Now that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has become such a vital document for the people of Assam, everybody seems to be bending over backwards to take credit for its creation. There is every justification for using the word creation to refer to the NRC because everyone connected with it in some way would have us all believe that no one else had a hand in the compilation of the NRC, and that it was the initiative of just one entity that brought it into being. The NRC we are talking about now happens to be an exercise in updating the NRC of 1951 to include the names of all Indian citizens of Assam born after 1951 and to delete the names of foreign nationals (mainly from Bangladesh) included during the intervening years to enlarge the vote bank that has been put to good use by more than one political party. What seems rather amusing, however, is that even the Congress that was strongly opposed to any kind of enumeration of the Indian citizens of Assam, is now taking credit for the updated NRC and pretending that it was the only political party that had anything to do with the updating of the 1951 NRC. In fact, if anyone deserves full credit for the updating of the NRC of 1951, it is the Supreme Court of India that ordered and monitored this vital and colossal task.
It is important for us not to forget how important this revised enumeration of Indian citizens of Assam is for inhabitants of the State. What some people have been trying very assiduously to make us forget now is how hard the Congress had been trying for years to avoid any enumeration of the Indian citizens of Assam. This is because the party had tampered with the electoral roll of the State and got the names of millions of illegal migrants from Bangladesh included in the voters’ list of Assam. The Congress kept stalling every attempt to have a revised enumeration of Indian citizens living in Assam. But this could not be carried on indefinitely, because the Supreme Court had taken a hand in the matter and was breathing down the Assam government’s neck for prompt action in the matter. In 2010, the then State government launched two pilot projects on enumeration. The one at Barpeta Road led to orchestrated violence which took a toll of four lives. This gave the government of the day a ready excuse to scrap all attempts at updating the NRC. But the Supreme Court that had seen through the game of the Congress government was determined to have a proper enumeration of Indian citizens living in Assam, and would brook no excuses for suspending the exercise. And now we have a total volte-face on the issue, with former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi seeking to take full ownership of the NRC. On Monday he said: “It is my baby. I am the natural father. Amit Shah (the BJP president) has become the foster father.” Gogoi even rebutted Amit Shah’s allegation of the Congress supporting Bangladeshi infiltrators. “If the Congress is supportive of Bangladeshi infiltrators, then would our government at the Centre and in Assam have worked so hard to evolve the modalities for the NRC and implement it?” he said. There are two important facts that he seems to have overlooked. One is that our electoral roll is full of the names of Bangladeshis. These names could not have got in there unless someone had done the work. And no one would dare do such things without orders from the top. The other is that people are unlikely to forget how strongly opposed the Congress has been, over the years, to any correct and reliable enumeration of the people of Assam. Its present holy stance is what is politically correct in the light of the Supreme Court’s role in the updating of the NRC.