The release of the final draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has triggered a massive political slugfest with both the ruling BJP and Opposition led by the Congress trying to corner each other. While the opposition parties have been accusing the government of indulging in ‘vote-bank’ politics ahead of next year’s general elections, the government has slammed the opposition for spreading misinformation. On Tuesday, the Rajya Sabha witnessed a heated exchange of words with BJP president Amit Shah leading the government’s charge. He claimed that the NRC was at the heart of the Assam Accord signed between the Congress government headed by Rajiv Gandhi and the representatives of the Assam Movement in 1985. This prompted a massive protest by the Congress MPs who stormed to the Well of the House, forcing the Chair to adjourn the House for the day.
The government has been saying that the whole exercise was carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court and that it has no say in it. The government has also said that no coercive action will be taken against anyone and chances will be given to file claims and objections. But West Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress has rubbished all arguments and claimed that the ‘Supreme Court argument’ given by the government is “false”.
Assam NRC final draft: What has happened so far
1. The second and final complete draft of the NRC was published on Monday with 2,89,83,677 names out of 3.29 crore population in Assam. Names of 40,07,707 people were not included in the list as they failed to prove their citizenship, giving ammunition to the opposition parties to attack the government just ahead of the general elections. As the controversy over denying citizenship to 40 lakh applicants brewed, the Centre urged people not to panic and asked the opposition not to politicise the issue. Also, security in Assam was intensified after apprehensions that there might be trouble in the wake of the publication of the draft NRC.
2. The Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee said that a delegation of MPs will visit the state to assess the situation in the wake of the release of the draft. Mamata Banerjee said that she will also visit the state soon to meet people. She said that the BJP government is trying to divide people, adding that “there will be bloodbath and civil war in the country.” The TMC has claimed that excluding people from the NRC draft is an attempt at ‘political isolation’ of a section of citizens by the BJP as many people have been excluded on the basis of their last names.
3. On Tuesday, Mamata Banerjee met Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi and urged him to ‘save’ those who were excluded from the list. Speaking to reporters after meeting Rajnath Singh at his residence for 45 minutes, Banerjee said that she asked him to amend the (NRC) Act or reintroduce it in the Parliament in order to protect 40 lakh people. “I told him that these people will lose their identity, which is not good. How would they get food, education, employment? He promised that inhuman treatment will not be given to these people,” she said.
4. On Tuesday, the matter was taken up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha during the Zero Hour. The House witnessed a heated exchange of words, forcing Chairman Venkaiah Naidu to adjourn the House twice before adjourning it for the day at 1 pm. The Congress and Opposition demanded that Home Minister Rajnath Singh should come to the House to make a statement. To this, the Chairman said that he has personally asked the Home Minister to come to the Upper House to make a statement on the sensitive issue. The TMC and Congress dubbed the NRC as inhuman and questioned where will these 40 lakh people go. The members of the Samajwadi Party, AAP and TMC also protested near the Gandhi statue in the Parliament over the same issue.
5. The Home Minister who was expected to make a statement at 1 pm in the Rajya Sabha, couldn’t make it due to the ruckus created by the opposition MPs. BJP president and Rajya Sabha MP Amit Shah just before the Home Minister was about to make a statement, addressed the House and accused the Congress of spreading “misinformation” on the issue. He said that the NRC was at the heart of the Assam Accord signed in 1985 between then PM Rajiv Gandhi and leaders of the Assam Movement. “The Assam Accord was signed by your Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on August 14, 1985. And he announced it from the Red Fort in his speech the next day. The spirit of the Accord was the NRC that would help identify the Bangladeshi infiltrators. You did not have the courage to implement it. We had the courage and we are doing it. Everybody here (in the opposition) is concerned with the 40 lakh people. How many Bangladeshi infiltrators are there among these 40 lakh? Who do you want to protect? You want to protect the Bangladeshi infiltrators?” Shah asked.
6. In the Lok Sabha, Rajnath Singh said that the opposition should not politicise the issue. He said that the list is just a draft and rejected opposition’s accusation that government was involved in it. Singh said that the whole exercise was carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court. He also assured that the no coercive action will be taken and that enough time will be given to the citizens to file their claims and objections. “Whatever work is going on in the NRC, is happening under the supervision of the Supreme Court. To say that the government has done it, and it is inhuman and brutal…such allegations are baseless. It is not the right thing to say,” he said during the Zero Hour in the Lower House. “This is only a draft and not the final NRC.”
7. The Congress in the Lok Sabha demanded a separate discussion on the matter. The leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said, “An amendment should be brought on this. This is an issue related to citizenship of 40 lakh people, whose names have been deliberately purposely.” He also accused the BJP government at the Centre and in Assam of ‘trying to create a division in the society by doing this’.
8. On the other hand, the Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that the list released is only a draft and told the government not to initiate coercive action against those whose names are not there in the list. The court also asked the Centre to frame a standard operating procedure (SOP) to deal with claims and objections regarding Assam’s NRC. The top court has granted the Centre time till August 16 to place an SOP before it.
9. Meanwhile, the BJP has said that similar exercise will be carried out in West Bengal if the party forms the government in the state. Party’s general secretary in charge of West Bengal, Kailash Vijayvargiya said that illegal migrants from Bangladesh in West Bengal is a serious issue and claimed that their number could run into crores. West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said that the party will publish a similar list in the state if it comes to power. “If we (BJP) are voted to power in Bengal, then the NRC will be implemented here as well. We will send back illegal citizens to Bangladesh,” he said.
10. The first draft of the NRC, touted to be a proof of Assamese identity, was released on December 31 midnight last year. The second and final draft was released on Monday with 2.90 crore names out of 3.29 crore population. The Registrar General of India has announced that the people can file their claims and objections, starting August 30. The final list is expected to be released by December 31 this year.