New Delhi: A staggering 40 lakh people in Assam have been left out of a draft list of citizens released on Monday; they face deportation if they cannot prove their citizenship and allay the doubts of the authorities. The recount is seen by critics as a move to target Assam’s Muslim population on the pretext of weeding out Bangladeshi migrants. It is not clear, however, whether these 40 lakh will be eligible to vote in next year’s national election. “The Election Commission will decide,” said an official. The register counts only those as Assam citizens who can prove that they were living in the state on or before March 21, 1971.
The anger was palpable with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accusing the ruling BJP of trying to identify and isolate people who don’t vote for the party. “They are turning Indian people into refugees in their own country,” Banerjee said at a press meet she called at short notice in Kolkata before leaving for Delhi, where she will meet Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
‘‘Many people have been identified as foreigners and they are to be sent back. There are many children and women among them… So many Bengalis, Biharis, Hindus, Muslims… they are very much Indians,” said Banerjee, adding that she was “worried about the torment” of those left out. “It is a game plan to evict human beings forcibly and isolate them. We do not believe in divide and rule policy,” she told reporters at the state secretariat Nabanna.
Predictably, there was pandemonium in both the Houses of Parliament, even as Home Minister Rajnath Singh said “there was no need to panic.” Singh told the Lok Sabha that the government is not to be blamed as it has no role in the matter; everything has been done under the Supreme Court’s supervision. “Don’t level baseless allegations against the government,” he said.
When the Opposition rejected his contention with protests, he retorted, “Better if you decide what the Government’s role in this was.” Rajnath Singh also said the NRC’s recording of 2.89 crore as Indian citizens was still not final as those left out can make claims and raise objections after August 28. They will get two-three months and then disposal of their representations will take further time.
The disposals will be carried out by a high-level body and the Supreme Court will decide the date for the final publication of NRC, Singh said, noting that those deprived of citizenship would still have the opportunity to move the Foreign Nationals Tribunal.
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day after three adjournments. Singh had rushed to the House in the afternoon to respond to the Opposition, but he could not speak because of the ruckus. The Opposition walked out in the Lok Sabha with the government trying to wash its hands of the torment of those becoming “non-citizens.” Congress spokesman Anand Sharma announced that the party was convening a meeting of all opposition parties to take a stand on the issue which has the potential of igniting communal riots not only in Assam but also in other parts of the country.
Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien pressed for discussion on a notice by him on the NRC. He told the Chair: “It is not a political issue sir, but a question of human rights, a humanitarian issue, a national issue and we need to look after Indian citizens.” The Chairman was unmoved and said he would give the opportunity on Tuesday morning at the beginning of the session. However, O’Brien did not relent and the House had to be adjourned for the day.
Manmohan Singh initiated it…
In a Facebook post, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said: “The National Register of Citizens was initiated by the UPA under Manmohan Singh to fulfil the commitment made in the Assam Accord of 1985. However, the manner in which this exercise has been undertaken by the BJP Governments at the centre and in Assam leaves much to be desired.”