The three-time CM fears that both religious and linguistic minorities will suffer as a result of the NRC list despite being genuine Indian citizens.
New Delhi: Former Assam chief minister and senior Congress leader Tarun Gogoi has expressed apprehensions over the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) ahead of the 30 June deadline of releasing the complete draft.
Gogoi has claimed that the BJP-led state government too seems to be uneasy about the whole process as the deadline nears.
The crucial exercise, aimed at weeding out illegal immigrants from the voter list, is being monitored by the Supreme Court.
“We are apprehensive about the NRC exercise. Even the BJP government in Assam itself seems apprehensive,” Gogoi told ThePrint.
“They (state government) took up the matter with home minister Rajnath Singh; they have asked for 150 extra companies of central forces and have conducted a mock drill,” the three-time former CM said. “Why would they do all this if they weren’t themselves worried? They must have got reports from state and central intelligence of possible unrest.”
Process started under Congress govt
The NRC updation exercise in Assam officially began in September 2015 under the Gogoi-led Congress government and was carried forward by the BJP after it came to power in the state in 2016.
First published after the 1951 Census, the NRC is being updated keeping 24 March 1971 as the cut-off to identify those who migrated to Assam illegally from Bangladesh after that date.
The first draft of the NRC, published on 31 December last year, had names of about 1.9 crore people out of a total of 3.29 crore applicants. Work has since been on to verify the remaining names and come out with the complete draft.
While the Supreme Court had directed the government to complete the process by 30 June 2018, including disposing of claims and objections, the NRC authorities had said they will be able to publish only the complete draft by then. They have clarified that claims and objections will be processed after 30 June and then a final list will be drawn up.
There is also speculation that the government might miss the 30 June deadline due to floods in some districts in Assam’s Barak valley.
Highly placed sources in the Assam government say the NRC state coordinator has sought to move the Supreme Court for extension of the deadline but the status remains unclear. However, speaking to ThePrint earlier this month, NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela had said the state was “on track to meet the 30 June deadline of publishing the complete NRC draft”.
‘Minorities may suffer’
Gogoi has expressed fears that both religious and linguistic minorities will suffer, despite being genuine Indian citizens.
“There is no doubt that the BJP will play the communal card and religious minorities will be targeted. But besides that, the fear is that even linguistic minorities like the Bengali Hindus and Gorkhas could be affected too,” he said.
He also expressed doubts over the manner in which the exercise was conducted.
“I don’t have much confidence in the NRC authorities. Had the exercise been conducted in a fair manner, why would they fear disturbance?” Gogoi asked.
“If names of illegal immigrants are left out, there obviously won’t be much hue and cry. It is only if the names of a large number of genuine Indian citizens are not there in the list would there be resentment,” he pointed out.
The veteran Congress leader said his party hasn’t decided its strategy yet, but will hold protests if a large number of genuine citizens are excluded.
It was the Gogoi-led government in Assam that in 2010 began the NRC updation process on a pilot basis in the minority-dominated Barpeta district but soon stopped it after violent protests.
The BJP government has maintained that due process is being followed in the exercise and that it is being conducted fairly. It has also said that no genuine citizen will be left out and anyone whose name does not figure will be given adequate chances to appeal.
Talking about the next step once the final list is out, Gogoi said “deportation won’t be possible”.
“Those who are illegal immigrants have to be undoubtedly excluded from the list of citizens. But deportation (of those identified as illegal immigrants) is really not possible unless we are able to convince Bangladesh,” he said.
“There is the humanitarian aspect too. What can you do? Where will you send them,” he asked.
The former CM, however, said that illegal migrants can be declared as stateless people.
“Maybe they can be allowed to live in certain areas,” he said.
Even the Assam government has not clarified about its next course of action and has said discussions are still on.
Gogoi said the government should have engaged local people in the process and that carrying out the exercise by “sitting in Guwahati and Delhi won’t help”.