A political war between the BJP and opposition parties erupted on Monday over the publication of the second and final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), with the Congress calling it a “gameplan” of the saffron party. The Ministry of Home Affairs, however, urged the opposition parties not to politicise the “sensitive” issue.
The final draft of NRC, which was released amid tight security earlier in the day, incorporated names of 2.89 crore people out of 3.29 crore applicants. The fate of over 40.07 lakh people, however, remains in limbo as the Centre refused to include them on the list and comment on their citizenship status. The NRC will include the names of all Indian citizens who have been residing in Assam before March 25, 1971.
In no time did the opposition, mainly the Congress and Trinamool Congress, trained their guns at the Centre, accusing it of dividing the people for electoral gains.
Here is everything that happened today:
‘Historic day for India’
Immediately after the release of the names, Registrar General of India Sailesh said 2,89,83,677 people were found to be eligible for inclusion in the complete draft of the ambitious NRC out of a total 3,29,91,384 applicants. “This is a historic day for India and Assam. The exercise is unparalleled in the size. It is a legal process done under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court,” Sailesh said at a press conference in Guwahati.
Allaying fears of the four lakh people whose names failed to make it to the final draft, he said, “The process for making claims and objections will begin on August 30 and continue till September 28. An adequate and ample scope will be given to people for making objections. No genuine Indian citizen should have any fear.”
Sailesh also reiterated Union Minister Rajnath Singh’s assurance that the missing names will not be referred to the Foreigners’ Tribunal or would they be taken to the detention centre until they exhaust all forms of appeal.
When asked about the reasons for not including the name of the four lakh people, NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela said, “We are not going to make the reasons public. It will be informed individually. They can find the reasons by visiting NRC Sewa Kendras (NSK).”
Hajela, however, clarified that people belonging to four categories were not included in the draft as their eligibility were put on hold by the Supreme Court. “These four categories are ‘D’ (doubtful) voters, descendants of ‘D’ voters, references pending at Foreigners Tribunals and descendants of the references pending at Foreigners Tribunals,” he said.
The state coordinator also said that there are names which were included in the first draft but were deleted from the complete one. “They will be intimated through individual letters in the coming days,” he said.
Politics of polarisation: Congress
While questioning the non-inclusion of over 40 lakh people in the complete draft of the NRC, the Congress said the revision of voters list in the ’90s had shown only 3.5 lakh ‘Doubtful’ or ‘D voters’ when compared to the latest one, and alleged it was a “motivated” action under the BJP which was trying to play “politics of polarisation”.
Assam Pradesh Congress President Ripun Bora expressed hope that the government would stick to its words that no genuine citizen would be left out. “Intensive revision of voters list in 1995 and 1997 had shown only 3.5 lakh ‘Doubtful’ or D voters. It is not clear how another 36.5 lakh people were dropped (in the complete draft of NRC),” Bora said after the release of complete draft of the NRC.
Bora also alleged it was a “motivated” action under the BJP which was trying to play “politics of polarisation”.
Later in the day, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said the BJP government’s execution of the highly-sensitive NRC has been tardy, leading to massive insecurity in Assam. In a Facebook post, Gandhi said, “The government should move swiftly to resolve the crisis in Assam after reports that the names of many Indian citizens are missing in the draft National Register of Citizens. Te manner in which this exercise has been undertaken by the BJP Governments at the centre and in the State of Assam leaves much to be desired.”
Centre resorting to vote bank politics: Mamata
Calling it a deliberate move to evict the Bengali-speaking population and people from Bihar, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said “Indian citizens have become refugees” in their own land. “People are being isolated through a gameplan. We are worried because people are being made refugees in their own country. Its a plan to throw out Bengali-speaking people and Biharis. Consequences will be felt in our state also,” she told reporters at a press conference.
“There were people who have Aadhaar cards and passports but still their names are not in the draft list. Names of people were removed on the basis of surnames also. Is the government trying to do forceful eviction,” the TMC chief asked.
Questioning the timing of the release of the NRC list, Banerjee accused the BJP of doing politics ahead of the 2019 elections. “This is just an exercise to isolate the people who can vote positively and those who can’t. So many Muslims are there, Bengalis are there, Biharis are there…They are playing with fire…Divide and rule will finish the country,” she said.
TMC MP Derek O’Brien told reporters that the party has decided to circulate a note on NRC among other political parties. “We think the NRC is inhuman and violates human rights. We would circulate a note on it among all political parties,” he said.
Rajya Sabha adjourned four times
Amid uproar over the publication of the list, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu was forced to adjourn the Upper House four times. Naidu claimed to have spoken to Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the issue. However, the house refused to maintain order. “Home Minister came all the way to the House, neither the members were willing to say anything, nor did they allow the House to function,” Naidu said.
TMC leader Derek O’Brien demanded a discussion on the notice given by him on the NRC. “It is not a political issue sir. It is a question of human rights, it is a humanitarian issue, it is a national issue, … we need to look after Indian citizens. Please allow me to raise this issue sir,” he said.
Several other TMC members joined the MP to raise the issue, forcing Naidu to conclude the session for the day.
MHA slams TMC
Refuting Mamata Banerjee’s claims, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said updating the NRC was a “secular exercise” and that no particular community was targeted. A senior Home Ministry official said that all genuine Indian nations will be provided adequate opportunities to prove their citizenship.
“The NRC is a list of the state’s citizens and exclusion of name does not automatically make anyone a foreigner,” the official said. He added, “The power of declaring a person as foreigner is vested with the foreigners’ tribunal set up for the purpose and all aggrieved persons can approach it if they have exhausted the options available with NRC authorities.”
The official also dismissed rumours that internet services were disrupted in Assam and maintained that the chief secretary and the director general of police have made it clear that telecom and internet services were running without interruption in the state.
No coercive action against anyone: Rajnath Singh
Urging people not to panic over the draft, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that today’s publication is “impartial” and those whose names are not included will be given a chance to prove their Indian citizenship. “No coercive action will be taken against anyone. Hence, there is no need for anyone to panic. This is a draft and not the final list,” he said.
“Some people are unnecessarily trying to create an atmosphere of fear. I want to assure all that there is no need for any apprehension or fear. Some misinformation is also being spread. The NRC process has been done impartially,” he added.
Singh said the NRC was being demanded in Assam for a long time and the previous state government had set up foreign tribunals following the Supreme Court order. “In publishing NRC, the government has done nothing. Everything is being done as per Supreme Court order. The allegation of the opposition against the government is baseless,” the minister said.
Assam CM reiterates Rajnath on spread of misinformation
Reiterating Union minister Rajnath Singh, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, “No one should spread misinformation. No one should also give any importance to misinformation. A government is there in Assam to look after people’s interest. You have seen all are living here with unity and honour,” he said.
Warning those trying to disrupt peace in the state, Sonowal said, “While the people have welcomed the draft NRC, certain sections are trying to destabilise and spread lies. People of Assam have always lived with peace and harmony. We will not allow anyone to disturb peace and law and order.”
December 31 deadline for the final list: Govt
Later in the evening, the Union Home Ministry announced that the final NRC list will be published by December 31, 2018.