The NRC exercise in Assam

The Assam Government is now preparing a National Register of Citizens living in the State, sixty-seven years after the first NRC was done. The Bengalis living in Assam, Hindus as well as Muslims, fear that it is a clever ploy to deny citizenship to many of them. Some glaring ‘inaccuracies’ suggest that the fear is not without basis. For example, the name of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, president of the All India United Democratic Front, a party recognized by the Election Commission of India, is missing from the NRC, while the name of a proclaimed rebel and a fugitive from law, Paresh Barua of the anti-talk faction of the ULFA, is recorded as a citizen.  Scores of cases have come to notice in which some members of the same family have been recorded as Indian citizens while some others have not been. Those left out will be declared illegal immigrants and deported. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonwal has, however, assured that all ‘genuine citizens’ whose names have been omitted, will have nothing to fear. Their names will be included. But his assurance has failed to carry conviction.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already issued a warning that if the NRC is a camouflage exercise to drive out Bengalis from Assam, it will be resisted. There is something curious and contradictory about the present exercise which formally ended on December 31 of the last year. Going against the provision of the Assam Accord of 1985, the Centre has decided to grant citizenship to all those Bengali Hindus who have migrated from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, the date on which Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan. Giving citizenship to those who are to be considered illegal immigrants according to the Assam Accord but denying citizenship to those who have been resident in Assam from long before 25.3.1971 and whose citizenship cannot be doubted is a mystery that the Centre alone can explain.
The BJP has all along accused the Congress of indulging in ‘vote bank politics’ by allowing illegal immigrants from Bangladesh to settle in Assam and giving them citizenship. Today, the BJP which is ruling both the Centre and Assam is doing the same vote bank politics by recognizing illegal Hindu immigrants as Indian citizens. The result is that the Assamese-speaking people of the Brahmaputra Valley are apprehending that they may be eventually outnumbered by the immigrant Bengalis. This fear is likely to revive the traditional conflict between the Assamese and the Bengalis which became a thing of the past. The Centre is, indeed, playing with fire.

Monday, 8 January, 2018