New Delhi: Opposition on Wednesday said the inability to check infiltration from Bangladesh was the "greatest failure" of the UPA government on a matter of national security, alleging that it has led to the ethnic violence in Assam.

"The violence in Assam should not be seen as a communal incident. Let no one regard it as a Hindu versus Muslim affair or a tribal versus non-tribal one. The basic issue is between Indians and the infiltrators from across the border," senior BJP leader L K Advani said in the Lok Sabha.

Initiating a debate on an adjournment motion on infiltration and recent clashes in Kokrajhar and other areas of Assam, he said out of a total population of about three crore in the state, "between three to four lakh people have been rendered homeless. This is something unprecedented."

The motion was admitted by Speaker Meira Kumar after the Question Hour was adjourned with opposition members wanting an immediate discussion on the issue.

Pointing out that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had said the state was "sitting on a volcano", Advani said "if immediate steps are not taken, then similar situation will arise again."

He also referred to an article written by Election Commissioner H S Brahma which said that Assam was sitting on a huge tinder box.

Referring to the "unabated" infiltration over the past several years, he said it was not a matter to be handled just by the state government. "I cannot think of a greater failure of the Central government than this. ... It is the greatest failure and is a grave crisis for national security."

Observing that the issue of infiltration had first been raised by the Assam students agitation in early 1980s, he said the Supreme Court had also scrapped the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act maintaining that the government was "colluding with external aggression" by not taking any action to prevent infiltration.

Advani said the Centre had not implemented the 1964 order to identify foreign nationals by setting up tribunals and deporting them. But the government made the order inapplicable to Assam.

"No country tolerates this. There has been no action (by the government) despite the Supreme Court's judgement. I consider this very serious. This unchecked illegal immigration could lead to the third division of India. This is very dangerous. The apex court had asked the government to do this (identify foreign nationals) in four months," he said.

He said the then Minister of State for Home Sripraksh Jaiswal had in July 2000, informed Parliament that there were about 1.2 crore illegal immigrants including 50 lakh Bangladeshi nationals in Assam. But later he said that these estimates were made in haste and therefore not reliable.

"I want to know from the Home Minister about the government's official estimates of the number of illegal immigrants in India from Bangladesh, particularly in Assam. It would be good if the Prime Minister also comments on the issue," the BJP leader said, adding people of Assam were feeling that their land was being taken away.

He also wanted preparation of a national register of citizens and said "the first step (to exclude infiltrators) is disfranchisement of the Bangladeshis and then their deportation."

Countering the Opposition attack, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Paban Singh Ghatowar regretted that Advani focused on illegal migration instead of talking about rehabilitation of persons affected by violence in Assam.

Noting the complex problem in the state has been going  on since independence, he said Congress governments at the Centre and states had made several attempts to ensure peace and harmony in Assam.

Ghatowar said Congress was against foreigners living in the country, but "the citizens should not be harassed in the name of identifying foreigners."

Efforts should be made to restore normalcy in Assam and reopen schools and colleges so that lakhs of refugees living in camps could go back to their homes and lead a normal life, he added.

Participating in the discussion, Shailendra Kumar (SP) urged media to exercise restraint while reporting incidents in Assam and not to exaggerate them.

He also wanted the Centre to increase the quantum of assistance for rehabilitation of affected persons in the state and said Rs 300 crore announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not enough.

Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) said the tragedy could have been averted by timely action by the state government and security forces.

CPI-M member Basudeb Acharia described Assam violence a "monumental failure of the Centre and the state government" as the authorities failed to take action despite early warnings.

He said people who have been living in Assam since 1947-51 cannot be treated as refugees. The CPI-M leader also demanded a special package for the rehabilitation of affected persons.

Lalu Prasad (RJD) attacked Advani for dubbing UPA-II as "illegitimate" and said he hoped the BJP leader would clarify on his blog in which he said the possibility of a non-Congress, non-BJP PM after 2014 polls was little.

He said Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackrey has already hit back at Advani for his blog post.

Prasad alleged that as Home Minister Advani helped fan hatred against certain communities and BJP was now misleading tribals in Assam.

When he hinted that RSS and BJP were behind violence in Assam, his remarks drew instant ire from BJP and Sena members.

Ananth Geeta (Shiv Sena) while defending Advani on the issue of Assam violence said Prasad's remarks should not be taken seriously as he was desperately trying to become a minister in UPA-II though UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has so far ignored his efforts.

Tathagat Satpathy (BJD) wanted a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into the reasons behind Assam violence and suggest means to restore peace in the area.

During the debate, members from Assam sought immediate solution to the issue.

Bijoya Chakravarty (BJP) blamed the delay in sending the Army to Kokrajhar and other areas of Assam hit by violence, while Ranee Narah (Cong) said the main opposition party was "flaring up" the incident giving communal colour to it.

Chakravarty said she visited the camps where displaced people are staying and they are not provided basic facilities. "Centre and state governments have failed to act on time. There is no water, very little food is available. Prime Minister has announced Rs 300 crore. This is inadequate," she said.

Joseph Toppo (AGP) said the Centre has not taken steps to address the issue of migration from Bangladesh. He demanded immediate relief for the people displaced due to the violence.

Attacking BJP and its leader L K Advani for their alleged move to give communal colour to the incident, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal (AIUDF) said the Bangladeshi-speaking people are Indians settled in the area several decades ago.

If you want them to go back to Bangladesh, then Advani will have to go back to Pakistan, Ajmal said referring to Advani's migration to India during partition.

Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) alleged that the state government has failed to take timely action in the area. He also questioned Election Commissioner H S Brahma for writing article on the issue, asking how can a Constitutional authority make observation on such matters.

ET Mohammed Basheer (IUML), Tarun Mondal (Ind), Narhari Mahato (Forward Bloc) and Sharifuddin Shariq (NC) also asked the Government to provide immediate relief to people staying in camps.

(Agencies)

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