"We had asked states to collate data on Rohingya and the reports that we have got shows the presence of only 15,000. So the concern is, where did the remaining 24,000 go? That's why we have asked all states to verify their figures again," a senior official at the ministry told NDTV.
The ministry is also concerned that long term visas given to Rohingya till 2016 have either expired or are fast approaching the deadline. Security agencies are worried that people whose visas are not being renewed may go underground and become potential threats.
Rohingya - minority Muslims living in the Rakhine state of Myanmar - fled to India, mostly after violence against them peaked last year.
The ministry has sounded an alert to all states, saying that that the whereabouts of those given long term visas should be mapped. An alert sent to states says, "Illegal migrants are prone to recruitment by terrorist organisations and the sense of persecution among Rohingya at the hands of Buddhists can be exploited".
NDTV visited one such colony at Kanchan Kunj near Madanpur Khadar that has seen intense checks. It houses nearly 250 Rohingya, most of whom were given long term visas. "Earlier, everything was okay but everything has changed in the past year or so. Checks by various agencies have become more frequent," says Mohd Saleem. In his petition that is being heard by the Supreme Court, he has pleaded that Rohingya be allowed to stay in India till the situation normalises in Myanmar. "No criminal case on against anyone of us so why are we being targeted. I have petitioned that till the time matter is not resolved government should allow us to stay," he adds.
25-year-old Sanjeeda has been living here for the last five years. Her visa will expire soon, and with two small children to end, the lone parent is worried. "I want to thank Hindustan for letting me stay but what happens now? My children are very small, where will I go? I would also like to go back to my country but only after things get normal there," she says.
The home ministry says no Rohingya has been deported in the last three years but the purpose of the verification drive is to know the number of illegal migrants and their whereabouts. The ministry also has to give a report when the court hears the case next on January 31.
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