Assam final NRC boomerangs
Union home minister Amit Shah’s signal of a fresh NRC exercise in Assam came on a day an influential local minister disclosed that the Centre had been requested to reject the register finalised in the state recently.
Cabinet minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma said in Guwahati that the state government had sought the rejection of the final National Register of Citizens published on August 31. Assam wants the Centre to follow the same cut-off date (1951 instead of 1971) applicable to the rest of the country for drawing up the register.
Sarma said the Assam government had not accepted the final NRC, which was published on the Supreme Court’s watch. “The NRC has names of people which should not be in it and has left out names of people which should have been in it,” he added.
Speculation had been rife that out of the 19 lakh people excluded from the NRC in Assam, as many as 14 lakh were Hindus.
The rejection of the final NRC is a stunning turnaround for the BJP that has been pursuing the exercise with vigour with an eye on political dividends — until the final figures appeared to belie expectations.
Sarma, however, said the state government had not sent any written proposal or request to the Centre as numerous cases are being heard by the Supreme Court on the issue. “We have put in the request during formal and informal meetings with the Centre,” he said.
If the Assam exercise is done all over again — clarity is awaited on the sweep of the proposed exercise — it will involve a humongous effort.
More than 50,000 government officials were engaged in the exercise and the Centre had sanctioned Rs 1,600 crore for the NRC update in Assam.
A total of 3.29 crore people had applied for inclusion in the NRC. While nearly 41 lakh people were left out of the draft list published on July 30, 2018, the names of 19,06,657 people were not included in the final NRC.
The NRC authorities have not released community or district-wise data of those excluded or included.
Since its publication, the BJP has been expressing its displeasure. “We have told the Centre two things. First, the cut-off date (for detection and deportation of foreigners) should be the same for the whole country. There should not be a separate cut-off date for Assam. Second, the Assam NRC should be rejected and the state should be part of the nationwide NRC,” said Sarma.
“If the cut-off year is 1971, then it should be the same for all states.… We are not asking to scrap the Assam Accord,” he added. The Accord, signed in 1985, had stipulated that 1971 be the cut-off date.
“We have been telling the Union home minister that this NRC in Assam is unacceptable. It should be rejected. Shah said the NRC will be prepared across the country after the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. This would be a new NRC, free of ambiguity,” Sarma said.
He welcomed Shah’s statement on Wednesday, saying the Centre has “felt our pulse”.