Within hours of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement in Parliament Wednesday that the NRC for Assam will be repeated whenever the exercise is conducted nationwide, Opposition-ruled states and parties spoke out against any pan-India NRC move.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been taking on the BJP-led central government over the Citizenship Amendment Bill, said her government will not allow the NRC to be implemented in the state. Addressing a public meeting at Sagardighi in Murshidabad district, Banerjee said nobody can take away any person’s citizenship and make him or her a refugee. Stating that the NRC in Assam was part of the Assam Accord signed during the tenure of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, she said the exercise can never be implemented across India.
Without taking names, Banerjee, who heads the Trinamool Congress, said: “A few people are trying to foment trouble in the state by saying that the NRC exercise will be carried out in Bengal. I would like to make it very clear that we will never allow the NRC exercise in Bengal. We won’t allow anybody to divide people on the basis of religion.”
Claiming that there is a “conspiracy” to divide the state on religious lines, Banerjee said “if someone thinks it will be easy to divide Bengal on communal lines, then the person is living in a fool’s paradise”.
“A total of 19 lakh people have been left out of the Assam NRC list. Those omitted include Hindus, Bengalis, Muslims, Gorkhas and Buddhists. They have been sent to detention centres. In Bengal, we (TMC) will never allow any detention centre,” she said.
Kerala Minister for Welfare of Minorities and Higher Education K T Jaleel said Shah’s announcement about an NRC exercise across the country is alarming. “When there is a demand for withdrawing the NCR process carried out in Assam, how can the minister go for such a nationwide rollout of the process? I understand he also stated that all non-Muslims, who have come from other countries, will be given citizenship. It is difficult to grasp that approach to exclude Muslims, which is not suitable for a secular nation like India.’’
He said migrants from Bangladesh should be accepted as their movement to India shows that they had given importance to cultural identity rather than religious identity. “We have to encourage it. If they had given importance for religious identity, they would not have come to India. They, who had longed for plurality in life, abandoned their religious identity. Hence, they should be kept close to our heart,’’ he said.
Madhya Pradesh minister Arif Aqueel said “the sole intention is to harass minorities, nothing else”.
Assam Congress president and MP Ripun Bora said: “The Congress party does not support the statement of Amit Shah that NRC will be done again in Assam. He has talked about NRC across India. That is a separate topic. But in Assam, it is different. It was prepared under special circumstances. The government’s duty now is to make the Foreigners’ Tribunals functional immediately so that genuine citizens left out of the NRC can appeal. But they are saying instead NRC will be prepared again in Assam. That will cause turmoil in Assam.”
The Congress, on its part, said present laws do not allow a nationwide NRC which, it said, will have to flow out of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
“The Citizenship Bill is not the same as was examined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee. It will definitely need an examination by a standing committee or a select committee so that the law that is enacted is not flawed or in conflict with the Constitution of India. NRC will have to flow out of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The present law does not allow that. In case of Assam, it was specific to the state as per the Assam Accord and monitored by the Supreme Court,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said.
The CAB, he said, “must pass the muster when it comes to the litmus test of constitutionality.” And the Constitution of India, he said, does not allow discrimination on religious considerations.