So Messrs Angshuman Choudhuri and Suraj Gogoi are at it again———aiming pot shots at me while passing over or trivializing the main argument and point of view. Worse,their diatribe is assuming an increasingly personal tone and turning the debate into a squabble.Hence this is going to be my last and final attempt to clear up the confusion born of lack of basic pertinent historical knowledge and a bias against the Assamese endeavour to preserve their native identity and culture.
According to them the NRC is the climax of a century old campaign by xenophobic and chauvinist Assamese to demonize and persecute hapless ‘Bengali Muslims’ and ‘Bengali Hindus’.
This has culminated in their opinion in consigning thousands to horrendous torture-chambers called Detention Centers.
First the Detention Centers are not logical consequences of NRC.The NRC’s task is to identify and register genuine citizens. Detention Centers are the products of two other parallel processes by saffron government run at a furiius pace:the Election Commission’s declaration of numbers of people on its rolls as ‘doubtful voters'(DVs),and Foreigners Tribunals (FTs) declaring people as Declared Foreigners(DFs).
The Assamese only seek reliable data on the number of actual aliens who have inflitrated into Assam from neighbouring countries across open and porous borders resulting in their relegation to a minority in their own state.The atual number has turned out to be plus minus 19 lakhs subject to appeals and verification in the four months ahead.This ought to put Assamese fears at rest, but interested parties are doing their worst to trash it and recreate the conditions that had plunged the state for twenty years into blood-spattered chaos.
Secondly,what a way to characterize an entire national community who have diverse attitudes and opinions on important issues!It is not unlike the Home Minister’s war cry that there ought to be just one language for the sake of unity of the country.And proceeding from similar ignorance of history.
Then NRC is no brainchild of the Assamese chauvinists.It was accepted as a reasonable method of resolving the contentious question of alleged massive infiltration by foreigners, and was accepted as a way out by the immigrant Muslim community who had by late nineteen nineties accepted the Assam Accord after opposing it bitterly for a decade.Of course no one could imagine the tremendous hassles and hurdles it might come up against at that time.
Further it was not the AGP the supposed organ of Assamese chauvinists but the Congress government,by no means a party of Muslim or Bengali haters that took up the work of implementation in 2006.One can imagine what might have happened had a saffron government undertaken it.
The centre under a saffron party would not even release the sanctioned funds until rebuked by the Supreme Court.The SC also laid down in 2013 the guidelines to facilitate the process of establishing citizenship by claimants.3 crore and 49 lakhs applied leaving a small fraction out of count,including Indian citizens from other states and some natives offended with the idea of having to prove their citizenship.At first glance 19 lakhs appear a huge number,but not when considered in proportion to the total number involved.And they have four months to appeal and prove their credentials after receiving notice.
To be sure there is the serious problem of human rights of those left out and it cannot be taken lightly. After all it does not follow logically that those left out of the process deserve to be placed in Detention Centers.The decision is that of saffron governments which are running two parallel processes to jack up the pressure and inflate the numbers.
The contention by some quarters that all those 19 lakhs are ‘genuine Indians’ is pure rhetoric.Simply because there have been numerous glitches and and some absurdities one cannot jump to the conclusion that the process was bogus and malicious.The deadline which 55000 government employees on deputation worked night and day to keep could explain many of such mess-up considering the impersonal character of the work.Any clerical error may come up for scrutiny and correction.
( To continue in part 2)
Hiren Gohain is a literary critic, and social scientist.