Recalibrating its position on the eve of the publication of the National Population Register (NRC) that will seal the fate of over 40 lakh people, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Assam termed the entire exercise "flawed ” and even more dangerous than IMDT Act if even “one genuine citizen is left out."
These concerns within the RSS stem amidst growing fears in a section of the Bengali speaking Hindu population in the state about their citizenship, if there names do not figure in the final list of NRC on Saturday.
When the first list of the Assam NRC -- that identifies whether a person is an Indian or a foreigner -- was released last year, the names of over 41 lakh people didn't appear in it and a large section of them are believed to be Hindus.
“The NRC is a lot more dangerous than the IMDT Act. The government created this monster. Many foreigners have been included and many genuine citizens have been wrongly excluded in the list as a result of it," said Shankar Das, RSS in-charge of publicity in Assam. "A free and fair NRC is what we want. Even if one genuine citizen is left out, the process is deemed flawed," he said.
It should be noted that when News18 had earlier spoken to Das in July last year, the RSS leader had supported the exercise and advocated for a pan-Indian NRC. “We want that NRC should happen all over India, for a self-reliant and self-respecting nation like ours. It is a must exercise to know who are our real citizens. Our problem is so big that exercise like census does not suffice. I am glad that such an exercise started with Assam,” he had said.
The IMDT Act ensued from the Assam accord of 1985 and was enacted to identify illegal immigrants residing in the state. It was repealed in 2005 following a petition by current chief minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal.
Sonowal, then a part of the All Assam Students Union (AASU), had demanded the scrapping of the Act on grounds that it was working as a shield for suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh residing in Assam. It "created the biggest hurdle and is the main impediment or barrier in the identification and deportation of illegal migrants," a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had noted in 2005.
When asked to elaborate on RSS’s position, Das said, "There should not be any objection to protecting Hindu interest in the country. A Hindu cannot be a foreigner in India. He is indigenous to the country, while Muslims are foreigners." He further clarified that by 'Hindu' he meant 'someone who believes in 'Hindu culture'.
However, Das denied all allegations that the NRC is against Muslims. "This anti-Muslim narrative has been forced on to us from the West. The exercise is for identifying Indian citizens and the idea that Muslims are suffering is a constructed narrative," he said.
The RSS functionary also attacked the Congress for engaging in vote bank politics with the significant Muslim population in the state. "There are many criticising the BJP and the RSS for protecting Bengali Hindus. But no one talks about how the Congress and the AIUDF have protected its Muslims vote bank for decades," he said.