By J P Rajkhowa
The process of updating the tiol Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951, in order to publish an updated NRC, which may be called NRC 2015, as the process has started in this year, under the direction of the Supreme Court of India, should be welcomed by all genuine Indian citizens of Assam and also by all the immigrants from Bangladesh, who entered Assam illegally up to the midnight of 24 March 1971, since purported to have been regularized by the so- called Assam Accord. While there have been insurmountable difficulties in the detection of illegal migrants, their declaration as such and filly their deportation from the Indian soil of Assam or any of the adjoining States, in spite of there being semi-judicial authorities called Tribuls, there had been no problems in identifying Indian citizens, say, for the issue of ration cards, permanent residence certificates, opening of bank accounts, applying for PAN cards of Income Tax Department, registration of mes in employment exchanges, opening LIC policy, inclusion of mes in electoral rolls etc. I am not aware, if the police in conducting the PVR for various purposes, including appointment to government jobs or application for issue of arms licences, etc. had ever consulted the PRC 1951.
Genuine Indian citizens (not D’ voters or those illegally claiming as Indian citizens) or the indigenous people of undivided Assam of 1951 or even present truncated Assam had no legal requirement to certify on inclusion of their mes or those of their forefathers in the 1951 NRC. Perhaps, this was the reason, why there was no provision in the Assam Accord of 1985 for revising or upgrading the NRC of 1951, though, there are specific provisions regarding detection of mes of illegal migrants, deletion of their mes from the voters’ lists and deporting them from this country to the country of their origin, taking 24th March 1971 (midnight) as the cut-off date. Similarly, there are clauses dealing with border fencing, border roads, eviction of encroachers from PGRs/ VGRs /forest lands / other reserved lands / Sattra lands etc. As most of us know, it was only in 1995, at a tripartite meeting between AASU, Government of India and the Government of Assam, that, a discussion reportedly took place on the subject, and a decision was taken to upgrade the 1951 NRC, for alleged protection of the rights of the indigenous people or the Indian citizens born or settled in Assam.
Initially, it was jointly decided by the Centre and the State government to go for two pilot projects, for the purpose of updating the 1951 NRC, and Chaygaon circle in Kamrup district and Barpeta circle in Barpeta district, were selected for the purpose. But the process was scuttled after the supporters of illegal Bangladeshis, led by All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) and the newly- formed Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), indulged in large- scale violence, including attacks on the office buildings of the Deputy Commissioner, Barpeta. The Congress-led coalition government of Tarun Gogoi, instead of taking strong legal measures against the violent protesters and their leaders / supporters / finciers, succumbed to the pressure of ‘vote bank’ politics, lest they would further lose the Muslim ‘vote bank’ and prevailed upon the Congress government at the Centre to halt the ‘pilot projects’.
This time, under the direction of the Supreme Court of India, the process of upgrading the 1951 NRC was started recently by appointing a State Co-orditor and number of key officials and also opening up 2,500 NRC Sewa Kendras or facilitation centres, for assisting and guiding the citizens to find their mes or mes of their forefathers / parents in the 1951 NRC and also the pre- 1971 electoral rolls, med as ‘legacy data’ in order to eble them to put in their claim for inclusion in NRC 2015. In case, their mes are not so found, they are given the option of furnishing any of 12 admissible documents, related to the pre- 1971 period, concerning themselves or any of their parents.
The NRC Assam Authority has been giving wide publicity about these documents as also about the entire process, starting with door to door distribution of Application Forms from April ending with the fil publication of the updated NRC in January 2016, in a transparent manner. While suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh have reportedly made a beeline to the Sewa Kendras, for getting copies of legacy data or certified copy of the voters’ lists, which are to be made available free of cost, the indigenous people of Assam, including the educated people or the elite / middle class have not taken similar initiative. In the rural areas too, the local Asomiyas (indigenous / ethnic people) have yet to evince keen interest as yet, for which it would be required that, the local organizations, AASU and other students bodies, political parties, NGOs like Prabrajan Birudhi Manch Asom (PBMA), would take immediate initiatives to educate and mobilize them to approach the Sewa Kendras for guidance and free copies of documents. For detailed information, interested readers may consult the advertisement issued by the NRC Assam Authority, published in The Sentinel, 21 April, 2015.
