West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has termed the updation of Assam’s National Register of Citizenship (NRC) a ‘conspiracy’ against Bengalis alleging their exclusion from the first draft.
Mamata Banerjee has every right to give a statement on NRC like any other citizens of India. NRC is not a matter internal to Assam. Assam is not yet a separate country and the NRC is being updated under the Clause 4 of the Schedule to Citizenship Rules, 2003 which is a Central legislation. Also, state coordinator of NRC in Assam, Prateek Hazela, is not the ultimate authority of NRC, it is the Registrar General of India; and it is being updated under the supervision of Supreme Court of India.
While she has every right to speak on the issue, Mamata Banerjee should not poke her nose with half-baked knowledge and make polarising statements like she did, and that is what is highly condemnable.
According to Banerjee, NRC is a “conspiracy to drive away Bengalis from Assam to West Bengal” and that she “will not tolerate any such conspiracy”. For anyone who is in the know of political developments in Assam, such wild statements are at the least laughable.
Updating the NRC is an attempt at bringing a closure to the vexed foreigners’ issue in Assam, an issue over which thousands have lost their lives in Assam. Even though there are many daunting challenges post-NRC and many loose ends to tie. NRC is not an attempt at officially determining who is Assamese or Bengali, Hindu or Muslim.
In fact, organisations representing all ethnicities and communities are in agreement that there should be a fair and error-free NRC. Among various organisations, the organisations representing the religious minority (of East Bengal origin) in Brahmaputra valley have also spent a tremendous amount of energy running awareness campaigns to educate people how to apply correctly for NRC updating. Religious minority (of East Bengal origin) are the ones for whom NRC is a matter of utmost importance as they believe that once they are recognised through NRC as legitimate citizens of India, their continued everyday harassment by chauvinist forces will cease.
In fact, what perhaps Mamata Banerjee doesn’t know or pretends not to know is that the only force that didn’t want the NRC is RSS and BJP. The Assam BJP government played all the tricks up its sleeves to delay the publication of the draft NRC. If it was not for the Supreme Court, the partial draft that has been published on the midnight of December 31 would not have been published.
Post-publication of the partial draft of NRC it is only some BJP leaders who have been making polarising and rabidly communal statements much to the anger of all other organisations including the All Assam Students Union.
BJP has reasons not to be wholeheartedly in favour of a fair and error-free NRC. Firstly, if a fair and error-free NRC is completed under a non-polarised environment BJP might just have to partially shut shop that invokes bogey of Bangladeshis for everything under the sun. Secondly, the final NRC might throw up ‘unexpected’ results, my hunch is that a large percentage of non-citizens will turn out to be Hindu-Bengali immigrants from the neighbouring country who came to Assam after the cut-off date of March 24, 1971. That is the reason why BJP leaders made a dash for Delhi after Supreme Court ordered that partial draft have to be published by midnight of December 31. They made the dash to Delhi to impress upon the Indian government to pass the communally motivated Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 with renewed urgency, so the Hindu Bangladeshis found to be non-citizens can be granted citizenship. That is also the reason why BJP leaders like Shiladitya Dev and RP Sharma are busy barking up the communal tree.
So, Mamata didi you are wrong, the conspiracy is the other way round – to settle and grant citizenship to more Bengalis in Assam albeit along the communal line.
Opinions expressed by the author are his own and The News Mill may not subscribe to the same