NRC exclusion fuels concern in Darjeeling
The exclusion of the names of relatives of Baijayanti Devi, who had died during the Assam Agitation of the 1970s, and Sahitya Akademi award winner Durga Khatiwada, has brought the focus back on Gorkhas and the National Register of Citizens being updated in Assam.
Raju Bista, the Darjeeling MP from the BJP, issued a statement on Saturday, suggesting that the exclusion of the relatives of these two luminaries from Assam had rattled the party leaders in the hills.
Bista asked the Gorkhas not to “panic” and added that he had spoken to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and got an assurance that the Gorkha community would not face any hardship.
“It has been brought to my notice that many Assamese Gorkhas, including the families of 1979 Assam Agitation Martyr Baijayanti Devi from Chandmari (Sonitpur) and Sahitya Akademi Award Winner Durga Khatiwada, have been left out from the NRC Draft Exclusion list released on June 26, 2019,” Bista said.
BJP leader Bista, whose party has said it would implement the NRC in Bengal if voted to power, tried to assuage fear by contending that “there have been many cases of administrative lapses and many people from all cross-sections of the society, and not just from the Gorkha community, have been missing from the published lists.”
Bista emphasised that the NRC was important from the perspective of national security and added that there was always the possibility of human error while undertaking such a “humongous task”.
The BJP parliamentarian said he would be writing to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, under whose guidance the NRC exercise is being carried out. “It may be recalled that on November 1, 2018, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had observed that ‘the Gorkhas are an asset to the country’ and had instructed Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela to include the Gorkhas in NRC,” Bista said.
Binay Tamang of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha was quick to latch on to the issue and criticised the BJP leadership. “We protest the development in Assam. The BJP government is not working in the interest of the Gorkhas,” said Tamang.
“I want to question the BJP leaders who were saying the NRC will not bother the Gorkhas. The Gorkhas from the Darjeeling hills, Terai and the Dooars must oppose the NRC,” Tamang said, adding they want the Gorkhas to be classified as original inhabitants.