Assam NRC National

We will approach Supreme Court for re-verification of the NRC: Himanta Biswa Sarma

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma holds his first Cabinet meeting in Guwahati on May 11, 2021.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Newly-elected Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said his government will be approaching the Supreme Court again for a reverification of the National Citizenship Register (NRC) — up to 20% of entries in areas bordering Bangladesh and 10% in interior areas of Assam.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Sarma said this was something the previous BJP government, in which he was Health and Finance Minister, had been saying for some time. “If the NRC checks out, then we shall do nothing, but if there are discrepancies we will ask for the Supreme Court’s guidance. We have been saying this for a while, and we stand by this,” he said.

On the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that had broken out in the State in 2019-20, Mr. Sarma said it was currently not in the purview of any State government.

“The CAA is a legislation that was passed by the Parliament and, as it stands, the State government has nothing much to do in this case, as rules are yet to be framed... Since, due to the COVID19 pandemic, the exercise to frame the rules is on hold, that is where the matter lies,” the Chief Minister said.

In the interview with The Hindu’s Nistula Hebbar, Mr. Sarma also speaks on his priorities as CM, his relationship with his predecessor, and the now big club of ex-Congress members who became Chief Ministers after leaving the party.

Excerpts from the interview:

What are your priorities with regard to your term as Chief Minister of Assam?

Well, we are in the midst of a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and there are some decisions with stricter norms etc that we have taken in the first Cabinet meeting and these will be implemented. Other than that, there were certain promises we made in our manifesto like employment for one lakh young people. We have formed a committee under the new Finance Minister of the State (Ajanta Neog) to go into the modalities.

Also read | Himanta Biswa Sarma — The go-to man who put out many fires for BJP in Assam

Welfare schemes with regard to women are being sought to be expanded, with allowances for women in various situations to be raised to ₹3,000 along with increasing the number of beneficiaries from the current 22 lakh. Many joint liability groups run by women have taken loans paying interest up to 24-26%. We are working out a scheme to either part pay these loans or the interest component. The cost to the government would be around ₹12,000 crore.

As you know Assam had been kept out of the delimitation exercise due to a High Court order, but now we want that this exercise should be concluded for our State as well and we will be taking steps to get that going.

You have said you want a reverification of National Citizenship Register (NRC) as well?

Yes, we will be approaching the Supreme Court again for reverification of the NRC — up to 20% reverification for areas bordering Bangladesh and 10% for interior areas. If the NRC checks out then we shall do nothing. But if there are discrepancies, we will ask for the Supreme Court’s guidance on the issue. We have been saying this for a while and we stand by this.

Talking Politics with Nistula Hebbar | Himanta Biswa Sarma is Assam's new CM

The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) has been seen by many in Assam as a backdoor way of getting citizenship to Bengali speaking Hindus, who may also find themselves out of the NRC. There were protests in Assam in 2019 on this. What is your government’s view.

The CAA is a legislation that was passed by Parliament and as it stands the State government has nothing much to do in this case, as rules are yet to be framed. We had approached Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) that certain exceptions with regard to Assam be framed in the rules. Since, due to the pandemic the exercise to frame the rules is on hold, that is where the matter lies. We are of course steadfast on the request that as and when rules are framed, we be given a hearing and our concerns taken on board.


Your predecessor Sarbananda Sonowal acquiesced in the transfer of the chief ministership to you quite smoothly and with grace. What has your interaction with him been since and has he confided his future plans to you?

After our first Cabinet meet, my Council of Ministers and I went and met Mr. Sonowal at his home this morning (Wednesday) and took his guidance. We assured him that he was our leader and continues to be our leader. I will be visiting his constituency Majuli on Thursday to meet his constituents and party workers there and assure them that all the development works that he had initiated there will receive the same support from the government as before. As for his future plans, that is in the remit of the national leadership of the party and Mr. Sonowal, and I cannot comment on that.

With you becoming the Chief Minister, it’s being said many Congress persons (at least 6) joined or formed other parties to do so, and didn’t get the opportunity when in the Congress. Any thoughts on joining the ex-Congress stable Chief Ministers’ club?

I left the Congress in 2015-16, and with many grievances, pain and trauma. It was not an easy decision for me to make. But now, I have found a home in the BJP and I am no longer an outsider to it or the organisation or the ideological stream. That I belonged to the Congress party at one time is now an event that is in history, of interest only to those who study history.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 4:57:47 PM |

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