The Gorkhas of Assam, India

Context

  • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has recently issued a clarification with regards to status of Gorkhas living in Assam after a number of them had been left out of the draft NRC that was published in July this year.

 

Background

  • In a bid to deal with the issue of illegal immigrants in Assam, the updation exercise of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in accordance with the Assam Accord of 1985 is being undertaken.
  • According to the Assam Accord of 1985, all those who migrated to Assam from Bangladesh before March 25, 1971 are deemed to be citizens of India and thus a part of NRC.
  • Accordingly the final draft of the NRC published in July this year.
  • Those migrants excluded from the list undergo a process of detection, detention and deportation.
  • As a part of detection a number of Foreigners Tribunals are set up to hear the cases of those excluded from NRC.
  • In a setback to the Gorkha community in Assam, the draft NRC had excluded an estimated 100,000 Gorkhas in Assam.

 

What did the MHA say?

  • According to the MHA the criteria to be referred to Foreigners tribunals is
  • Those individuals who have come from specified territories in Bangladesh immediately before commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 1985, to the State of Assam.
  • Thus Gorkhas living in India cannot be referred to Foreigners Tribunals in Assam.

 

Gorkhas: Both Indian and Nepali

Who are Gorkhas?

  • Gorkhas are Nepali-origin people who take their name from the 8th-century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath.
  • A number of Gorkhas settled in India during British rule.
  • According to estimates around 20-22 lakh Gorkhas are living in Assam:
    • About six Gorkha regiments from the British Army were transferred to the Indian Army post-independence.
    • A number for Gorkhas came in the form of soldiers in the Gorkha Corps.
    • A number of Gorkhas were recruited in to The Assam Rifles.
    • Others were brought as workers in sectors and occupations including tea cultivation, laying of railway tracks, oil and coal industries, and as porters, herdsmen or marginal farmers.

 

What is the MHA’s stand on them?

  • Further the government in 1988 clarified that Gorkhas domiciled in India at the time of commencement of the Constitution, and those born in India, or born to one or both parents born in India, are citizens of India.
  • Further those with Nepalese citizenship shall not be treated as an illegal migrant in accordance with Indo-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950.
  • Accordingly the Indian Gorkhas of Assam by virtue of being Indian citizens are eligible to be a part of NRC.
  • The Nepali citizens on the other hand though are not eligible for inclusion; they cannot be referred to a Foreigners Tribunal.

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