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Govt must seal border to tackle influx: Sinha

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, July 18 - Former Governor Lt Gen (Retd) SK Sinha has called upon Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to take immediate effective steps to seal the international border with Bangladesh to prevent fresh infiltration of foreign nationals. He also asked Sonowal to recommend Bharat Ratna award posthumously to Dr Bhupen Hazarika.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, Lt Gen Sinha said that he has already written to the Chief Minister with his suggestions to deal with the problem of infiltration of foreigners. However, he said that he is yet to get a reply from Sonowal.

Lt Gen Sinha pointed out that if the government has the political will, the Assam-Bangladesh border can be sealed within three months. He pointed out that when he was the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, more than 700 kilometres of international border with Pakistan was fenced in a year, that too in a hostile hilly terrain. There is no reason why only around 260 kilometres of border between Assam and Bangladesh, that too mostly in plains, cannot be sealed within three months, he added.

On the riverine international border, which is now considered most vulnerable, Lt Gen Sinha expressed the view that with the modern gadgets available, it should not be difficult to guard the border. He pointed out that even during the World War II, the Japanese had laid mines on the Rangoon river and a massive mine sweeping operation had to be launched. �I am not suggesting anything as drastic as laying of mines. But with the modern available gadgets, it should not be difficult to guard the international riverine border,� he added.

Lt Gen Sinha suggested that in addition to use of modern gadgets, the government can think of using mobile police stations, increase of patrolling on the river with searchlights, etc., can be done and at the same time, steps should be taken to ensure that all the boats plying near the international border are properly registered.

The former Governor admitted that it would not be possible to deport all the foreign nationals living in India. �There is a huge number of foreigners living in India and it will not be feasible to drive all of them away,� he said. He suggested that all-out efforts should be made to prevent fresh infiltration and those who have already entered India should be detected and made stateless citizens with no right to vote or procure land. If that can be done, the infiltrators will lose political patronage, he added.

Replying to a question on the jehadi threat to Assam, Lt Gen Sinha said that the entire world is facing threat from the jehadi groups including the Islamic State and Assam is as vulnerable as any other part of the world. He said that adequate precautionary measures must be taken to deal with the growth of the jehadi elements.

Lt Gen Sinha said that Sonowal should recommend to the Centre to confer Bharat Ratna award posthumously to Dr Bhupen Hazarika. He pointed out that during his tenure as the Governor of Assam, he had recommended Bharat Ratna to Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi and the Centre accepted the recommendation. There is no reason why the Centre would not confer Bharat Ratna to Dr Bhupen Hazarika if the State Government makes a strong recommendation, he pointed out.

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