Army troops are on stand-by while a massive number of 45,000 security personnel are being deployed across Assam ahead of the publication of the first draft of a list of the state’s citizens, officials said Friday. Assam is on the edge ahead of the publication of the part draft National Register of Citizens on December 31, and the security forces, including 22,000 paramilitary personnel, are being deployed in different districts, especially in sensitive pockets.
The Counter Insurgency (CI) grid, involving the Army, police, paramilitary and intelligence agencies, has been regularly reviewing the situation and directed all possible action to ensure peace after the publication of the draft NRC, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity. Army troops have been alerted and will be called if necessary to assist the administration in case of any trouble, the official said.
There have been intelligence inputs about possible tension in some parts of the state where names of doubtful citizens could be excluded in the draft list. Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba spent two days in the state last week, reviewing preparations for the publication of the part draft of the NRC and security arrangements, as ensuring peace in the state is a top priority for the Centre and the state governments, another official said.
The exercise to update the NRC is being carried out in Assam following a decision in 2005 after a series of meetings between the central and state governments and the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in an attempt to document the bona fide Indian citizens living the state. Assam, which faced influx from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC, first prepared in 1951.
The current exercise, started in 2005 under the then Congress regime, got a major push only after the BJP came to power in the state with illegal immigration from Bangladesh as a poll plank. The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the entire process, had ordered that the first draft of the NRC be published by December 31 after completing the scrutiny of over two crore claims along with that of around 38 lakh people whose documents were suspect.
Of the 3.28 crore applications submitted, there was confusion over the inclusion of 29 lakh people who had submitted certificates issued by ‘gram panchayats’ as proof of identity, after a Gauhati High Court order in February had deemed ‘panchayat’ certificates invalid, the official said. The Supreme Court set aside the high court order and upheld the validity of the certificates as identity proof if they were followed up with proper verification.
The apex court also asked authorities to stick to the original deadline for the publication of the draft NRC and include names of those whose claims were verified. When the NRC was first prepared in Assam way back in 1951, the state had 80 lakh citizens then.
The process of identification of illegal immigrants in Assam has been debated and become a contentious issue in the state’s politics. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the AASU in 1979. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985 in the presence of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday sought to dispel apprehensions and said “genuine” Indians missing from the citizenship register would get enough opportunities to incorporate their names. “No one should have any apprehensions. If the name of a genuine Indian citizen is missing in the part draft of the NRC, he or she will get proper chance to incorporate it,” Sonowal said.