Kolkata (IANS): Gowher Rizvi, Special Advisor to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, on Friday claimed India has never raised the issue of illegal Bangladeshi migrants staying on its soil with his government and asked New Delhi to prove that the ‘illegal immigrants’ of Northeast India are indeed Bangladeshis.
“At present they are the residents (whose names are not there in the National National Register for Citizens list) of India and India should prove that they are residents of Bangladesh, and not India,” Rizvi, also a historian, said at the India Today Conclave East here.
Rizvi said most people in Bangladesh see the issue of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in India as an “internal Indian discussion”.
“I do want to say I respect it, it is an Indian discussion. And the Indians will discuss and debate what is in their best interest.
“We have the closest and the fondest of relationship with the current Indian government. In fact, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji is very, very popular in Bangladesh. In 10 years, that I have been adviser to PM (Hasina), this issue has never been raised with us.”
Rizvi said he did not find it surprising that New Delhi never broached the illegal migrant issue with Dhaka, but contested Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju’s statement that over 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants were now staying in India.
“I don’t think that is very surprising, this is a process. And the process has started, and at some point, the process will come to a point, when this thing might be on the table.
“But at that level, many more things will happen. We heard the figure of 20 million. I don’t know where this figure has come from. We can pluck any figure from the air. So we will have to talk about the figure,” he said.
However, he said if there were Bangladeshis illegally staying in India, Bangladesh will obviously want to take its citizens back.
“The important thing is that there has to be a process to determine. And there has to be a process by which that determination takes place,” he said.
Rizvi said the Rohingyas have been persecuted and they were deliberately thrown out from Myanmar as a part of ethnic cleansing and it is not acceptable.
“We should distinguish between Rohingyas and those ‘illegal immigrants’ of Northeast India. Both cases are entirely different,” added Rizvi.
He said India was providing relief materials to help Bangladesh cope with pressure of sheltering the Rohingya refugees on its soil.
“In fact, India is the first country to bring relief to Chittangong. Second, India has promised to build homes for the Rohingyas in Myanmar. It essentially means that Rohingyas would have homes when they go back,” added Rizvi.