NRC in Assam: Mamata wary of shelter-seekers

12 Jul 2018

The warning of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to the district administration of Alipurduar that they should remain alert about the developments in neighbouring Assam comes in the wake of apprehensions that people whose names would not figure in the final draft of the National Register of Citizens due for publication on July 30 would enter north Bengal for shelter.
There have been occasions in the past when in the wake of ethnic riots in Assam uprooted people have taken shelter in the Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar districts of Bengal, neighbouring Assam; the latest being the riots in Kokrajhar in 2012. In a visit last January to Alipurduar, the new district carved out of Jalpaiguri, Mamata had asked people to treat shelter-seekers from Assam if there was any after the publication of the first draft of the NRC on December 31.
The first draft had left the names of 13 million people out. According to reports from Assam, tension is running high in districts of Assam dominated by immigrant Muslims as millions of people are waiting to find out if their names would figure in the final draft of the NRC. Prateek Hazela, the IAS officer in charge of compilation of the NRC, has variously been quoted as saying that in the final draft the names of 50,000 to 150,000 applicants would not figure as there are discrepancies in their records; both the figures are significantly lower than the 13 million mark.
Mamata asked BDOs in Alipurduar immediately to inform the district magistrate and the police superintendent if there was infiltration from Assam. “There are some on-going problems in Assam. There could be a possible pushback from there,” she said while addressing an administrative review meeting in Alipurduar on Wednesday. The apprehension is not unfounded as there is a question mark on the future of people in Assam whose names would not figure in the final NRC. Bangladesh has repeatedly denied that its citizens have infiltrated illegally into India and is unlikely to receive anyone who may be declared illegal immigrant in Assam. For such people, the only alternative may be the areas in north Bengal bordering Assam.
Even after the publication of the final draft of the NRC on July 30 people whose names would not figure would have the chance to file claims and get their names included in the final NRC. But, this is a period when objections may also be filed against names which have been included in the final draft, on the ground that these have been included by mistake. Then apprehension is there that this could be the window for persecution.
Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, president of All India United Democratic Front, has alleged that the names of many people living in the ‘char’ areas of Assam have been left out. There is also apprehension in the Bengali-dominated Barak valley where the Hindu Bengalis are now being compared with the Rohingyas of Mayanmar who have turned into a state-less people.
Apprehending trouble after the publication of the final draft, 235 companies of Central p;ara-military forces have been deployed in different districts of Assam in addition to the state police. The army is also on stand-by.