Assam NRC: bouquets, brickbats in equal measure

Amid charges of polarisation, BJP says exercise shows commitment to solve issue of illegal migrants

July 30, 2018 10:25 pm | Updated 11:45 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Anxious moment:  People enquiring about their names on the NRC draft in Assam on Monday.

Anxious moment: People enquiring about their names on the NRC draft in Assam on Monday.

While global rights bodies have panned the complete NRC draft published on Monday, the outcome of the expensive, five-year exercise — monitored by the Supreme Court — was met with praise and guarded criticism at home.

“The team that made the complete NRC draft publication deserves applause. They have endeavoured to provide an error-free, updated list... Many got left out, but they need not panic as there is time for them to present their cases,” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said.

BJP leaders said the party’s commitment to solve the issue of illegal migrants made the exercise possible.

But former Chief Minister and Congress leader Tarun Gogoi expressed disappointment with the process. “Even after spending crores of money in updating the NRC, the BJP government has not given any actual figure of foreigners in Assam. On the contrary, the government is saying that those excluded need not fear. This is proof that the BJP itself admits that genuine Indians are being excluded,” Mr. Gogoi said.

Minority fears

The All India United Democratic Front said: “We are not sure but the exclusion of 40,07,707 people is not good news. There might be a conspiracy to decrease the minority population, the numbers of minority MLAs and MPs,” AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal said.

Mr. Ajmal and his brother, Sirajuddin Ajmal, MP, who did not figure in the first draft, have been included in the complete draft.

“As a signatory of the Assam Accord, I am satisfied. I have always maintained there were close to 40 lakh foreigners in Assam,” former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and leader of the AGP, an ally of the BJP, said. The All Assam Students’ Union celebrated the draft publication by distributing sweets. “This is a historic day. The sacrifice of 855 martyrs (of Assam Agitation from 1979-1986) have not gone in vain,” the union’s adviser, Samujjal Bhattacharyya, said.

The pro-talks United Liberation Front of Asom too expressed satisfaction. “This is a step towards protecting the identity of the indigenous people of Assam,” its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said. The London-based Avaaz, which started an online campaign, said deletion of people from citizenship rolls bore stark parallels to Myanmar’s removal of Rohingya rights in 1982.

(With inputs from Sandeep Phukan)

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