The CPI(M) on Thursday urged the Centre to adhere to norms laid down by the Supreme Court while updating the draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam, which is to be published by December 31.
The updating of the NRC of 1951 constitutes a key part of the implementation of the Assam Accord of 1985 which had fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for determining the status of migrants.
In an editorial in the forthcoming edition of party organ ‘Peoples’ Democracy’, former CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat pointed out that the updating of the NRC was a vital step in settling the ‘foreigners’ issue in Assam. “A fair recording of citizens using the March 24, 1971, cut-off date would also end the harassment of people of East Bengal origin, both religious and linguistic minorities,” he said.
Karat also accused the BJP government in the state of “interfering” with the updating process of the NRC. “The upgradation of the NRC is being prepared under the supervision of the Supreme Court. But ever since the BJP-led government took office in Assam, there have been repeated efforts to interfere with the updating process,” he claimed.
The Centre’s Citizenship Amendment Bill (2016) for granting citizenship to non-Muslim migrants was a “serious attempt to undermine the NRC process”, Karat said. Karat also referred to panchayat certificates being one of the link documents, which seek to prove an applicant’s residency in the state through the lineage of parents or grandparents. He said if the panchayats did not certify documents as evidence of a linkage, the status of a large number of genuine citizens could be in jeopardy.
“According to the report of the state coordinator for the NRC to the Supreme Court in October, of the 47 lakh applicants, approximately 17.40 lakh are ‘original inhabitants’ whose names will be included in the NRC. The implication is that the status of the 29 lakh others is uncertain,” the editorial said.
Stating that the characterisation of people as “original inhabitants” had no legal basis, Karat noted that “exclusion on the basis of ‘non-original inhabitants’ will target those who have long been settled in Assam from East Bengal, during British rule”. “These issues have already created tensions and communal and divisive forces are seeking to exploit them,” Karat held. He advocated that all those residing in Assam since March 25, 1971, or “who have an established linkage to residents of Assam prior to that date must find their names included in the NRC”.
The Supreme Court had asked the office of the Assam state coordinator for the NRC to file a report on how many of the 48 lakh applicants who had submitted only a panchayat certificate to prove their Indian citizenship were “original inhabitants” of the state.