Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise would have been “correct” if the state government had got complete responsibility for its preparation.
Senior BJP leader and state Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that according to the Assam Accord, 1967 should have been the cut-off year for the NRC instead of 1971.
The NRC preparation in Assam started following a December 2014 order by the Supreme Court, and continued thereafter under its direct monitoring. The final NRC, published in August 2019, excluded over 19 lakh applicants.
However, the Assam government has said that it will not accept the NRC in its current form. A government plea seeking the re-verification of NRC data is pending in the apex court.
Late on Monday night. Sonowal, speaking at a one-day special session of the state Assembly, said, “The BJP-led government wanted that the NRC be updated correctly… Had we got the responsibility single-handedly, if the state government was told that the entire responsibility for the preparation of the NRC is with the Assam government, then let me tell you, a correct NRC would have been presented to the people of Assam, people of India.”
Sonowal said that soon after taking oath as the CM in 2016, he visited the NRC directorate and discussed the progress in work with officials. He said 55,000 state government employees worked for the NRC, and the state police fully cooperated to maintain law and order during the exercise even as the Centre extended all the necessary funds for the exercise.
The CM also said that misinformation regarding the number of persons estimated to be beneficiaries of the CAA in Assam was “floating around”, and stressed that implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord will ensure protection of rights and constitutional safeguards for the indigenous people of Assam.
Speaking in the Assembly earlier in the evening, Sarma said that the preparation of the NRC in Assam was not mentioned in the Assam Accord, which was signed in 1985 after a six-year mass agitation against ‘foreigners”. He said that according to the Accord, 1967 should have been the cut-off year for the NRC and not 1971.
The Assam Accord led to the insertion of Section 6A in the Citizenship Act. As per Section 6A, people who entered Assam between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 need to register at a Foreigners Regional Registration Office. They would have all the rights of a citizen except the right to vote, which would be granted after 10 years.
In the NRC note, those who entered Assam during this 1966-71 window but did not register themselves are also liable to be excluded. The NRC was prepared with the cut-off of midnight of March 24, 1971.