NRC full of errors, natives left out, says former Assam CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta criticised the ruling BJP-- with whom his party, the Asam Gana Parishad, shares power in the state -- for bringing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.Updated: Aug 08, 2018 07:44 IST
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
Former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, who led a six-year agitation against illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the 1980s, leading to the so-called Assam Accord, has said the provisional National Register of Citizens (NRC) made public on July 30 was riddled with errors.
It has left out many indigenous people, even tribals, he said.
He said the registry, a database of all Indians citizens in Assam, will not on its own resolve the state’s longstanding problem of illegal migrants.
“The NRC is to enumerate Indian citizens, not to identify or deal with foreigners, according to its legal provisions,” said Mahanta, a student leader in the 1980s,who went on to become India’s youngest chief minister riding a wave of popular support.
The then Rajiv Gandhi-led government had signed the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985, with the All Assam Students’ Union, of which Mahanta was president, ending the agitation.
Popular support had swept his newly formed AGP to power that year. Its appeal has since shrunk.
Mahanta criticised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-- with whom his party, the Asam Gana Parishad (AGP), shares power in the state -- for bringing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The bill seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus migrants from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, apart from Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians.
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta reiterated his party would pull out of Assam’s Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government if the Narendra Modi government passed the bill. “It is possible that the BJP will pass the bill before parliamentary elections to win votes of illegal Bangladeshi Hindus.”
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said the bill goes against the “Assam accord itself and secularism”.
“Do Pakistan or Arab countries ever say all Muslims in the world are welcome to settle in their countries? Only one country does that, which is Israel?”
The bill, if passed, would instantly make Bharatiya Janata Party unpopular, Mahanta said.
Of the state’s 32.9 million residents, over 4 million (40,07,707) were excluded from the registry being finalised under the Supreme Court’s watch.
A final registry will be released after claims and objections of those left out are settled.
“Lot of indigenous people have not made it to the list. To give an example, (the names of) one of our party’s central committee member Dhrubojyoti Sharma from the Rangia area and five of his family members are missing. Similarly, the name of Mohammed Ali, an indigenous Assamese Muslim, from Saidpur in my constituency is missing.”
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said bureaucrats under the guidance of the Supreme Court had “put in a lot of efforts”.
“But many officers have treated the matter casually, not seriously. During the period of revision for claims and objections, if everyone works hard to correct anomalies, only then we will get a correct NRC.”
The Assam Accord, officially called a memorandum of understanding, has three main features on dealing with illegal migrants.
It sets 1966 as the base year to detect “foreigners”.
Migrants, who entered Assam between 1966 and 1971, were to be identified and their names suspended from the electoral rolls for 10 years.
Finally, anybody who entered the state illegally on or after March 25, 1971, will be treated as a foreigner.
Prafulla Kumar Mahanta demanded “constitutional safeguards” like those available in Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, which make it difficult for outsiders to buy property there, for an effective solution to the migrants’ issue.
The former Assam chief minister said the Centre should also raise the issue with Bangladesh.
“Let us begin negotiations, why should we make assumptions right now,” Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said, on whether the neighbouring country would accept deported migrants.
First Published: Aug 07, 2018 23:31 IST