Special Reports

Assam under National Register of Citizens cloud

Minority bodies argue that as the 1951 NRC was not prepared under any specific rule, in contrast to the present NRC which is going to be prepared on the basis of Citizenship (Registration of Citizenship and issue of National Identity Cards) Rule 2003; it has no valid status and it is also not available in several districts of the state. Hence, the 1951 NRC updating would neither be correct nor complete.

Whether National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam will be prepared on the basis of 1971’s voter list or on the basis of 1961’s and 1971’s voter lists? The minority bodies urged the state government not to update NRC, 1951, but to prepare a fresh NRC on the basis of 1971’s list. On the other hand, All Assam Students Union (AASU) is adamant in its demand for updating the NRC of 1951 with the 1971 voter’s lists as the cut-off date. Completely rejecting the demand for preparing NRC, AASU has said that the NRC of 1951 should be updated on the basis of linkage found in 1971 voter’s list.

Being a party and signatory of Assam Accord, AASU had already accepted March 25, 1971 as the cut off date for detecting Bangladeshis. At midnight of 15th August, 1985, Assam Accord was signed in New Delhi between AASU and the State Government in the presence of the central government representative which brought to an end the so-called Assam Movement run by AASU against illegal foreigners. According to the Assam Accord, those who had entered Assam before the midnight of March 24, 1971 should be given Indian citizenship. So the question automatically arises, what are the reasons of their opposing now the preparation of a fresh NRC based on 1971 voter’s list? The answer is simple: being successful in the NRC update, their next move would be to declare the people included in 1951 NRC and their descendents as original people of the state and then to demand for 100 per cent reservation in Assembly and parliamentary seats for these people. They would also demand for 100 per cent job reservation for the original people as they have defined. In this case, they have already raised their voices.

Minority bodies argue that as the 1951 NRC was not prepared under any specific rule, in contrast to the present NRC which is going to be prepared on the basis of Citizenship (Registration of Citizenship and issue of National Identity Cards) Rule 2003; it has no valid status and it is also not available in several districts of the state. Hence, the 1951 NRC updating would neither be correct nor complete. According to the data provided by Barpeta District Administration, Barpeta revenue circle alone has 23 villages where 1951 NRC is not available and Electoral Roll (ER) of 1966 is also not available in 9 villages. According to the 1951 census report, the names of 6 lakh Muslims were not included in 1951’s NRC as they were compelled to take refuge in erstwhile East Pakistan due to the riots that occurred in Assam at that time. After the signing of the Nehru-Liaquat Agreement they returned and hence they could not get their names entered in 1951 NRC. Moreover, the names of many people of remote villages, especially of the riverine areas, were left out as infrastructure of the state was very poor at that time.

As per existing rules/guidelines, people who are original inhabitants of Assam including their children, who are citizens of India, will be included in the updated NRC. But surprisingly, the relevant rule/guideline does not specify the criterion for determination of ‘Original inhabitants’. On November 22, 2010 the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Revenue Minister Bhumidhar Barman assured 23 minority organizations including Abdul Aziz faction of All Assam Minority Student Union (AAMSU), All India Milli Council (AIMC), All Assam Bengali Yuba Chatra Federation (AABYCF) and Citizen Right Preservation Committee (CRPC), of preparing a correct NRC wherein the names of each and every genuine citizen would be included. The other members of GoM are Health Minister, Himanta Bishay Sarma, Food and Supply Minister, Nazrul Islam, Excise Minister, Gautam Roy and Forest Minister, Rackibul Hussain.

To find out a modality of preparing NRC acceptable for all, GoM took stock of the views of the representatives of this minority bodies at Dispur. minority representatives urged the Government to remove the defects of existing application form of NRC preparation and to make it simpler. They also urged the Government to repeal section 4-A of the amended Citizenship Act and said that all India norm of preparing NRC by conducting a house-to-house enumeration should be followed and “D-voters” (Doubtful voters) having valid documents of citizenship should be included in the NRC. As per rule 4-A amended only for Assam, all residents, most of whom are illiterate, would have to apply before the District Registrar along with a large number of supporting documents, appear for hearing and would have to prove their citizenship to the satisfaction of the officers concerned for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC.

This procedure is only stipulated for the state of Assam and not prescribed in other states of India. As such it is extremely discriminatory. Raising question against NRC updating modality, the senior advocate of Guwahati High Court and AIUDF Working President, Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Chowdhary, said that the all India norm for NRC update by conducting a house to house enumeration should be followed. On November 23, 2010, Chief Minister Tarun Gagoi told the journalists that the modality of house-to-house enumeration should be adopted. He also said that the Government wants to update the NRC, but people don’t come forward with NRC forms duly filled up. So, many of them will be left out, leading to more agitation and more trouble. Therefore, there is a need to make an arrangement for sending officials for a door-to-door enumeration. Some of the intellectuals of the state support this view.

Opposing the idea of house-to-house distribution of NRC forms, AASU Adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said, this proposal could not be accepted as there is no mechanism to distinguish Bangladeshis who entered after the cut off date of March 25, 1971 from the ones who had entered Assam prior to that date. But there is no base for this argument as the name of those applicants would only be included in the new NRC who could furnish valid documents. Moreover, minority bodies demanded the repeal of the sub-section 3 of section 4-A of the Citizenship Act. They rejected the proposal of updating 1951’s NRC and demanded the preparation of the NRC on the basis of 1971’s voter list. In the meantime, the GoM issued written proposals of accepting 13 specied documents to the minority representatives for their consent.

the decision to update the NRC and to give identity cards to Indian citizens on the basis of the same was taken in a tripartite meeting involving the Central and state Governments and AASU on May 5, 2005. Afterwards, the Home Ministry had prepared the updating modality discussing it with AASU while completely ignoring the opinion of the minority community which is the worst sufferer in the name of “Bangladeshis”. Now it is a known fact that members of minority community of Assam are becoming soft targets and victims in the name of “Bangladeshis” only because of their ethnic similarities with people on the other side of the international border.

The Government launched a pilot project for updating the NRC in two revenue circles, Barpeta and Chaygaon in early 2010, but the process was stopped after the death of four people belonging to the Muslim community in an unprovoked police firing on a protest rally against the defective NRC modality. After this, the state government constituted five members’ Group of Ministers.           

the AASU and 25 other organizations allying with it are strongly opposing any change in the existing modality and format of the NRC form. On November 23, 2010 they met GoM and asked the state government to start updating the NRC simultaneously in all the parts of the state. They also strongly opposed the proposal for house-to-house enumeration for updating NRC. The proposal was tabled for discussion by the state government at the meeting of the organizations with the state’s GoM. AASU Adviser Dr. Samujjal Bhattacharya said, the NRC form is free from any anomalies and as such government should make the people know this. The state government has accepted that there is some complexity in the existing modality and it needs to be made simpler. Still AASU is adamant in its stand. Samujjal Bhattacharya said that simplifying the form further would serve the interests of the foreigners illegally staying in Assam.

It is found that thousands and thousands of genuine voters of the religious and linguistic minorities are deprived of their citizenship through writing “D” (Doubtful Voter) against their name in the voter list. According to the latest information, there are 1.5 lakh people on the list of “D” voters. In case of creating D-voter, the Election Commission did not follow any rule. The voters covered under “D” were randomly selected and in this matter government could not give any satisfactory answer. The reports of mental and physical harassment are not rare.

In the meantime, AAMSU along with other minority bodies accused AASU of playing politics in the name of NRC. They are unnecessarily complicating the issue by insisting on unrealistic terms and conditions. On the other hand, BJP is communalizing the matter by openly advocating offering Indian citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis who have arrived even today. They are lobbying for treating Hindu Bangladeshis as “refugees” which is against the secular character of our constitution. But unfortunately AASU along with their allies did not show strong protest against BJP and its Hindutvadi allies’ open anti-national and anti-Assamese stand on the foreigner issue except simply saying foreigners are foreigners, whether they are Hindus or Muslims, they must go. Even the so-called liberal and secular intellectuals of the state have not objected to this communal line.

In the meantime, Asamar Pragjotishpuria khilinjia Muslim Unnayan Parishad (an association of indigenous Muslim of Assam who are the descendents of inhabitants of ancient Pragjotishpur State which was extent from Koliabar of Assam to Maimansing District of Bangladesh) claimed themselves to be the sons of the soil. The president of the Parishad, Mr. Esahak Dewan, has said that so-called immigrant Muslims of Assam are actually the sons of this soil. They inhabited the valley of Brahmaputra for more than 5 thousands years. Moreover, they are residing in Assam since before independence. Today there is a conspiracy against them to deprive them of their political rights and to make them landless. He warns to carry the issue to the international forums if the government ignores them.

Abdurrahman Aman may be contacted at rahmana138[@]gmail[.]com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 January 2011 on page no. 14

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at sales@milligazette.com

blog comments powered by Disqus