NRC list: Govt will help all genuine citizens, says Sonowal

CRPF soldiers patrol a road ahead of the publication of the NRC final draft at Juria, Nagaon, on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Ahead of the publication of the second list of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Monday, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said residents need not panic and his government will provide help to all “genuine” citizens whose names may not figure in the list.

Speaking to The Hindu on the phone, