Clouds of uncertainty have surrounded nearly 4 million people in Assam who have been left out of the complete National Register of Citizens (NRC) draft released recently. The NRC is aimed at distinguishing the state’s citizens from illegal immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday (July 30) said that the draft for National Register of Citizens for Assam is completely “impartial” and those whose names are missed should not panic as they will get an opportunity to prove their citizenship. “No coercive action will be taken against anyone. Hence, there is no need for anyone to panic. This is a draft and not the final list,” he told reporters. Even someone whose name is not in the final list can approach the foreigners’ tribunal,” Singh added. (Source : )
Although the government is saying that there is no need to panic but the ground reality is not that simple. To understand the fear, complexity and uncertainty that’s surrounding an entire state in the wake of this exercise, those voices whose names are missing from the NRC draft list need to be heard — ranging from a 72-year-old retired school teacher in Guwahati, a 62-year-old MLA in Abhayapuri to a 26-year-old social worker from Tinsukia.
What’s extremely astonishing is that how can an MLA, who is serving the state, is a part of the legislature and is on a constitutional authoritative position be excluded from the draft? If an MLA can be left out, then we can imagine the plight faced by thousands of other poor and hapless people. A day after BJP president Amit Shah said that the NRC would eradicate “ghuspethiye” (infiltrators) in Assam, the Supreme Court-appointed NRC coordinator termed such descriptions as “too premature” and pointed that all people left out of the “complete draft” cannot be painted under the same colour. He further said that only a “judicial scrutiny” can establish whether a person can be called an illegal migrant or not.
According to a report in The Indian Express, a Field Level Officer – Moinul Hoque, was deployed by the government to help compile and verify names for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Ironically, today he finds himself among the 40 lakh people whose names are missing from the “complete draft”. Hoque is not the only one who has not made it into the NRC draft. There’s an armyman, a CISF head constable, a gazetted officer at the Accountant General (audit) office — and even an Assistant Sub-Inspector of Assam Police’s Special Branch. All of them are now asking why exactly they have been left out.
After seeing these serious loopholes in the NRC draft, we can imagine the condition of panic prevailing among several others in the population of 40 lakhs, who have been left out of the NRC draft.
The Assam Accord, which is at the centre of this entire NRC debate, began in 1985 with the assurance that the “government has all along been most anxious to find a satisfactory resolution to the problem of foreigners in Assam.” It compiled a list of resolutions to solve the immigration issue in Assam.
As per the accord, all those who came to Assam before January 1, 1966, would be given citizenship. Those who moved in between January 1, 1966, and March 24, 1971, would be “detected in accordance with the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964.” Their names would be deleted from the electoral rolls and they would remain disenfranchised for a period of 10 years. Lastly, the accord provided a resolution to the case of those who entered Indian borders after March 24, 1971. According to the accord, “Foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall continue to be detected, deleted and practical steps shall be taken to expel such foreigners.”
But Bangladesh Culture Minister Asaduzzaman Noor on Tuesday, July 31 said that there was no question of taking back those excluded from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. Speaking to The Indian Express, he said, “We don’t think we will take back those (people excluded from the final draft of NRC). This is not a bilateral issue between the countries so the question does not arise.”
Hence, the next steps by the Indian government are going to be very crucial. What exactly they will do with the alleged infiltrators after identifying them is to be seen, as Bangladesh is in no mood of taking them back. Where will all these alleged immigrants go? Many of them have been settled in India for over 40 years with two generations living and working here. Will it be that easy to withdraw their ‘citizenship’ and turn them ‘stateless’?