National Register of Citizens in Assam: Need for Responsibility, Caution and Restraint

assam nrc list1a

The problem of presence of illegal Bangladeshi nationals in Assam is quite complex and old. When the students movement against the Bangladeshi infiltration in Assam held in the eighties, they were supported by socialists and Gandhians of the country. Then that movement was secular and its emphasis was on Assamese citizens identity. Although there was opposition to Bangla-speaking population, but people of all sections of Assamese society took part in the movement. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi tried to give it a communal color. When she went to address a rally in the Brahmaputra Valley, a slogan ‘hath men bidi muhn men paan, asam banega pakistan’ (having bidi in hand and betel leaf in mouth Assam will become Pakistan) was raised. That was a vote bank of the Congress. The intrusion continued due to lose security arrangements on Bangladesh border. Meanwhile the Nelly massacre of women and children of minority community highlighted the communal and gruesome face of that movement. After her, Rajiv Gandhi became prime minister and signed the Assam Accord in 1985. The concept of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is the result of that process. According to this, those whose names are not registered in the NCR, will not be considered as citizens of India. It was decided to identify foreign nationals and exclude them from the NCR. But due to lack of political will and no such agreement with Bangladesh, that work could not be done.

The NRC issued on Monday by the present government excludes names of over 40 lakh people. If their families are added then this number will be more than one crore. It is being said that most of the 4 million people out of the National Citizen Register are Indian citizens. These include both Hindus and Muslims. Putting such a large number of people in one state of insecurity shows that the duty to prepare the NRC has not been fulfilled properly. It seems that the government was quick to issue a NRC for electoral gains rather than a proper solution to the problem. This essential work of national interest should have been done in a non-political manner. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership did not act maturity.

The BJP president Amit Shah is presenting the publication of the National Citizen Register as a bravery. The BJP in-charge of West Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya has given a statement in the style of attack on West Bengal after Assam. Amit Shah has made an unsubstantiated statement to link the whole issue with national security even in the Parliament. With this kind of irresponsible statements of BJP leaders, the initial balanced statement given by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on this issue has become meaningless. The ruling party and its president should understand that the threat to national security rather lies in their intention of making communal polarization across the country in the name of the National Register of Citizens in Assam. In fact, the BJP had an eye on this long-standing and complex problem. After getting power at the center and the state, it has used the Office of the Registrar General of India and the Census Commissioner in such a way that it can play politics of communal polarization for a long time to come. The BJP’s immediate target on the path of communal polarization is the Lok Sabha elections 2019. The BJP has lost mid-term elections due to the unity of opposition parties in the Hindi region. Therefore it wants to compensate the loss from the Northeast and West Bengal.

Although the work of identifying genuine citizens is being supervised by the Supreme Court, and the court has stated that this list is not final and no action should be taken on its basis. The Election Commission has also said that the National Register of Citizens will not disrupt voter rights of the people. But how can the court prevent the politics on this sensitive issue? While Chief of Army Staff General Vipin Rawat has also intervened there by giving a political statement. In view of the Socialist Party that it is the responsibility of the leadership of all the parties, including the ruling party. The Socialist Party urges the country’s political leadership to ensure that instead of doing vote politics on this sensitive issue, make sure that no single Indian citizen is left out of the National Register of Citizens. Whether it belongs to any religion, caste and state. While preparing the National Register of Citizens, it was the responsibility of the citizens themselves to prove that they are citizens of India, while the United Nations puts the responsibility on the state too. Secondly, the leadership should decide the fate of Bangladeshi citizens living illegally, whether they are Hindus or Muslims, in the light of the Indian Citizenship laws and the provisions of the United Nations (UNO).

The Socialist Party believes that India has the right to recognize the people who have entered the country illegally. If possible, send them back to their country, if not possible, then consider granting them permits or giving citizenship. The provisions made in the Indian Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2014 only allowed to give citizenship to non-Muslims, but not to Muslims. India is a member of the United Nations. The goal of the United Nations is to eliminate the statelessness of citizens from the world by 2014. If such a large number of people will be made stateless then this will create an international problem. The excluded population is 10 percent of Assam state. Therefore, those who claim to be ‘Vishwguru’ and who chant the mantra of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, instead of considering it from a communal perspective, should think in a sensitive human way. Opinion of all the political parties should be considered and the Supreme Court should make decisions according to the Constitution and United Nations Charter in order to solve the problem.

Dr. Prem Singh, Dept. of Hindi. University of Delhi

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