A group of people, without the banner of any organization, held a public meeting named Chintan Baithak at Guwahati’s Satyanath Bora Hall on Sunday to discuss the procedure adopted in dealing with claims and objections of persons against exclusion or inclusion of citizens in the draft NRC.
Noted intellectual Hiren Gohain said that every Indian citizen is accorded equal rights under the Indian constitution. He said that it is very unfortunate that section of the society is being targeted and harassed with false claims during the NRC process. “A section of the people has tried to give a communal colour to the NRC by filing fake objections against the Muslim community. This is very unfortunate. I have learnt that many discrepancies have crept into the claims and objections section. Only on the basis of suspicion, genuine Indian citizens cannot be kept out of the register. On many occasions, the objector is not present at the time of verification but an ex parte judgment has not been given. I fail to understand why,” Gohain said.
Harekrishna Deka, former DGP of Assam, commented: “The NRC is being updated under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court. Even if one citizen is being discriminated against, the concerned person must seek legal redressal.”
Talking to the organizers, noted writer Arupa Patangia Kalita expressed grief at the divisive atmosphere of Assam and hoped the law of the land will be held supreme.
Senior journalist, Monjit Mahanta, while speaking before the audience, said that the Assamese society is based on the Hindu-Muslim division. “BJP-RSS is trying to divide Assam in communal line. In the name of NRC no one can divide Assam into Hindu-Muslim. We have taken it as a challenge. This should be the mentality,” Mahanta said.
Well-known entrepreneur Shyamkanu Mahanta, who was also present on the occasion, said: “In Assam, any campaign like Cholo Paltai will not work; the language of Bishnuprasad Rabha and Jyotiprasad Agarwala will always be the state language. I am glad the Muslims of East Bengal origin understands this; we have to work together and sort out all issues. We do not agree on a lot of issues such as the number of immigrants in Assam but it is equally true that most people of the community came during the colonial times.”
Addressing the gathering, in the welcome speech Abdul Kalam Azad, scholar and one of the organizers of the event said, “We are in a crisis situation. We thought NRC will solve all our problems. Though NRC is under the supervision of Supreme Court, but government sponsored some rules are brought to confuse and doubt the people like that of Original Inhabitants (OI). Due to Panchayat Certificates about 47 lakhs people are affected. There is not a single family left in our religious minority community against whom objection is not filed. People have committed suicide due to the fear of detention centers. Situation is very much complex.”
Kalam further added, “That is why we are here to start conversation with the mainstream Assamese society. I can proudly say that Assamese intellectuals are always with the justice. In 1980s at the time of Assam Movement, they raised their voice against atrocities and injustice. I hope that this meeting will give a new platform to address the crisis situation.”
The youths emphasized that the Muslims of East Bengal origin had migrated to the state in search of a better life in the early 19th century as part of the colonial ‘Grow More Food’ program. Since then, they have accepted the Assamese way of life, embracing the language and local culture whole-heartedly. However, over the years, they have often faced various forms of discrimination. Thus, when the NRC process was announced, the community expressed hope that the register would finally rid them of the ‘Bangladeshi’ tag. However, on the last day of filing claims and objections, more than two lakh objections were filed, allegedly by members of a student organization, without following due procedure. The honourable CJI, Ranjan Gogoi, has also asked the NRC authorities to look into such allegations, amidst fears that the process will leave out many genuine citizens out of the list.
Other intellectuals like Paresh Malakar, Udaditya Bharali, Dilip Borah, Santanu Borthakur and Rituraj Kalita also spoke on the occasion.