Barely 10 days to deadline, Assam CM keeps the door open for law on NRC counthttps://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/assam/assam-nrc-deadline-10-days-chief-minister-sarbananda-sonowal-amit-shah-home-minister-supreme-court-5918628/

Barely 10 days to deadline, Assam CM keeps the door open for law on NRC count

On July 16, the Centre and the Assam government had moved the Supreme Court seeking a sample reverification of 20 per cent of names included in the final draft in districts bordering Bangladesh.

Barely 10 days to deadline, Assam CM keeps the door open for law on NRC count
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal with Home Minister Amit Shah Monday. (Express Photo by Renuka Puri)

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal indicated Monday that while the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) would be published on August 31, as mandated by the Supreme Court, the government could later enact a legislation on the enumeration process — if questions are raised over it.

Asked about the possibility of such a move, after the Supreme Court rejected a joint plea by the Centre and state for extending the NRC deadline to enable a sample reverification, Sonowal said: “After the NRC final list is published on August 31, you know that under our democracy we have that right. You can also raise a question. If it is necessary to take a step in that direction, we will discuss it.”

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Post-NRC plan

The comment is an indication of how the state aims to deal with the NRC aftermath. It is yet to devise a plan for those who could be rendered stateless. There are also fears in the BJP-led establishment that many Hindus could be among those excluded.

Sonowal was speaking to reporters in Delhi after a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah during which the two are learnt to have discussed measures to handle the law-and-order situation in Assam after the publication of the NRC.

amit shah on assam nrc
Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi. (Express Photo: Renuka Puri)

“You are aware that the Supreme Court has fixed a deadline for publication of the final NRC on August 31. When the draft NRC was published earlier, a lot of questions were raised. But people of Assam maintained peace. We are certain that when the final NRC is published, people will again maintain calm. The Home Minister has assured full support. All our requirement for (security) forces would be fulfilled, we have been told,” Sonowal said.

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On July 16, the Centre and the Assam government had moved the Supreme Court seeking a sample reverification of 20 per cent of names included in the final draft in districts bordering Bangladesh. They had also sought an extension of the July 31 deadline set by the court for the final NRC.

Raising doubts over the enumeration, an affidavit of the Home Ministry had indicated that genuine citizens may have been excluded and foreigners included in the list. It also raised the possibility of a law-and-order situation in the state.

The Supreme Court, however, did not grant the plea for reverification but extended the deadline to August 31.

On August 1, the Assam government released partial data from the draft final NRC in the state Assembly, and claimed that the inclusion rate is higher in districts bordering Bangladesh, and lower in those with a predominant indigenous population.

Barely 10 days to deadline, Assam CM keeps the door open for law on NRC count
Sonowal and Shah are learnt to have discussed measures to handle the law-and-order situation in Assam after the publication of the NRC. (Express Photo: Renuka Puri)

Responding to a Zero Hour notice in the Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said in a written statement: “According to data, 12.15% applicants’ names were excluded from the final draft. In districts close to the Bangladesh border, like South Salmara, 7.22% applicants were excluded from the draft NRC. This figure in Dhubri is 8.26% and in Karimganj 7.67%. But districts where indigenous people live, like Karbi Anglong, the figure is 14.31% and in upper Assam’s Tinsukia, where sons of the soil have been living for ages, this figure is 13.25%.”

According to Census 2011, the percentage of Muslim population in Dhubri was 79.67%, and in Karimganj 56.36% — South Salmara was carved out of Dhubri in 2016.

The state government went on to claim that the reports “suggested wrongful inclusions and exclusions in the NRC”. This was the reason the state demanded a 20% reverification in districts closer to the Bangladesh border and 10% reverification in others, it said.

On August 13, however, the Supreme Court refused to be drawn into this debate and stressed that it wants the final NRC out on schedule “irrespective of who likes it or who doesn’t”. Currently, over 41 lakh people have been excluded from the complete draft of the NRC.