Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 22 claimed that there are no detention centres in the country. Interestingly, his ministers informed the Lok Sabha numerous times that there are six such centres in Assam.
“Congress aur urban Naxals ke dwara udai gayi detention centres ka afwa, sara sar jhooth hai. Galat iraade wali hai, desh ko barbad karne wali hai, ye napak irada se bhari hai, ye jhooth hai, jhooth hai, jhooth hai (The rumour of detention centres being spread by the Congress and urban Naxals is totally false. This is being done with a bad intention to destroy the country, it’s filled with evil motives; this is a lie, lie, lie),” Narendra Modi said in New Delhi on Sunday.
Later, he added: “Koi desh ke Musalamano ko na detention centre bheja jaa raha hai, na Hindustan me koi detention centre hai. Ye safed jhoot hai…. (Neither are any of the country’s Muslims being sent to detention centres nor is there any detention centre in India. It’s a white lie).”
Interestingly, there are 6 detention centres in Assam – one each at Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Tezpur with around 1000 inmates.
Minister of State of Home Affairs Nityanand Rai had informed the Lok Sabha on November 19 that, “Detention centres are set up by state governments or Union Territory administrations as per their requirement to detain illegal migrants or foreigners who have completed their sentence pending their deportation to their native country. At present, detention centres have been set up only in the state of Assam.”
In reply to a question raised by Congress MP from the Barpeta constituency of Assam, Rai said, as of November 13, a total of 1,043 foreigners are residing in the six detention centres in Assam. “A total of 1,025 Bangladeshi and 18 Myanmarese are in these centres,” he informed.
Rai, on July 2, informed the House that instructions have been issued to all the state governments and Union Territories administrations from time to time in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2018, for setting up detention centres as per requirement to restrict the movements of illegally staying foreign nationals so that they are physically available at all times for expeditious repatriation and deportation.
He also said that since the illegal migrants enter into the country without valid travel documents “in a clandestine and surreptitious manner, there is no accurate data regarding the number of such illegal migrants living in the country”.
These were not the only times when the House was informed about such centres in the country.
The talks of detention centres surfaced as the country faced protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Modi in his speech at Ramlila Maidan on Sunday said the CAA is not for any Indian, be it Muslim or Hindu. “This was said in the Parliament and no false statement is allowed in the Parliament.”
Modi said the opposition parties are spreading rumours that all the Muslims will be sent to the detention centres. “Neither Muslims are being sent to the detention centres nor there are any detention centres in the country,” Modi said while addressing the public in the national capital.
However, on July 16, G Kishan Reddy, also the Minister of State for Home, said the detention centres in Assam are to detain the Declared Foreign Nationals (DFNs) and Convicted Foreigners who have completed their sentences and whose repatriation to their country of origin is pending nationality verification.
He rejected the scope of the question raised by Congress MP from Thrissur (Kerala) TN Prathapan, that these centres are to detain those who don’t have enough documents proving their citizenship.
“The detention centres have been set up in Assam under powers under Section 3(2)(e) of Foreigners Act, 1946 delegated to all the states and Union Territories.”
He said the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a ‘Model Detention Centre or Holding Centre or Camp Manual’ for implementation and compliance.
“The Model Detention Centre Manual prescribes the amenities to be provided in the detention centres to maintain standards of living in consonance with human dignity including electricity with a generator, drinking water, hygiene, accommodation with beds, sufficient toilets/baths with provisions of running water, communication and medical facilities, provisions for kitchen and recreational facilities,” Reddy informed.
On July 2, Reddy said special attention is to be given to women and nursing mothers and children.
“Children lodged in detention centres are to be provided educational facilities in nearby local schools,” he said.
Reddy on July 2, in another answer to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, informed that 769 people have been kept in these detention centres (in Assam) for more than a year, as of June 25.
Reddy said as of June 25, 1,133 people were detained in the six detention centres of Assam, of which 335 have been kept for more than three years.
Reddy, on December 10, informed the Lok Sabha that there has been no suicide in any detention camp for the declared Foreigners in Assam in the last six months.
On December 3, he informed that Women and men detainees are kept in separate rooms, with sufficient essential and basic facilities.
“They are living with human dignity and they are not deprived of any basic facility. There is no report of any rape incident of women detainees in detention centres. The detainees are allowed to meet their family members and legal advisors and there is no restriction as regards this,” Reddy added.