The West Bengal government has said two detention centres will be set up there soon for foreign nationals arrested on various criminal charges but sought to make it clear that these centres will have "absolutely no connection" with the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
The Mamata Banerjee-led state government has already finalised a plot of land in eastern Kolkata’s locality New Town to set up one detention centre, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
The process is underway to locate land in Bongaon in North 24 Parganas district, on the border with Bangladesh, for setting up the second centre.
West Bengal Correctional Services Minister Ujjwal Biswas told the media in Kolkata last evening.
He said an existing government building in Bongaon could be converted as the second camp temporarily until the piece of land is located.
"These detention camps are being constructed adhering to the Supreme Court directives according to which foreign nationals under trial and those convicted should not be kept with local inmates," Biswas said.
He said, "this has absolutely no connection with the NRC. Please don't link it to NRC."
The two proposed detention centres would accommodate around 200 inmates, sources said.
Biswas also cited a 2014 directive of the Indian government which asked all states to set up at least one detention centre for illegal immigrants and foreign nationals awaiting deportation after completion of their sentence.
"Till now, foreign nationals arrested for criminal activities are lodged in jails along with Indian inmates. But we have observed that this creates problems due to different cultures and languages, and the situation becomes quite difficult for us to handle," Biswas said.
The BJP has been demanding the implementation of NRC in West Bengal too, to drive out illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The proposed NRC implementation in West Bengal has turned into a flashpoint with chief minister Mamata Banerjee vehemently opposing the move. It has set off fear among vast sections of the state’s residents and claimed 11 lives who are running from pillar to post to acquire documents to prove their citizenship.
The fear among people in the state was triggered by the omission of about 19.6 lakh names from the final NRC list in Assam.
Assam has six detention centres inside district jails in Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Tezpur, Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Silchar for persons declared foreigners by the Foreigners Tribunals.
In the past, Mamata had said that there will be no Assam-like detention camps in West Bengal because there is going to be no NRC in her state.