After a lot of hype and confusion, the updated list of Assam’s National Register of Citizens has finally been released. Over 19 lakh of residents of Assam, who may be stripped of their right to citizenship if foreigners tribunals (FTs) declare them as not Indians, now fear survival in this State. The NRC is regarded as proof of Assamese identity and is expected to exclude the illegal foreign nationals, an issue that has affected the state for decades. Those who have been labelled ‘outsiders’ have to defend their rights as Indian citizens in courts of law now or face deportation and detention. Although civil rights activists have labelled the exercise as an arbitrary and blatant subversion of human rights, the indigenous people argue that it cannot be judged on the basis of selected events and without any proper historical context. It has been a long and blighted history, given the state repression and communal violence.
Incidentally, the figure is far less than what the leader of the 1979 Assam agitation would have anticipated and this is precisely why this exercise has been a complete waste. It is redundant in the current context and belated by at least three decades. This figure, in fact, knocks the bottom off the original Assam movement. It indicates how the talk of demographic imbalance was more a fallacy than fact. Essentially, the NRC exercise has achieved little except to create panic and unnerve the residents of Assam. It has cost the nation more than Rs 1,100 crore and has given the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party a potent tool in its Hindutva agenda, thus polarizing the entire state of Assam.
The idea behind the exercise was the identification of those who immigrated ‘illegally’ from Bangladesh but the brunt is also being borne by those also who are righteous citizens of India.