With two months to go for the publication of Assam’s draft National Register of Citizens (NRC), the state government apprehends possible repercussions from those who would be left out of the register. It has asked the Centre to provide additional security, said Pallab Bhattacharyya, additional director general of police (special branch).
“Several groups are trying to instigate a section of the population by spreading rumours that their names would not find a place in the NRC and they would thus face deportation. The AAMSU (All Assam Minority Students’ Union) has already announced that it would bring 1.20 crore people from all over the state to Guwahati on November 27 to press the government to concede that there has been no Bangladeshi infiltration to Assam,” Bhattacharyya said.
The NRC, whose draft is scheduled for publication on December 31, is being prepared to register names of all Indian citizens living in Assam; in the process it would also help segregate persons who fail to prove that his/her parents or family lived in India before 1971, the cutoff for identifying Bangladeshi infiltrators.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal cxalled on Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Wednesday and apprised him of the progress of the updating, and also apprehensions, state government sources said. A team of senior Assam officers on Tuesday met Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba and reviewed security in the state in the run-up to December 31. On Wednesday, Army officials too discussed the issue with top officials of various security agencies and reportedly offered to extend support if required.
Assam’s population is 3.36 crore, and 68.33 lakh families have applied for inclusion in the NRC. On February 28, Gauhati High Court declared as invalid certificates of residency issued by panchayat secretaries. This was after the court found that one individual was using such a certificate to prove his citizenship in a case in which he was accused of being a foreign national, or infiltrator. About 48 lakh people had submitted such residency certificates issued by panchayat secretaries. Officials preparing the NRC have worked out that about 20 lakh persons would be “original inhabitants” of Assam, leaving the remainder in doubt.
The Supreme Court — under whose direction the NRC is being prepared — has fixed November 15 as the next date of hearing for a clutch of petitions, including several challenging the process.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Assam Public Works (APW), Asam Sanmilita Mahasangha (ASM) are among groups pressing for ensuring that not one infiltrator is included. On the other hand, the AAMSU, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind and a few other groups fear that a large number of people — mostly Muslims — would be left out.
The government has identified 22 of the 32 districts as “vulnerable” and “trouble-prone” in the backdrop of the publication. “It is a fact that as many as 22 districts have been marked as vulnerable in the NRC context. These include Dhubri, Goalpara, South Salmara, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa, Darrang, Udalguri, Dhemaji, Morigaon, Nagaon, Hojai, Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi,” ADGP Bhattacharyya said.
While the rules say that to get enrolle in the NRC, one would have to establish a linkage to parents whose names had appeared in any of the electoral rolls prior to 1971, several lakh people are believed to have failed to establish this legacy.
Intelligence and security agencies are said to have identified several groups including the AAMSU as having the potential to create trouble once the draft NRC is published. “The AAMSU, which was born to oppose the AASU’s agitation against Bangladesh migrants of 1979-85, has a history of scuttling a pilot NRC project in Barpeta district in July 2010,”ADGP Bhattacharyya said. A few other groups backed by NGOs from outside the state are also on the radar, he said.
The AASU too has apprehensions that certain groups would cause trouble. “The government must take steps to ensure that there is no mischief by any group to sabotage the NRC. While influx from Bangladesh has to stop, the government must also ensure that every infiltrator is identified and sent back to where he or she belongs,” said AASU general secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi.
Leaders of AASU and 28 other student and ethnic unions staged a dharna outside Raj Bhavan Wednesday demanding constitutional safeguards for the indigenous communities from the Bangladeshi migrants. “Bangladeshis have to be detected and deported at any cost, and all government and forest land have to be cleared of these encroachers. Sonowal’s BJP-led government, which had come to power with the promise of protecting jaati maati bheti, must do this,” the AASU general secretary said.