The lawmakers said they would stand by the victims of these alleged mistakes and discrepancies, as they filed appeals against their exclusion at the Foreigners Tribunals (FTs) of the state.
The final NRC excluded over 19 lakh individuals.
None of the MLAs that The Indian Express spoke to on Sunday gave an estimate of the numbers of excluded persons in their constituency, but said they were trying to get the data analysed. MLAs of the BJP across districts echoed the party line in criticising the NRC.
Polls to contest, politicians’ worries increase
The publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Saturday has sent waves of worry and concern through several MLAs in Assam, especially those with significant numbers of linguistic or religious minorities among their voters. The exclusion of over 19 lakh individuals, most of whom can be expected to file appeals, has opened a new, messy chapter in this decades-old controversy. In a state where lines of identity are frequently distinct and deep, every elected representative knows that this issue is far from closure.
“In my constituency, there are numerous cases of some members of a family being in (the NRC) and some out. Many women from other places who got married to men in my constituency are out. Hindu, as well as Muslim exclusions, have been reported to me. I have asked the people to appeal at the Foreigners Tribunals. If someone doesn’t go to file an appeal against the NRC exclusion, there will be suspicion regarding that person,” Ranjit Dass, state BJP president and MLA from Sorbhog constituency of lower Assam, said.
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Ananta Kumar Malo, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MLA from the Scheduled Caste-reserved constituency of Abhyapuri South in lower Assam, has found himself out of the NRC. Everyone else in his family is in.
“Is this an NRC? You tell me,” Malo fumed. “Thousands of genuine Indians — especially Bengali Hindus — have been left out of it, and so many illegal foreigners have made it.”
Rama Kanta Dewri, the BJP MLA from Morigaon constituency, did not confirm or deny reports that he has been excluded. “I have neither checked it nor do I care if it’s there. I know that many Bangladeshis have entered into it, and many indigenous people are out,” said the MLA, who belongs to an indigenous tribal community of the state.
Dewri’s colleague in the BJP, Ashok Singhal, who is the MLA from Dhekiajuli, said: “There have been exclusions and I am trying to compile the data as to who all have been excluded.”
Legislators from the largely Assamese-speaking upper Assam said exclusions have been comparatively less in their constituencies.
Debabrata Saikia, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly and MLA from Nazira in Sivasagar district, said, “There is a Scheduled Caste Bengali community in my constituency whose ancestors were refugees. Many of them are out. Some Muslims are also out. Assamese people have more or less completely made it to the list.”
Ajanta Neog, the Congress MLA from Golaghat, said she had not been able to get the exclusion figure for her constituency. “In my constituency there are mostly Assamese people and they have mostly made it into the NRC. There are also indigenous tribal people who have made it — or in some cases may not have checked their status so far. I am awaiting detailed information on the excluded,” Neog said.
But legislators from areas that have a large presence of Hindu Bengalis alleged that the community had registered largescale exclusions. The community is a core vote base for the BJP — and their exclusion is said to be a reason for the party’s worry.
Shiladitya Dev, the BJP MLA from central Assam’s Hojai district, which registered the highest exclusion from the draft NRC as per government data, said: “My district had registered the highest exclusion in draft NRC. The number will be high this time, too — I am trying to get an estimate. Hindu Bengalis with genuine pre-1971 papers have been left out. I feel there has been a communal agenda and personal bias of some ground-level officials. Moreover, there are several cases of discrepancy like parents are in and children out.”
Dilip Kumar Pal, BJP MLA from the Bengali-majority constituency of Silchar in the Barak valley region, said: “My wife’s name was not in the draft. She has our application number and is travelling right now, and hence we have not checked the status online. But beyond my own family’s story, I want to say that a large number of Bengali Hindus of my constituency have been left out. We will not accept this NRC. This NRC has included illegal foreigners and excluded genuine Indians. It has no value for me.”
From a similar Bengali-dominated constituency of North Karimganj, in Barak Valley, Congress MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha said: “This NRC is harassing people. After this BJP government came to power, the NRC updation process gathered pace but the government has kept quiet all this while, when numerous problems in the process were being highlighted. Prateek Hajela passed multiple orders giving updates in rules, and tried changing the modalities. We have said earlier that Bengali Hindus would be excluded, but no one paid heed. There are so many cases in my constituency where eight people submitted the same legacy documents — five are in and three are out. Now the Chief Minister is saying no need to worry because people can appeal at FTs — but have we not heard how FTs function?”
MLAs from Muslim majority constituencies also said there were many genuine citizens amongst the excluded 19 lakh.
Hafiz Bashir Ahmed, AIUDF MLA from Bilasipara West constituency in Dhubri of lower Assam, said: “Even if one Indian citizen is excluded, one should not be satisfied about the NRC process. But what the 19-lakh figure signifies is that all these years politicians and leaders have claimed all sorts figures like 30 lakh and 50 lakh of illegal foreigners are there in Assam — but those figures have been shown to be wrong. Leaders have profited from this politics about the presence of illegal Bangladeshis in Assam.”
He added, “Also, you have to analyse this figure of 19 lakh — in this will be thousands of people whose cases are pending at Foreigners Tribunals or who are marked as D-Voters, and their descendants. That means this number of 19 lakh will come down considerably. We have already announced that we will provide help to all genuine citizens who have been excluded, and will be filing appeals at FTs.”
Aminul Islam, AIUDF MLA from Dhing constituency of Nagaon, said: “So many cases of exclusions have happened wherein the parents are in and children are out. Genuine Indians who had minor mistakes in the submitted documents were excluded. Many of those who submitted land documents prior to that of 1947 have also been excluded. I am trying to get the district data on the exclusion.”