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Mamata’s remarks on NRC irks political parties, social groups in Assam

The Bengal CM termed the exclusion of 40 lakh applicants from the complete draft as an attempt by the Centre to evict Biharis and Bengalis from the northeastern state.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2018 11:55 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
National Register of Citizens,NRC,Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a press conference over the final National Register of Citizen (NRC) draft of Assam at Nabanna in Howrah on Monday.(PTI photo)

Several political parties and social organisations in Assam have criticised West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim that the exclusion of 40 lakh applicants from the complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was part of the Modi government’s attempts to evict Biharis and Bengalis from the northeastern state.

The influx of illegal immigrants is a contentious issue in Assam, and the state has even witnessed a six-year agitation on the issue. Updation of the NRC in Assam is being done under the apex court’s supervision.

“The process of NRC updation is a foolproof one aimed at ensuring that no Indian is left out and no foreigner included. Mamata Banerjee does not have a clear idea of the mechanism involved and that is why she is making baseless statements,” said senior Assam minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma. “If she has any issues with the way the NRC process is being conducted, she should approach the SC.”

Even leaders of the opposition Congress have downplayed Banerjee’s assertions. “There’s no need for Mamata Banerjee to meddle in the affairs of Assam, because we are still alive. Congress will always take care of all Assamese, Bengali, Bihari, Gorkha, Hindu, Muslim and tribal people,” former chief minister Tarun Gogoi said in a press conference.

The NRC is being updated in Assam for the first time after 1951. It aims to identify those who may have entered the state after March 25, 1971, a date agreed upon in the Assam Accord of 1985. Although the process began in 2015, when Gogoi was the chief minister, it received a big push after the BJP came to power in Assam for the first time in 2016 on the anti-illegal immigrant plank.

“Everyone was expecting an error-free NRC but the complete draft released on Monday has several discrepancies. As the father of the NRC process, I would have been very happy if it was a correct draft,” Gogoi said.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU), which led a six-year-long agitation against foreigners that culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord, also condemned Banerjee’s statement. “Updating the NRC is the outcome of a long struggle by Assamese people to protect their land, language and identity from the threat posed by illegal immigrants. Monday’s complete draft is one step in that direction,” said AASU general secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi.

“The statements made by Mamata Banerjee are unfortunate and not rooted in truth. We urge her to refrain from making such politically motivated and ill-informed remarks,” he added.

Farmer activist Akhil Gogoi, who represents the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, also slammed the West Bengal chief minister for failing to understand the reality of the illegal immigration problem in Assam. “She is raking up the issue to take away attention from the challenges she faces from the BJP in her state. Instead of using the NRC as an instrument for her political ends, she should visit Assam and understand the issue better,” he said.

The Trinamool Congress defended Banerjee’s statement, arguing that her fears were justified. “She isn’t going against the Supreme Court but questioning the manner in which the state government is executing the NRC updation process. It is wrong to say that her comments are politically motivated. As the leader of a national party, she is concerned about the plight of the 40 lakh people kept out of the final draft,” said Trinamool Congress (Assam) minority cell president Ashraful Arif Sikdar.

First Published: Aug 01, 2018 09:03 IST