Only one day is left in between for the publication of the much-awaited first complete draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam. The people are waiting eagerly for this vital document that will be one of the biggest steps ever taken for detecting Bangladeshi infiltrators in the state. The process that had begun with a decision taken in a crucial tripartite meeting between the Centre, the Government of Assam and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) on May 5, 2005, has finally taken a shape with the authorities now saying they are ready to release the final draft on Monday, July 30. There have been several attempts to derail the process in the past 13 years, with groups and organisations which want to protect the illegal migrants or infiltrators trying to put as many hurdles as possible to prevent the NRC from being prepared. The All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) – formed to protect the illegal migrants amid the AASU-led movement of 1979-85 against illegal migrants – had even resorted to violence to stop the NRC pilot project in Barpeta in July 2010. But, thanks to the AASU’s relentless efforts, and the strong intervention of the Supreme Court, the NRC is now on the verge of becoming a reality.
It must however be kept in mind that what will be released on Monday – July 30 2018 – will only be the ‘final draft NRC’, with none other than Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister saying that there would be enough opportunities to all those who do not find their names in it for claims and objections. “The Government wants to make it clear that the NRC to be published on July 30 is only a draft. After draft publication, adequate opportunity for claims and objections will be available. All claims and objections will be duly examined. Adequate opportunity of being heard will be given before disposal of claims and objections. Only thereafter, final NRC will be published,” Singh has already said.
The Centre has also said that that NRC was being updated in Assam in accordance with the Assam Accord signed on August 15, 1985 between AASU and the Centre. The entire process is being carried out as per directions of the Supreme Court which is also constantly monitoring the entire process. Home Minister Singh has also said that the NRC exercise is being carried out in a “totally impartial, transparent and meticulous manner” and will continue to be so. At every stage of the process, adequate opportunity of being heard is given to all persons. The entire process is being conducted according to law and due procedure is being followed, he has said. The Centre has also repeatedly said that any person who is not satisfied with the outcome of claims and objections can appeal in the Foreigner’s Tribunal. Thus, there is no question of anyone being put in a detention centre after the publication of NRC.
Even as the NRC is being published on Monday, all right-thinking and patriotic people must keep in mind two particular things. One, Assam and the North-eastern Region has been in the minds of the founders of Pakistan and Bangladesh for the past more than eight decades, and those forces have been working overtime to make their mission successful. Two, these forces will definitely leave no stone unturned to derail the process of detecting the illegal migrants. These forces have already launched a global campaign to paint a picture that the indigenous people of Assam (and the Northeast) are trying to evict all “outsiders” and more particularly Bengali-speaking Muslims from the state and the region. Unfortunately, these kinds of anti-national forces often also get the blessings of certain political parties, the Congress being one of them. While the Congress has been known for its open love for the illegal migrants, it was the Congress government of Indira Gandhi which had enacted the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act in 1983 – in the peak of the AASU-led movement – to protect the illegal migrants. Likewise, it was the Congress government of Rajiv Gandhi that had hoodwinked the AASU leaders and made 1971 the cut-off year despite the fact that in the rest of the country any person entering India illegally after 1951 is considered an illegal migrant/foreigner. It was only in February this year that the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army had made a very strong and significant remark about the AIUDF chief Maulana Badruddin Ajmal indulging in politics for protecting the illegal migrants.
Some circles have been in the past few days trying to guess figures of how many names would not find place in the final draft NRC. While it is a fact that the figure would have been anywhere around 50 lakh if the Government had used the same yardstick for detecting illegal migrants/foreigners for Assam as it does for the rest of India, what the NRC would indicate is a rough estimate of the number of people who had entered Assam illegally from the neighbouring country only after East Pakistan had become Bangladesh.