WITH EYES WIDE OPEN
D. N. Bezboruah
One normally uses the word gagging to talk about a person being forcibly prevented from speaking. The word is generally not used in speaking about a process. I have chosen to do so for the simple reason that the process of updating the tiol Register of Citizens of 1951 is one that involves the aspirations of all Indian citizens living in Assam and their voiced or unvoiced concern about the large-scale illegal immigration of foreign tiols into Assam and their fears about what could happen to the land of their birth and its demography if all illegal foreign migrants to Assam were also able to exercise their franchise. Any document that is full of statistical data and other related figures becomes a speaking entity. After all, all honest documents prepared by the government or other sources speak to us—in a manner of speaking. As everyone knows, the tiol Register of Citizens (NRC) is the register containing details of all Indian citizens. The NRC of 1951 is having to be updated in Assam alone for the simple reason that no other Indian State (with the possible exception of West Bengal) has had such large-scale illegal immigration into the State after the publication of the NRC of 1951. The modus operandi of updating the NRC stated earlier and approved by the Supreme Court, envisaged the inclusion of the mes of persons figuring in the NRC of 1951, and those in electoral rolls up to 1971 as well as their descendants. In the absence of both, one could submit one of the 12 pre-March 24, 1971 documents to get their mes included. Quite obviously, the main objective of the process of updating the NRC was to ensure that no Indian citizen living in Assam and participating in elections up to 1971 and his or her descendants got left out of the updated NRC of 1951. And lest a large number of mes of people from specific communities had got left out in the updated NRC, there are now legitimate and ratiol suggestions that people of certain communities that have always lived in Assam (like the tea garden workers) should be automatically included in the updated NRC. As such, the updated NRC of Assam would be a very vocal document if only the government of Assam would let it be what it ought to be after an honest and is correct revision. Unfortutely, the Assam government itself, that had agreed to the updating of the NRC of 1951 (albeit unwillingly) and informed the Supreme Court about the modalities of the process, has now suddenly decided to change the very modalities with the intention of including the electoral rolls of 2014 as a valid document for the updating process. This is not something that any self-respecting government ought to do at the stage after the modalities of updating the NRC had been accepted by the Supreme Court. This belated, sudden and unilateral change not only further delays an already delayed process (and thereby constitutes an act of sabotage), but in deviating from the modalities accepted by the Supreme Court it also commits contempt of court. The Assam government will probably seek to laugh its way out of such an allegation considering that it is already committed countless acts of contempt against courts. In other words, it has already set up countless reprehensible precedents to ratiolize and defend totally indefensible courses of action that are blatantly anti-people. There is now the suggestion made by former Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma that Indian citizens from other States of the country who settled in Assam after 1971 and have no legacy data but whose mes figure in the voters list of their respective States in the relevant point of time should also be included in the updated NRC of 1951. There is nothing objectioble in the suggestion except that this could well further delay and already delayed process. The appeal made by the government of Assam to the Register General of India at this stage to include the electoral roll of 2014 also as a valid document for the process of updating the NRC of 1951 is a mischievous move for at least three reasons. First, it seeks to delay and perhaps abandon the entire process of updating the NRC of 1951. Second, this makes the entire process of updating the NRC quite meaningless because it seeks to include those mes of illegal foreign voters in the electoral roll of 2014 that is the stated purpose of the very exercise of updating the NRC of 1951. This is not only an act of sabotage but an act of treason against the real Indian citizens of the State. Third, it is an attempt to tell the people of Assam that as far as the Indian tiol Congress is concerned, there is nothing more important than electoral interests and equations and that even the Constitution of India that debars foreign tiols from voting in Indian elections can be flouted for the sake of winning elections that can no longer be won with the votes of Indian tiols alone. In other words, it is a way of telling the people that neither the Constitution nor the laws of the land can be as important as the voters list cooked up well enough to ensure victory for the ruling party under any circumstances. And that is precisely the voters list that the Indian tiol Congress of Assam wants to be made a part of the updated NRC of 1951, the very purpose of which is to clean up the NRC of all illegal migrants (especially from Bangladesh) who came after March 25, 1971. In appealing to the Supreme Court that the voters list of 2014 should become one of the documents to bank on for updating the NRC, the Assam government has demanded the inclusion of a document that is the very objective of the NRC update exercise to exclude completely.
It is important for the people of Assam and Indian citizens who have lived in the State either from 1951 or from March 25, 1971 and thereafter (and their progeny) to take active steps to complete the filing of the applications for entering their mes in the updated NRC of 1951, regardless of the hurdles and distractions thrown in their path by the very government that initiated the process of the updating of the NRC and other parties. If necessary, they must make petitions to extend the last date for receiving the applications for entering mes in the updated NRC. They should also form local associations to take up the task of opposing the use of the voters list of 2014 for the updating of the NRC of 1951. These associations must appeal to the Register General of India, the Governor of Assam and the Chief Justice of India demanding that a status quo on the modalities for updating the NRC of 1951 announced earlier and agreed to by all concerned, must be maintained. They must dissuade the Governor of Assam from taking a stand in consonce with the government of Assam and agreeing to the inclusion of the 2014 electoral roll in the updating of the NRC. They must file petitions to prevent the inclusion of the voters list of 2014 as a valid document for the updating of the NRC of 1951 by insisting that this goes against the very objective of updating the NRC. If need be, a writ petition should be filed in the Supreme Court to ensure that Assembly elections of Assam are not permitted to be held until the NRC has been updated to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court and the indigenous people of Assam. This is a genuine and justified demand of the people. The plan to merely pretend that it has been satisfactorily updated for the Assembly elections to be held in 2016 must be resisted until the Supreme Court is satisfied that it has been properly updated. There must be a proper mechanism to prevent the Assembly elections of 2016 being held until the Supreme Court has testified that the NRC has indeed been properly updated according to the modalities stipulated.