A major controversy has broken out over the NRC. The Congress has found fault in its implementation. What is your view?
It is our baby. It is my baby. And it was started during Manmohan Singhji’s time. The whole purpose was to see how many foreigners are identified… and genuine Indian citizens, irrespective of their religions… their names should be in the NRC. That was the whole idea. It is our baby. We cannot disown it. But our case is that the way it has been prepared, the way the final list was published, it is full of mistakes. It is not foolproof. There is a big leakage, as a result of which 40 lakh people have been put in uncertainty, creating a sense of insecurity. Forty lakh is not a small number… We want it to be fully corrected… Because of the BJP government’s short-sighted politics, they are creating all sorts of problems.
In your view, what is the way out?
We will give protection to all genuine Indian citizens. The names of all genuine citizens should come on the final list… Don’t take it casually, don’t play politics, don’t try to play a divisive role, don’t try to make it Hindu, Muslim or Christian or anything. It should be irrespective of all religions. A large number of Hindus have been excluded. We are for Hindus, Muslims, Christians… we are for everybody. So, the very purpose for which it was prepared, that purpose has not been fulfilled. The purpose was to identify foreigners and include genuine Indian citizens… the final list should reflect that.
The government has said people can still file their claims.
The government should provide legal assistance so that genuine citizens are included. We will also provide it… Most of them come from very poor families. How long can they continue to spend money… They are illiterate people. Unless, helplines are set up and the government comes to their help…
Of the 40 lakh people, how many would be foreigners?
A vast majority will be Indian citizens. It is very difficult to say (how many are foreigners). As per the records, only 2.48 lakh are “D voters”, which means doubtful voters.
Senior BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya has said there should be a similar effort to identify illegal migrants from Bangladesh in West Bengal also.
That is their concern. We have concern for Assam. They are playing politics. They want to divide Hindus-Muslims. They want to give protection to Bangladeshi Hindus. With the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2014, they have decided to grant citizenship to Bengali Hindus and to other people.
Are you in favour of the Bill?
No, I am against it. It is discriminatory and violates the Constitution. How can you encourage foreigners… The NRC and Citizenship Amendment Bill are contradictory to each other. So the BJP is playing politics. On the one hand, you are talking about NRC, which is on the basis of the 1971 voter list, according to Rajiv Gandhi’s Assam Accord, and, on the other hand, you want to grant citizenship under the Bill after 2014. What is the point of having the NRC then?
Do you want the 1971 cut-off to be changed to a later date?
That date is as per the Assam Accord. Changing that will create unnecessary problems for Assam. We are against (it)… because if you go on violating one after another… how long can you go on accepting foreigners. The situation in Bangladesh is not so bad that the Hindus or others are very insecure. If the situation is so bad in Bangladesh, why has the Government of India not taken it up with the Prime Minister… Otherwise, if every Hindu or everybody who is abroad… just because they want to come to India… how can you go on accommodating them?
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was scathing in her attack on the government and NRC. But there are contradictions in your party. While those from upper Assam are happy, those from the Barak Valley are not.
In upper Assam, there is no question of foreigners. It is an Assamese-dominated area. So, it is mainly in lower Assam and Barak Valley. Most of the names which have been excluded… they are from lower Assam and Barak Valley.
Your leaders from Barak Valley are in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Yes, some sections there are in favour. Not all, but a major section… There is a contradiction, that is true. This is the only state where there are two state languages… In Brahmaputra valley, there is Assamese; in Barak Valley, there is Bengali. They want the Bill, but we don’t want it. Earlier also, in my party… when there was a demand for a state language, Brahmaputra valley wanted Assamese while Barak Valley wanted Bengali. So Bengali was made state language for Barak Valley.
What do you plan to do now?
We will meet our leaders. They will take it up with everyone. I had written to the Prime Minister, those who are in the voters’ list of 2014 or 2016… they should automatically be included in the NRC. They cannot be a voter if they are not an Indian citizen. They (government) said neither yes, nor no. I will continue to pursue it.
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