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Congress, AIUDF sniff drive to strike linguistic and religious minorities off NRC in Assam

People standing in a line to check their names in the first draft of the National Register of Citizens in Kamrup district in Assam. (File)

People standing in a line to check their names in the first draft of the National Register of Citizens in Kamrup district in Assam. (File)  

The Congress and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) have sniffed a drive by the BJP-led government in Assam and officials to strike the names of millions of people belonging to religious and linguistic communities off the Supreme Court-monitored National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The NRC of 1951 is being updated for weeding out illegal migrants, around whom electoral politics is woven in Assam. The first draft with names of 1.9 crore people out of 3.29 crore applicants was published on December 31, 2017. The second and final draft is scheduled to be published by June 30.

With less than a month to go for the final draft, the AIUDF has accused the BJP-led government of planning to drop about 4 million minorities from the final draft. The Congress has made a similar allegation while saying the State NRC authority has been “using any possible excuse to try and exclude many genuine Indian citizens from the NRC”.

In a letter to State NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela on Saturday, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) cited a few cases of harassment to point out how the State NRC authority has suggested non-inclusion of certain names by sending a list to NRC seva kendras that are processing documents related to citizenship of applicants and members of their families.

‘Questionable list’

Terming the list sent to the seva kendras as questionable, the CLP cited ‘targeted’ names. They include Tanko Bahadur Pradhan, Laxmi Pradhan, Deepa Sarkar and Kumkum Bhattacharjee of Karimganj district; Sudhangshu Das, Kusum Das, Alaka Biswas, Rina Barman and Rafikul Islam of Nagaon district; and Umme Kulsum of Mankachar district.

These people, the CLP said, are descendants of people figuring in the voters’ list before March 24, 1971, the cut-off date according to the Assam Accord of 1983 to detect and deport foreigners.

“There are sufficient prima facie indications that there is a concerted drive to exclude bona-fide citizens, especially religious and linguistic minorities, from the final draft of the NRC. The extent to which the rot has set in can be gauged from the fate of two members of a family belonging to the linguistic minority community, who are residents of Kulidunga village under Ooluoni police station in (Nagaon district’s) Kaliabor,” the CLP said.

Prahlad and Ashutosh Das, two Hindu Bengali brothers cited by the Congress, had their names in the first NRC draft but were picked up from their home by the Border Police personnel last week (May 31). Both were sent to a detention camp for foreigners in Tezpur.

Assam police’s border unit is tasked with detecting suspected foreigners as well as D-voters (doubtful voters) and initiating action against them. There are six detention camps in the State for such people.

The Congress also cited the example of 39-year-old Subrata Dey who “died in mysterious circumstances” at a detention camp in Goalpara. Mr. Dey had been declared a foreigner by a Foreigners’ Tribunal even though the names of his grandfather and father were included in the NRC of 1951. “His only problem was that the family had to relocate several times over the decades due to erosion caused by river Brahmaputra,” the Congress said.

Targeting Muslims

The AIUDF accused the BJP of raising the bogey of illegal Muslim migrants to shift attention from the angered generated by the “contentious” Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

“BJP legislators urge people to wait for publication of the final NRC draft whenever the Citizenship Bill issue is raised. It is a conspiracy through which the State government plans to drop the names of about 4 million largely Muslim citizens from the NRC. If so many illegal Muslims are detected in Assam, people will automatically support the Bill,” AIUDF general secretary Aminul Islam said on Saturday.

He cited two notifications by Mr. Hajela, the NRC coordinator, to deputy commissioners across Assam to underline how the “BJP is trying to manipulate the NRC updating process”.

The NRC coordinator’s notice on May 1 said court affidavits, village head certificates, private school or college certificates, birth certificates issued by authorities other than health department, village panchayat, lat mandal and circle officer certificates submitted by men and unmarried women, birth certificates with delayed registration cannot be considered legally admissible for NRC.

Through another notice on May 2, the NRC coordinator directed officials in the updating process not to include names of siblings of a person detected as an illegal citizen.

“We have moved the Supreme Court against harassment through these two notices meant to drop many minority people from the NRC,” Mr. Islam said

Mr. Hajela said the two notices were based on the apex court’s direction. “We are just implementing the orders of the SC that is supervising the whole NRC exercise. It is up to the court to address problems people might face,” he told newspersons.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 11:05:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-congress-aiudf-sniff-drive-to-strike-linguistic-and-religious-minorities-off-nrc/article24071871.ece

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