An NGO batting for the Assamese community on Thursday said the National Register of Citizens (NRC) 2019 should be accepted as the primary document for Indian citizens of Assam while an umbrella body of tribal organisations said the NRC would be redundant if a “single aborigine” is kept out of it.
Leaders of the Axom Nagarik Samaj (ANS) made up of retired government officials, social entrepreneurs and journalists did not rule out discrepancies in the NRC to be published on August 31. “But there has been an attempt to undermine the updating exercise with one section projecting the Assamese as xenophobic and the other rejecting the NRC on the plea that it contains names of many foreigners,” ANS president and former Assam police chief Harekrishna Deka said.
“Both sections fail to appreciate the existential concerns of the indigenous Assamese people and are also unmindful of the perennial anxieties and uncertainties suffered by a section of the religious and linguistic minorities in Assam in the absence of a permanent solution to the foreign national issue,” Mr. Deka said, underlining the need to consider NRC 2019 as the primary document for citizenship in Assam.
ANS vice-president Prasanta Rajguru said the Assamese and other indigenous groups have felt threatened by almost a century of influx by outsiders.
“People are speculating about how many people would be excluded from the NRC. Whatever be the number, we think there should not be any curtailment of their human rights. There should not be any provocation after the final NRC is published and the law-enforcing agencies should ensure calm,” he said.
An organisation of advocates called the Association for Protection of Civil Rights too asked the government to maintain peace while offering legal help to those who would be excluded from the NRC.
The Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations of Assam feared that many tribal people would be excluded and many illegal immigrants included in the NRC.
“We had all wanted a foolproof NRC, but we have learnt it is not error-free. As per government data, the highest number of people not included in NRC is from the tribal district of Karbi Anglong. A document that doesn’t include the aborigines but illegal immigrants can never be a correct document,” said All Assam Tribal Federation secretary-general Aditya Khakhlari.
“If a single aboriginal person is excluded, we don’t need the NRC,” said Ramen Singh Rabha, president of All Rabha Students’ Union.
He also lamented that the high-power committee formed by the Centre for the implementation of Clause 6 – it guarantees constitutional safeguards for the indigenous communities – of the Assam Accord has no one representing the largest tribes of the State.
“Who is an Assamese is not clearly defined, and people don’t consider us as Assamese even if we say we are. The term should be made more inclusive,” Mr. Rabha said.