New Delhi: Dismissing Assam NRC as an "unacceptable" document, the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has welcomed Union Home Minister Amit Shah's announcement of a pan-India National Register of Citizens (NRC) and said that Assam too should be a part of national exercise.
Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has all throughout maintained that the NRC published on August 31, 2019 is “not acceptable”, said that he had unofficially consulted the home minister over the NRC issue several times.
"It (NRC) should be rejected and Assam should be a part of the national exercise of the same. Earlier, there was confusion on the acceptance of refugee certificates as proof of citizenship. We want the cut-off date to be the same across the country — we are still discussing about it. If it is 1971 — the year should be same for the entire nation," Sarma said, adding that the BJP does not demand the Assam Accord to be revised, but "would not object to a different cut-off date if it is beneficial for the state".
The statement came after Shah announced in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the process of NRC will be carried out across India, clarifying there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion.
"The home minister said there will be a pan-India NRC after the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, and it would not create any confusion," Sarma said.
The opposition Congress, however, chose to oppose the Centre’s plan to redo the NRC in Assam.
“An amount of Rs 1,600 crore was spent on the NRC exercise and now they want to reject it. The former chief justice of India said the present NRC is a base document for the future, and people who raised objections are playing with fire. We too believe the same,” said Rajya Sabha MP and Assam Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ripun Bora.
Sarma said the NRC being a continually updating exercise would entail fund spending even in future. “It is a continuous process like updating the electoral rolls. You have to keep spending money for updating the NRC,” he said.
Former Assam chief minister and founding president of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said it is an attempt to sabotage the entire Supreme Court-monitored exercise.
“Amit Shah has no right to defy a legal process mandated by the Supreme Court. Those who are objecting to it are trying to sabotage the process,” said Mahanta.
The All Assam Minorities Students' Union (AAMSU) said people are not ready to suffer again because of another round of the exercise.
“The NRC in Assam was done under supervision of the Supreme Court and was about to reach a conclusive end. It was called a technical process undertaken by the Government of India. We don’t understand why they want to repeat the same process? We have nothing to say if the NRC is done across India, but in Assam, people have already suffered a lot. If there’s any fault in the NRC, approach the Supreme Court and highlight it,” said AAMSU adviser Azizur Rahman.
The Assam Public Works (APW), the original petitioner in the apex court seeking an updated NRC, has welcomed Shah’s announcement.
“We are happy and people of Assam should also welcome and support it. We have been demanding from the very beginning that the NRC should be newly prepared, and a CBI/ED/NIA inquiry should be initiated on utilisation of funds allocated for the updating exercise. A number of illegal Bangladeshis and ‘jehadis’ have been included in the NRC,” said APW president Aabhijeet Sharma.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), however, maintained it wants an updated NRC sans the inclusion of any Bangladeshi national.
“NRC is not a new thing for Assam, it was first done in 1951 and it is presently, being updated on the basis of Assam Accord, and under the supervision of the Supreme Court. We are not happy with the result, and we have appealed in the court for rectifications, the hearing for which is scheduled to take place on November 26. We want the NRC exercise to be completed under the supervision of the Supreme Court,” said AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya.
Former Assam DGP Harekrishna Deka said “a communal factor introduced at different points has been blurring the NRC mission”.
“Those who try to open the land for Hindu illegal migrants in disregard of their nationality and those who try to use doubtful documents to prove illegal migrants as Indians are acting against the interests of indigenous communities. The Assam Accord has given a cut-off date of March 25, 1971, under which all migrants settled in Assam prior to that date have been accepted to be eligible for citizenship by all stakeholders through a consensus without distinguishing whether such migrants are Hindus or Muslims or of any other religion,” said Deka.
“In a massive exercise of this nature, mistakes, some genuine or some motivated, may be there. The whole exercise was prepared with the participation of a large body of government officials at different levels with voluntary participation of people, who appeared in several hearings, and it was done at an enormous cost. Now calling it a wasted exercise without submitting provable facts is not correct. A huge record has been prepared supported by documents and it is available for scrutiny,” he added.
Meanwhile, for the first time since the final NRC was published, Himanta Biswa Sarma chose to blame state NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela for a “faulty document”, stating that the “Assam government is bearing the brunt of the wrongdoings of a single individual”.
“We are concerned with the flaws — the way the state NRC coordinator ran the show, the way he kept aside the state government. It was an opaque system and justice has not been done to any quarter,” said the finance minister, while making it clear that the Assam NRC has not been completely done away with.
“It has not been scrapped yet, and till the national NRC is created, the Assam NRC will hold ground. In the intervening period, if anyone left out wants to get their name included, we have to help them by creating an ecosystem. We have to arrange for the legal cost. We will set up foreigners’ tribunals at the doorstep, and people will no longer need to travel long distances. They will not be charged fees for filing applications.”
A total of 3,11,21,004 people were found eligible for inclusion in the final NRC and 19,06,657 were left out when the supplementary list of inclusion and exclusion status of applicants was published on August 31, 2019.