Even as the publication of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has rocked Assam, senior BJP leader and state finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said the list was not an issue yet and claimed the entire country “ideally should have a citizenship register”. Sarma also said the NRC had drawn unwarranted attention due to the number of people (about 40 lakh) excluded from the final draft list, which was published on July 30.
“I don’t feel there is any issue with NRC now. The procedure to file claims and objections will soon start,” Sarma told reporters at a press briefing. The Assam minister, often regarded as the second-most influential person in the Cabinet after Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, categorically said the number of people excluded from the draft list would come down “drastically” after the filing of claims and objections.
Stating that it would be premature to conclude that if the NRC process was a success or not, Sarma said only 40 per cent of the work was done. “It is not proper to come to a conclusion regarding the NRC exercise in Assam. It is just a draft. In the NRC, names of many people are not there (40.07 lakh). So, a lot of attention has been created. This number will drastically change after the claims and objections are filed,” he said.
In the final NRC draft, 2.89 crore names out of the total 3.29 crore applicants were included. Around 40.07 lakh applicants did not find a place in the document.
When asked if other states should replicate the Assam NRC model, Sarma said, “Let Assam produce a correct and perfect NRC. Then, the entire country ideally should have a register of citizenship,” he said.
On the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura’s (IPFT) demand of NRC revision in Tripura, Sarma said there was no requirement for a similar exercise in the state. “Going by the demography of Tripura, I don’t think there is a huge requirement. Assam’s demography has changed. NRC revision was done in Assam as per the Assam Accord. But in Tripura there is no Assam Accord and neither any way to generate any legacy document,” the BJP leader said. Even Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb had said there was no demand for a citizenship register in the state. “Everything is in order in Tripura and everyone has valid papers. Hence, it is not an issue for us,” he had said.
In July, IPFT, which is a BJP ally in the Tripura government, demanded NRC revision and said it would organise a massive rally at Khumulwng, headquarters of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), on August 23 on the issue. Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT), another regional party, also previously demanded NRC revision and deportation of foreigners, who illegally migrated from neighbouring Bangladesh.