Expanding the NRC to other regions of the country will be a bad idea
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam has left 19 lakh people stateless. What is to be done with these people will be the government’s top immediate concern. Deporting them will be a logistical, diplomatic and human rights nightmare that any pragmatic government should look to avoid.
But then, even allowing the “illegals” to stay on with limited rights cannot be a solution, as it will still remain an economic, and law & order problem. The government has assured that their rights will remain protected till all legal options are exhausted. The fact that the preliminary NRC list excluded 40 lakh people, and this is now down to 19 lakh could indicate two possibilities.
Either illegal immigrants from Bangladesh weren’t as big a problem as they have been made out to be by the BJP and a few other Assam-based parties that have been dangling NRC and evicting “illegals” as bait for votes. Or, it could be that rampant corruption has allowed lakhs to beat the NRC process with forged documents. There is little surprise, therefore, that various leaders, including the Assam deputy chief minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, are asking for a re-verification of individuals on the NRC list—at least in the border districts.
The state is considering various options, including challenging the current NRC list at the Supreme Court. The political leadership in some other states, too, has voiced a demand for NRC. In Delhi, the BJP’s state unit chief Manoj Tiwari has raised a demand, citing Rohingya and Bangladeshi links to crime in the national capital. The clamour for this has also grown in Jharkhand. Telanagana’s BJP unit also wants a similar exercise undertaken in the Greater Hyderabad area.
The government and the judiciary must consider the potential ramifications of such an exercise in terms of fanning communal and parochial identity politics and creating governance problems. An NRC exercise in border districts may help tackle illegal infiltration, but summarily undertaking this in other areas of the country will be a hard-to-control downward spiral.