Meanwhile, it has been reported by the PBMA that, a large number of post-1971 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, already entered and settled in or moving around different parts of the State, more particularly the immigrant majority areas, have been maging either directly or through their agents / supporters / god fathers to get fabricated documents of pre- 25 March 1971 period, for establishing their claims as Indian citizens for including their mes in the NRC 2015. The PBM has complained to the Central government that, many officials at the district, sub-division and circle level were reportedly purchased by paying hefty amounts by such anti- tiol elements, and therefore, the Manch has demanded a CBI inquiry or a high- level inquiry by a Central Team to ascertain the veracity of the complaints and if prima- facie case established, to take strong legal action against all those involved in the racket. It is equally necessary that, all other patriotic citizens, citizens’ forums and organizations, student bodies, NGOs., political parties etc. should also keep an eye on such anti-tiol elements and on detection or suspicion, report to the concerned DCs, SSPs., City Commissioner of Police, and the State Co-orditor. Attempts by anti- tiol forces to create commul situations, in the me of alleged harassment of ‘Muslims’, as recently declared by some politicians, also must be reported to the authorities immediately.
In the above context, it was indeed a matter of serious concern, to note from media reports, that, the AIUDF supremo Badruddin Ajmal claimed about some ‘conspiracy’ by a section of ‘officials’ to harass ‘Indian Muslims’ by not providing copies of Legacy Data, certified copies of Voters’ lists etc., in order to deprive about 40 lakh Muslims from being included in the upgraded NRC 2015. In order to further strengthen his ‘Muslim Vote bank’ among the lakhs of immigrants in Assam, Ajmal has threatened to move the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister and also the Supreme Court, with his ‘complaint’ on the matter. We are awaiting release of a copy of such ‘Complaint’ sent by Ajmal, so that, whole of Assam knows about it, and can press for a high level ‘Spot Enquiry’ so that, no genuine Indian citizen should find difficulty in finding a place in the NRC 2015 and also that, no ‘illegal migrant’ gets included in the same. Ajmal should stop his ‘vote bank’ politics now, as the Indian Muslims would certainly be included in the updated NRC, which has been publicly assured by Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, in a public statement to the media, on April 23, 2015.
Gogoi said- “If genuine citizens still face any problem in establishing their legitimacy, the government will evolve means to ensure that they are not deprived.” The Chief Minister also urged politicians and others to refrain from spreading doubts in the minds of the people over getting their mes enrolled in the NRC, if they are genuine citizens. [The Sentinel, 24 April 2015].
Taking cue from the demand made by the PBM signed by one lakh citizens, the people of Assam would be immediately required to build up pressures on the Central government, i.e., the Prime Minister, Union Home Minister, BJP tiol President and others that matter, through the State Chief minister, all MPs from Assam, the Union ministers from the Northeast, Student organizations, leading Citizens, the Media, State BJP leaders, leaders of opposition parties, all patriotic forums etc. for amending the Indian Citizenship Act, effective from 25 March 1971, making it obligatory for those born in Assam to have both the parents who are Indian citizens, in order to be eligible to become Indian Citizens of Assam and get their mes included in 2015 NRC.
Filly, the NRC Authority should make appropriate effective arrangement for ebling the huge Assamese / Asomiya NRI population settled abroad for the purpose of higher education, jobs, businesses etc. to submit Applications for inclusion in the upgraded NRI and also to dispense with their persol presence in the State for verification, as, that would be too costly, both in terms of time and money. This problem, I had already brought to the notice of the State Co-orditor (Prateek Hazela), who informed that, the matter was being sorted out with the Central government. Now, Assam awaits the preparation of a correct, updated NRC 2015, free of hassles in a smooth and time-bound manner.