of India" and noted that hate speech and abuse of new media has created a situation where tens of thousands fled their places of work and residence and returned home.
"Thankfully, that flow has begun to be reversed. However, instead of merely curbing hate speech, governments need to firmly handle acts of hatred and racial discrimination," the statement said.
The issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh remains an explosive and unresolved issue 27 years after the signing of the Assam Accord and this primarily represents a labour flow from Bangladesh, and needs also to be raised with Dhaka, they said.
They demanded that the word `Bangladeshi` must be used to define those who have came post-1971 (the creation of Bangladesh) and should not be used casually to refer to people who are Bengali-speaking or of Bengali origin, whatever their religious persuasion, who have settled in Assam before 1971.
They also said people in relief camps must be assisted to return home, in conditions of dignity and safety and that border patrolling needs to be more robust especially in the riverine areas.
"Economic cooperation on joint projects on the Bangladesh side of the border could help reduce the flow and make remaining at home more attractive," they said.