Guwahati: Aabhijeet Sharma, president of Assam Public Works (APW) and one of the main petitioners in the Supreme Court which led to the updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, was restless since Saturday morning as the much-awaited complete NRC list was about to be published. But all his excitement turned into a nightmare when the final papers were released, leaving out 19,06,657 people.
The NRC has found that a total of 3,11,21,004 people are eligible for inclusion in the final NRC. “The numbers are not expected. We thought it would be higher. Moreover, there are plenty of cases coming to fore where genuine Indians claim to have been left out of the NRC list. Despite huge expenditures and the hard work of thousands of state government employees, the authority could not produce an error-free NRC. The people of Assam today feel cheated,” Sharma said.
Unsatisfied with the results, the APW immediately decided to move the Supreme Court once again praying for a fresh re-verification of the NRC list and demanding social audit of entire expenses done in the NRC updation process.
“The authorities have to give details of every single penny spent in the process and we will also pray for inspecting the software and the technical platforms used in the process by a third party expert committee. Unless an error-free NRC is prepared, the whole process remains farce,” he added.
For All Assam Student’ Union (AASU), the numbers of those left out of the NRC was astonishing. The largest student group of the state was surprised that the exclusion did not even match with government’s previous estimates of illegal infiltrators in the state.
AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharjee said, “From time to time, the government itself has admitted of having over two crore Bangladeshis in the country with a maximum of them possibly in Assam. But the numbers of those excluded from the NRC list are not even close to anything like that. We are unhappy but have belief in the judiciary and therefore, we are going to move the SC shortly for necessary rectifying of the errors in the NRC.”
In 2016, the then Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju informed Rajya Sabha (in a reply to a written question) that according to the available inputs, there are around 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants staying in India. Rijiju said, there are reports of Bangladeshi nationals having entered the country without valid travel documents.
Prior to it, during the UPA government, the then Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal had made a statement in Parliament on July 14 2004, saying there were over 12 million illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators living in different parts of the country. Jaiswal had said out of the total estimated illegal migrants, five million were present in Assam alone, as of December 31, 2001.
The publication of the NRC final list on Saturday, also left the ruling party’s alliance in the government and the regional party of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) high and dry.
Assam’s Agriculture minister and AGP president Atul Bora said, “This NRC is unacceptable. The AGP which took birth from the anti-infiltration movement believes that number of illegal foreigners in Assam is quite high than those excluded from the NRC list. Moreover, within this excluded group of people, there are many genuine Indian citizens too. We wanted a 100 per cent Bangladeshi-free NRC and this is not that.” The AGP’s legal cell has been given the task to explore further ways to take the matter ahead and also to provide legal help to all genuine Indian citizens who were left out of the NRC list.
According to the state’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, a fair NRC is only possible through a proper re-verification of the entire NRC list. “Names of many Indian citizens who migrated from Bangladesh as refugees prior to 1971 have not been included in the NRC because authorities refused to accept refugee certificates. Many names got included because of manipulation of legacy data as alleged by many. I reiterate that as requested by central and state governments, at least 20% re-verification (bordering districts) and 10% re-verification (remaining districts) should be allowed by the apex court for a correct and fair NRC,” Sarma stated.
Whereas, the Prabajan Virodhi Manch (PVM), an anti-influx body of the state led by Supreme Court lawyer Upamannyu Hazarika, blamed the ruling government of shedding crocodile tears. It alleged the state government of doing ‘too little and too late’ when it comes to the NRC. Following the release of the first draft, PVM was amongst the firsts to demand a re-verification of NRC list.
Hazarika said, “Last year, on August 26, when PVM had submitted documents to the Registrar General of India (RGI) and the state government, pointing out discrepancies in the NRC that included many foreigners, the government and all leaders kept quiet. All this time, the government was busy with its singular obsession to include the Hindu Bangladeshis in the NRC by granting them citizenship by bringing in Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB). But now when there is no CAB as well as no time to do anything, the government is shedding crocodile tears by expressing its resentment over the final NRC. It’s nothing but a tactic to wash away with its responsibility to make an error-free NRC.”
Slamming the Sonowal government for not taking timely action, the anti-influx body said that the governments instead of enacting a drama to assuage the sentiments to guard its incompetence, it should act promptly to secure the land, job and rights over natural resources by indigenous people of the state. “An erroneous NRC is not going to fulfil the demands of a Bangladeshi-free Assam. The sole alternative at this juncture is to ensure that resources like land, employment and trade licences are reserved for the indigenous people. This is the only means left now to protect the indigenous identity in Assam and the government should act on it immediately if only they are serious about protecting the rights of locals,” Hazarika suggested.