Focus on NRC

A lot of water has flowed down the Brahmaputra since the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was released on August 31, 2019.

Update: 2020-11-29 04:38 GMT

A lot of water has flowed down the Brahmaputra since the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was released on August 31, 2019. But nothing has happened except that its release has only belied the hopes of the indigenous people of Assam whose very existence and survival have been under increased threat. This increased threat is from the presence of a large number of illegal migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh, as also the support extended to them by the progenies of a section of people who had migrated to Assam from the erstwhile East Bengal since Lord Curzon had divided Bengal in 1905 and clubbed the then Assam province to the newly-created East Bengal. One does not have to take help of any rocket science to prove that the number and clout of the migrants – both legal (who came before Independence) and illegal (who came after Independence) – have been increasing in Assam each passing day.

Heaps of reports, papers and books have been already written about the dangerous demographic change that these people have caused to Assam over the past six or seven decades, and the Supreme Court and Gauhati High Court have time again passed several landmark judgments and orders where clear references have been made regarding the "silent demographic invasion" that Assam has been facing. The apex court had in July 2005 even termed it as a threat to India's territorial integrity. Former Assam Governor Lt Gen (Retd) SK Sinha's famous report to the President of India had clearly outlined how the day was not far when these immigrants will, on gaining majority status, demand merger of the border districts of Assam with Bangladesh. While the NRC was one major step which was expected to help take a big leap towards finding a solution by way of first identifying and segregating the illegal migrants and their progeny, what however has turned out is hugely dejecting, as has been evident from the reactions of various sides. While the All Assam Students' Union (AASU), Asom Gana Parishad, BJP and others have all practically rejected the NRC, it must be always kept in mind that the pro-migrant groups and forces are the only ones which have expressed satisfaction over the NRC. The reason is simple: the majority of illegal migrants and their progenies have found their way into the NRC. While it is for the Union Government and the Supreme Court of India to formally confirm and declare that the NRC is erroneous in that it contains names of large number of illegal migrants and their progenies, the Government of Assam is on record requesting the Centre to reject the National Register of Citizens.

Senior Assam minister and BJP's NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma had exactly one year ago stated that the Assam government has not accepted the NRC and that the Government of Assam and BJP have requested the Union Home Minister to reject the NRC. Sarma had in November last year itself echoed what the AASU and all other patriotic groups and forces have been always saying: that there should be only one cut-off year for the entire country and that the NRC should be based on that. It is important to recall that the AASU-led Assam movement had demanded one uniform cut-off year for detecting illegal migrants for the entire country. This demand was raised after Indira Gandhi's Government in New Delhi had enacted the notorious Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act in 1983 at the behest of then Assam Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia, according to which 1971 was made cut-off year for detecting illegal migrants only in Assam, whereas for the rest of India it is 1951. That exactly was the ground on which Sarbananda Sonowal (then AASU president and subsequently AGP MP) had challenged the IMDT Act, and that was one ground on which the apex court had scrapped the notorious piece of legislation which had actually helped protect the illegal migrants instead of detecting them. Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is right when he had in November 2019 alleged that the entire exercise of updation was carried out keeping aside the State government. It is a fact that the entire nation thinks that NRC was updated by the Assam government.

The Gauhati High Court, which has been hearing a petition about 'assignment of regular works' of the 200 newly-recruited members of Additional Foreigners Tribunals (FTs) of Assam in the backdrop of publication of the final NRC, may probably also examine this aspect, though the fact remains that the NRC was prepared by the Centre under the supervision of the Supreme Court. It calls for a thorough probe into the allegations that names of large numbers of illegal migrants and their progenies had entered the NRC by way of obtaining genuine Assam government documents and certificates by fraudulent means. About the alleged massive financial misappropriation and corruption in the technical aspects of the NRC, probably the less said the better.

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