The final National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on August 31 contained 19,06,657 exclusions, less than half the number of exclusions in the final draft of July 2018. The Assam BJP said it was “unhappy” with the small number of excluded persons; the All Assam Students Union (AASU) said they believed the number should have been higher.
What is the basis of the assumption that Assam actually has many more “illegals” than the NRC figure of 19 lakh?
The NRC process picked up steam after the Supreme Court order in the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha & Ors vs Union Of India & Ors case (December 17, 2014).
Paragraph 13 of the order quoted from a report submitted to then President K R Narayanan by the then Governor of Assam, Lt Gen S K Sinha, in 1998: “The dangerous consequences of large scale illegal migration from Bangladesh… need to be empathetically stressed. No misconceived and mistaken notions of secularism should be allowed to come in the way… The spectre looms large of the indigenous people of Assam being reduced to a minority in their home state. Their cultural survival will be in jeopardy, their political control will be weakened and their employment opportunities will be undermined.”
It was in this backdrop, the order noted, that a writ petition was filed in 2000 by (Assam’s present Chief Minister) Sarbananda Sonowal “assailing the Constitutional validity of The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983 and the rules made thereunder”.
In his report, Lt Gen Sinha mentioned an answer in Parliament on May 6, 1997 by then Home Minister Indrajit Gupta, which estimated 10 million illegal immigrants in all of India. The report said “Home Ministry /Intelligence Bureau source, the 10 August 1998 issue of India Today has given the breakdown of these illegal migrants”, with “4 million” in Assam.
The SC order noted: “On 14th July, 2004, in response to an unstarred question pertaining to deportation of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, the Minister of State, Home Affairs, submitted a statement to Parliament indicating therein that the estimated number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants into India as on 31st December, 2001 was 1.20 crores, out of which 50 lakhs were in Assam.”
On August 31, state BJP president Ranjit Dass said: “In 1991, former Assam Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia had said there are 30 lakh illegal Bangladeshis in Assam. Then, Congress Home Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told the Rajya Sabha that 50 lakh illegal Bangladeshis are there in Assam. Even Indrajit Gupta in the H D Deve Gowda government had talked of around 42 lakh illegal foreigners… So how can we today accept the figure of 19 lakh?”