On the day Union Minister Amit Shah said the NRC exercise would be carried out across the country, including again in Assam, state Finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma appealed to the Centre to reject the state’s updated NRC list
Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, Sarma welcomed Shah’s statement, saying it came in the backdrop of Assam government’s and the state BJP unit’s multiple requests to him on the same lines — that the current NRC in Assam be rejected; that there be a national NRC, with Assam taking part in it; and, thirdly, if possible, the cut-off date for the pan-India NRC be the same across the country.
Sarma said that the current NRC could not be accepted by the state government because it was erroneous and had wrongful exclusions and inclusions. “The state government cannot accept this NRC. People who should not have been included in the list have made it, while those who should have in have been excluded,” Sarma said.
“Cut off for entire country should be same — there should not be two cut-off dates.,” he said.
Sarma, however, did not specify what should be the cut-off for a pan-India NRC.
The NRC, first prepared in Assam in 1951, is being updated to include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the 1951 NRC or in any of the Electoral Rolls or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to midnight of March 24, 1971, which is the cut-off for detection of “illegal” migrants in Assam. The cut-off is based on the historic Assam Accord of 1985.
The final NRC published on August 31 excluded 19 lakh applicants. They will get a chance to appeal against their exclusion at the state’s Foreigners’ Tribunals. The first step towards contesting the NRC rejection is obtaining a rejection order from the NRC authorities — but that has not been issued yet.
Sarma pointed out that in the absence of a pan-India NRC, a suspected illegal foreigner excluded from the list in Assam could move to another state and start living as an Indian citizen. “If we remove an individual from Assam through NRC as a ‘foreigner’, he might go and get his name included in Kolkata’s voters’ list. He will become an Indian citizen… We are saying all ‘foreigners’ should be sent out from India, not only Assam,” Sarma said.
The state government and the state unit of the BJP have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with the final NRC and the former state coordinator of the NRC, Prateek Hajela.
Strongly criticising the earlier NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela, the minister alleged that the entire exercise of updation was carried out keeping aside the state government.
“But the entire nation thinks that NRC was updated by th Assam government. We are bearing the brunt because of one individual. We are concerned with the flaws in the system,” Sarma was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
“The way Hajela ran the show under a different ecosystem, it has created multiple layers of questions. As a public representative, we are unable to answer them now, Sarma added.
Hajela, 50, a 1995-batch IAS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, led the NRC preparation exercise as the state coordinator since 2013. In October, he was transferred to Madhya Pradesh on Supreme Court’s order. The Assam government subsequently appointed Hitesh Dev Sarma, an Assam Civil Service officer of 1989 batch, in an order dated November 9, as the NRC state coordinator.
The NRC exercise took place following a Supreme Court order in December 2014 for a time-bound preparation, and thereafter under the court’s direct monitoring.
As earlier reported, the BJP grapples to deal with the political fallout of the NRC, which has created a panic following the exclusion of 19 lakh people from the citizenship list in Assam, most of them Hindus.
On the day the final NRC was published, state BJP president Ranjit Dass had said that the exclusion figure was lower than government estimates of illegal foreigners in the state, while “sons of soil” and genuine citizens were excluded.
(With inputs from Abhishek Saha)