NRC not a state exercise, says Conrad
Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K. Sangma told the Assembly on Tuesday that the state does not have the power to undertake the NRC exercise but his government would put in place mechanisms to protect the interest of the people.
He also said that all the field units in Meghalaya had been instructed to maintain vigil following the publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
A short discussion on the publication of the final NRC in Assam and its fallout was initiated in the Assembly during the day by Nongpoh Congress legislator Mayralborn Syiem.
Conrad said he had spoken to his Assam counterpart Sarbananda Sonowal on the exclusion from the final NRC names of Meghalaya citizens married to people in Assam. He said the issue was “complicated” but the Assam government was committed to ensuring that genuine citizens from Meghalaya were not affected.
On the NRC exercise in Meghalaya, Conrad said the state did not have the power to bring NRC as the matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Centre. He also expressed concern over 19 lakh people being excluded from the final NRC in Assam.
On fears of influx in Meghalaya following publication of the final NRC in Assam on August 31, Conrad said all field units had been alerted to maintain strict vigil for 24 hours, to conduct a comprehensive check and not allow anyone coming from Assam to enter the state without sufficient documentary proof.
“Adequate manpower has been deployed at checkposts at key entry points bordering Assam, additional check points have been set up in the districts and these are being manned round-the-clock. Till date, 223 outsiders who could not produce original valid documents have been detected and sent back to their place of origin. They were advised to bring valid documents as and when they visit the state,” the chief minister said.
Conrad said the government was concerned about the matter and urged all line departments, legislators and civil society to assist in this endeavour to tackle the situation.
Talking about the Meghalaya Residents Safety and Security Act, 2016, Conrad said district task forces had been formed, and superintendents of police directed to liase with village headmen and activate village defence parties and instruct them to provide information of any attempt at infiltration by illegal immigrants or if any unknown individual comes into their village.
On the proposal to amend the act to further strengthen it, Conrad said three aspects should be kept in mind — the interest and protection of indigenous people, constitutional provisions and that genuine citizens are not harassed.
On the apprehension that the Centre is determined to bring the Citizenship Amendment Bill, Conrad said the Union government has maintained that it would discuss the issue with all the state governments and various groups from the Northeast. He maintained that “we will always keep the interest of our people as top priority.”
Several legislators, including leader of the Opposition Mukul Sangma, joined the discussion. They raised several points and said that the state government must protect the interests of the indigenous people and genuine non-tribals who are residents of the state.