Of NRC and Foreigners
Of late, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has made quite a few significant statements about the presence of foreign tiols in Assam and about the updating of the tiol Register of Citizens (NRC). They need to be looked at a little more closely and commented on. One of the statements relates to his ibility to deport the Bangladeshis that are living illegally in Assam. Fourteen years after taking over as Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi tells us now that it is impossible for him to deport these Bangladeshis illegally living in Assam. Considering his very soft corner for all Bangladeshis living in Assam, it would seem that he was referring to Bangladeshis who had come to Assam even after March 25, 1971. In a land where the Assam Accord is regarded as having the force of law (whenever it is convenient to do so) and as meriting a status even above the Constitution, we keep forgetting that the Constitution had made clear stipulations about the cut-off date for migrants from Pakistan (or erstwhile Pakistan). Article 6 makes July 19, 1948 the cut-off date for migrants from Pakistan. As such, any agreement seeking to change this cut-off date is clearly a violation of the Constitution of India. Be that as it may, having said that he is in no position to deport all the Bangladeshis illegally resident in Assam, Tarun Gogoi leaves himself open to the question as to whether there were any laws of the land coming in the way of his preventing the easy and unchecked infiltration of Bangladeshis into Assam during the last 14 years. The statement “I cannot deport the Bangladeshis,” begs the questions: What stopped you from using the legal provisions at your command from preventing them from entering the State, especially after the Supreme Court had struck down the IM(DT) Act in 2005? What prevented you from ensuring much speedier initiatives to fence the intertiol boundary between Bangladesh and Assam? What prevented you from ensuring that illegal migrants from Bangladesh were not provided permanent resident certificates and ration cards that could be used later on for claiming citizenship status? Quite obviously, the Chief Minister will have no satisfactory responses to these questions because he has been known to issue instructions that Bangladeshi immigrants (regardless of the year of their migration to Assam) cannot be touched for any offence or crime by the police. In fact, they could not be touched even for stoking commul riots. It is one thing to be solely dependent on the Centre for fincial assistance at all times, and quite another to expect the Centre to take over the duty of providing law and order in the State as well.
The other stance of the Assam Chief Minister that needs to be questioned is that the Congress and the All Assam Students Union (AASU) alone had wanted the updating of the NRC and that no other political party in the State wanted the NRC to be revised. The Assam Chief Minister now pretends that he has been working very hard to ensure the updating of the NRC. This is obviously not true. People are aware of how the Assam government has worked overtime to delay the updating of the NRC by several years. It is the commitment of the Supreme Court to the updating of the NRC that has acted as a compulsive factor for the Assam government, and there is no point in the Chief Minister of the State seeking to take credit for the pressure that the Supreme Court has kept mounting on the Assam government.
It is indeed doubtful whether the Assam government will be able to honour the commitment of a speedy and reliable updating of the NRC. The Chief Minister has sought to assure Indian citizens of Assam that they need have no fears about getting their mes in the updated NRC even if it is not possible to trace the mes of their ancestors in the existing NRC. Had this been an assurance meant exclusively for the indigenous people of Assam, there would have been legitimate reasons for rejoicing. However, given the experience of the last 14 years, there is the legitimate fear that when Tarun Gogoi seeks to reassure the Indian citizens of Assam about their mes being included in the updated NRC, he is clearly talking about his blue-eyed brethren, mely all immigrants from Bangladesh to whom he is determined to grant citizenship. How he handles the opposition to the updating of the NRC is another matter that calls for closer scrutiny.