On Thursday, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi appealed to the people of the State to lodge complaints whenever they suspect inclusion of the me of any foreigner in the updated tiol Register of Citizens (NRC). He also welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court to extend the time for the completion of the process of updating the NRC and asserted that all efforts would be made to ensure that no foreigner could get his or her me included in it. He added that the State government had decided to upgrade the NRC to protect the interests of Assam. He thanked the All Assam Students Union (AASU) for its role in the process of updating the NRC and recalled the key role played by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Tarun Gogoi also referred to the role played by the people of the State in giving overwhelming response to the process of updating the NRC and hoped that the government would continue to get the same kind of support from the people in completing the process on time.
It has become difficult to make out when the Chief Minister of Assam is serious and when he is talking with his tongue firmly in his cheek. It is important for the people of Assam to recall how his government had persistently stymied all attempts to update the NRC. The process that should have been completed in 2007, got regularly postponed because of the Assam government’s unwillingness to update the NRC. And had it not been for the Supreme Court taking a hand in the matter, the business of updating the NRC would not have been taken up even in 2015. Mercifully, the Supreme Court took the matter in hand and virtually forced the government of Assam to take up the work of updating the NRC and to complete the job expeditiously within a timeframe set by it. And that is how the work eventually got started, though even now, after the completion of the acceptance of forms and the enumeration, the State government itself has slowed down the more important remaining part of the work of verification and scrutiny of entries by transferring officers connected with the work of updating the NRC to other duties so that the entire process of completing the work has got delayed once again. And that is why the same government has had to request the Supreme Court for an extension of the date for publication of the revised NRC by two months. As such, the deadlines for the publication of the draft and the fil NRC have now been postponed to January 1, 2016 and March 1, 2016 respectively. At present, the State government has been playing a cat-and-mouse game of sabotaging the NRC update process on the one hand and of pretending to be elated at the progress of the process so far and with the overwhelming support that the people of the State have extended to the exercise. We still have senior bureaucrats of the State government telling deputy commissioners of the different districts that the NRC work does not merit any priority. We still have the State government posting out officials doing the NRC update work to remote places even before the entire process has been completed. The State government must be greatly elated at the Supreme Court’s willingness to postpone the submission of the draft NRC and the fil NRC by two months. The latest directive of the Supreme Court in support of the postponement of the timeframe for the submission of the draft NRC and the fil NRC is turally being hailed by the State government because it can now hold the Assembly elections of 2016 before the submission of the fil NRC. This would mean that the electoral roll of 2014 would remain valid for the Assembly elections next year. Since the Supreme Court’s intentions have been clearly to ensure the protection of the interests of the people of Assam, it must now take another little step to ensure that this objective is not derailed by the machitions of the State government. The Supreme Court must, therefore, clearly stipulate to the Assam government that the Assembly elections of 2016 shall not be held before the submission of the fil revised version of the NRC. If this cannot be ensured, virtually all the work of updating the NRC of 1951 would have gone in vain simply because the ruling Congress party can once again reap the benefits of using the electoral rolls of 2014 for the Assembly elections of 2016. We would, therefore, fervently appeal to the Supreme Court that it should issue a categorical directive to the government of Assam that the Assembly elections of 2016 shall not be held before the fil revised NRC is made available and becomes operative for the Assembly elections next year.
It is hardly surprising that the huge task of updating the NRC of 1951 should take a little more time than was expected. However, the public response has been remarkable, considering that almost all the Indian citizens of Assam have been enumerated. The Supreme Court has been appreciative of the difficulties encountered by those engaged in the updating of the NRC during one of the worst monsoon floods that Assam has ever experienced, and has kindly extended the deadline for the completed work by two months. At the same time, one hopes that the apex court will keep in mind the game plan of the Congress which is to hold the Assembly elections of 2016 before the fil updated NRC is published so that it can benefit from the lakhs of illegal foreign voters participating in the elections. And that is why it is so important for the Supreme Court to ensure that Assam’s Assembly elections of 2016 are not held before the fil updated NRC is available. This is crucial to the very existence of the Indian citizens of Assam.