New Delhi, Nov. 8: Two former top home ministry officials today squarely blamed Delhi and Dispur for not ensuring the update of the National Register of Citizens, 1951 in Assam and sowing seeds of divisiveness by encouraging community-specific autonomous councils.
Speaking at a seminar on Conflict in Bodoland, former Union home secretary G.K. Pillai held Dispur responsible for not updating the NRC. He said as Union home secretary he had tried to update the NRC through verification of citizenship with electoral rolls of 1966 and 1971.
“But there are political compulsions in Assam…there are vested interests who do not want NRC,” he said. He illustrated his point by arguing that even the two pilot projects were not allowed to go forward as five people died in protests.
Former special director of Intelligence Bureau R.N. Ravi said the Assam Accord (which seeks to address the issue of foreigners staying illegally in Assam and whose implementation the All Assam Students Union has been demanding) was “designed to fail”. The thought was echoed by former Assam Governor Lt Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha.
Ravi said the ministry of home affairs, instead of getting to the root of a problem, provides “respite” to problems by dealing with them as law and order issues.
Hardly any of the 15 clauses of the accord adequately addresses the issue of defining a foreigner. The accord has remained unimplemented for 27 years, a failure of the Centre that AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya says the student body will continue to protest against.
Both Pillai and Ravi, however, sounded a note of caution, advising “inclusiveness” in both Bodoland and at large in Assam.
“We are ready for reconciliation but we are concerned about our problems,” All Bodo Students Union (Absu) general secretary Pramod Boro said, urging the Centre to consider illegal immigration as a national issue to be addressed through a separate commission. Pillai said unless verification (to find foreigners) was done, there would be baseless allegations. He said it was important to lay down the “ground rules” of verification without prejudice to the clai-ms of any community. Referring to the Bodoland conflict, he said it must be known who is residing in the area and who is occupying what type of la-nd. Speaking to The Telegraph later, Pillai noted how many parts of Kokrajhar town remained “forest” in government records even today.
The former home secretary’s remarks are significant as the conflict between Bodos and Bengali-speaking Muslims in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) has turned into a demand for weeding out foreigners, especially Bangladeshi migrants.
Blaming the “denial mode” of both Delhi and Dispur on the problem of influx, Ravi said the genesis of the problem lies in the 1990s when the state government began establishment of autonomous councils on the basis of ethnicity. He said while ethno-nationalism was good, the moment it becomes exclusive, there are problems.
On Bodoland, Ravi said the problem was not limited to Bodos versus illegal migrants but “Bodos versus the rest”. “You need to bring in the Muslims of Assam — you have to include those who are Indians,” he advised Absu which had organised the seminar.
In his inaugural speech, Pillai said questions were asked if 66 per cent representation was given in the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) to Bodos who were just 38 per cent of the population of the region, or on whether the National Liberation Front of Boroland (NDFB) should have been party to the BTC Accord.
He argued that the need of the hour was such that all communities, including non-Bodos, had agreed to the accord even if the NDFB was not ready to be a party to the agreement with the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT). If the Bodo Accord is alleged to be “one-sided”, Pillai said, it was the responsibility of the Bodo leadership to discuss it and take steps to make it an inclusive society.