Top functionaries of the government and the ruling BJP Saturday discussed the situation in Assam arising out of the exclusion of 40 lakh people during the update of the NRC, officials said. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president Amit Shah, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval reviewed the ongoing exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC), a list of Assam’s residents. The meeting stressed on the need for ensuring inclusion of all genuine Indians in the NRC, an official privy to the meeting said.
The Supreme Court has fixed December 15 as the deadline for filing of claims and objections for inclusion of names in the NRC. The meeting came amidst reports that the central government was considering a proposal to grant work permits, among other measures, to people living in Assam who do not qualify for inclusion in the NRC. The central government’s move to amend the Citizenship Act, to grant Indian nationality to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan also figured in the meeting, the official said.
As per the bill, these designated classes of people will be granted citizenship after six years of residence in the country, instead of 12, even if they don’t possess any proper document. A large section of people in Assam have vehemently opposed the Citizenship Amendment Bill saying it will nullify the provisions of the 1985 Assam Accord which fixed March 24, 1971 as the cut-off date for granting citizenship to illegal immigrants.
A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is currently examining the provisions of the bill and the panel is expected to table its report in the Winter Session of the Parliament beginning December 11. The chief minister briefed the meeting about the situation arising due to the protests against the bill, recent violence perpetrated by the ULFA and the general law and order situation in Assam, another official said.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba and Director Intelligence Bureau Rajiv Jain were among those who attended the meeting. The update of the NRC, a massive Supreme Court-monitored exercise to identify genuine Indian nationals living in Assam, excluded over 40 lakh people from the draft list published on July 30, creating a huge political controversy.
The exercise is aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in the state and it was carried out only in Assam, which faced an influx of people from the neighbouring Bangladesh since the early 20th century. When the NRC was first prepared in Assam way back in 1951, the state had 80 lakh citizens.
As per the 2011 census, Assam’s total population is over 3.11 crore. The process of identification of illegal immigrants in Assam has been widely debated and has become a contentious issue in the state’s politics. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the AASU in 1979. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985, in the presence of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.