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NRC exercise will be smooth, there’ll be no hue and cry: Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

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Sarma says those who migrated illegally after 1971 will “just disappear”, days ahead of the release of Assam’s citizen register. 

New Delhi: As Assam gears up for the release of the final draft of its contentious updated National Register of Citizens (NRC), senior minister in the state government Himanta Biswa Sarma has expressed confidence that there will be “no hue and cry” and the exercise will go off “smoothly”. Sarma said those who did immigrate illegally after 1971 will “disappear on their own”.

The final draft is set to be released Monday, 30 July.

The Supreme Court-monitored NRC updation exercise in Assam began in September 2015. The NRC, first published after the 1951 Census, is being updated keeping 24 March, 1971, as the cut-off date, to identify those who immigrated to Assam illegally from Bangladesh post that day.

The first NRC draft, published on 31 December last year, had names of about 1.90 crore people of the 3.29 crore applicants.

“There will be no unrest, no hue and cry. I’m certain it will go off smoothly. This is just the final draft. After this, there will be the process of claims and objections. Only then will the final NRC list will be out. It will then be referred to the foreigners’ tribunals, after which those with complaints can appeal to the High Court and then Supreme Court,” Sarma told ThePrint. “This is a long-drawn process, and 30 July is only fulfilling another milestone in the process,” he said.

“We are not getting a single panic call,” said Sarma, who is the minister for PWD, Health and Finance, as well as convenor of the BJP-led North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).

He also said the “long exercise” has ensured that the process is “fair”.

“Those whose names were not there in the first list were given adequate chances. Those who don’t find their names in this draft will get their chance during the claims and objections process,” said Sarma.

“Given this has been a long exercise and there has been constant communication between NRC officials and the people, everybody understands this is a fair process. People know that if you are genuine citizens of India, there is no question of your name being left out,” he said.

A sensitive, political issue

The NRC updation process has been a sensitive social and political issue in the state. There is a fear among some sections of minorities that they could be targeted under the pretext of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants being singled out. 

The Union Home Ministry Wednesday sent over 22,000 Central paramilitary troops to Assam ahead of Monday’s NRC final draft release.

The question of how those who are eventually identified as ‘illegal immigrants’ will be dealt with still remains unclear. Given the diplomatic and political angle, deportation seems like an unfeasible option.

Sarma, however, said that since the process has been fair, there is “no sense of fear among either religious or linguistic minorities”.

“I think those who did migrate illegally after 1971 and know they have no way they can prove they are Indian citizens will just disappear, without any hue and cry,” Sarma said.

The state government is already working behind schedule. While the final draft was due to be out on 30 June, the state coordinator for the NRC had moved the Supreme Court seeking an extension citing the flood situation in the state. The court granted an extension till 30 July.

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