The Narendra Modi government has been tying itself in knots on the issue of the updated National Register of Citizens. The four-year exercise which cost the Central exchequer a whopping Rs 1,600 crore has been an abject failure in Assam leading party president Amit Shah to say that the exercise would be undertaken in the whole country including afresh in Assam. There is indeed no denying that the earlier exercise which left 19 lakh people stateless and millions in the northeast unhappy has yielded only bitterness, incited communal passions and been a futile exercise. With the clumsy manner in which it was implemented, it lent substance to the Opposition’s charge that it was directed against the Muslims and was brazenly communal in nature. Amid all the credit that is given to Shah for turning BJP into a successful electoral fighting unit, this is clearly an exercise for which the fiasco can be blamed on Amit Shah.
The NRC was specifically mooted in 1951 in the context of Assam witnessing a major upheaval in the wake of partition. The Supreme Court, considering that the 1985 Assam Accord gave momentum to the demand, directed the Assam government in 2013 to implement it and began monitoring it from December 2015. While it is a fact that there was mass migration into Assam from across the border which suited the then Congress governments at the Centre and in Assam since these minorities became their vote bank, the current dispensations have handled it clumsily. It is time the Modi government has a close hard re-look at it.