Questions raised over ‘too few’ exclusions from NRC

Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the number of people excluded from the NRC should have been higher and the list was erroneous.
A woman checks for names in the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).(AP Photo)
A woman checks for names in the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).(AP Photo)
Updated on Sep 01, 2019 12:34 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Guwahati | ByUtpal Parashar

While there has been no official data in the past on those who entered Assam illegally, several accounts over the years estimated a higher number of such people than the 1.9 million left out of the final version of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on Saturday.

Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the number of people excluded from the NRC should have been higher and the list was erroneous. A total of 31.1 million people were included in the NRC, but 1.9 million were deemed ineligible. A clutch of prominent organisations echoed Sarma’s sentiments.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU), the state’s premier student body that spearheaded the 1979-1985 agitation against foreigners and drove the demand for NRC, said it was unhappy with the findings. “We are disappointed as the figure of 1.9 million exclusion is nowhere close to earlier figures of illegal immigrants,” said AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya.

When the AASU signed the Assam Accord in 1985, it said there were at least 10 million foreigners residing illegally in Assam.

In May 1997, then Union home minister Indrajit Gupta said there were 10 million illegal immigrants in India. Of them, he said, four million were estimated to be in Assam.

In July 2004, then Union minister of state for home Sriprakash Jaiswal said in the Rajya Sabha that the figure stood at about 12 million in the country, with five million illegal immigrants living in the state.

While Union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha in November 2016 that there were 20 million illegal immigrants in India, he did not give a separate figure for Assam.

“The BJP-led government in Assam lost a historic opportunity to provide an error-free NRC,” said AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi.

Abhijit Sarma, president of the Assam Public Works (APW), a Guwahati-based NGO whose petition to the Supreme Court in 2009 was the basis for the apex court ordering an update of the NRC in Assam, denounced the NRC figure, which is roughly 6% of the state’s total population.

“We have got a big zero from this NRC exercise. The figure of 1.9 million includes nearly 400,000 who didn’t file claims and also many indigenous Assamese,” he said. In his 2009 petition, Abhijit Sarma had mentioned 4.1 million undocumented foreigners in Assam and demanded their deletion from voter rolls.

While no exact figure existed for the number of so-called illegal immigrants in Assam, a 2005 Supreme Court judgment mentioned “millions of Bangladeshi nationals” crossing over into Assam.

“The report of the governor, the affidavits and other material on record show that millions of Bangladeshi nationals have illegally crossed the international border and have occupied vast tracts of land like char land, barren or cultivable land, forest area and have taken possession of the same in the state of Assam,” read the judgment that struck down the Illegal Migrants (Detection by Tribunals) Act 1983.

“This being the situation, there can be no matter of doubt that the state of Assam is facing external aggression and internal disturbance on account of large scale migration of Bangladeshi nationals,” the verdict added.

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Sunday, December 05, 2021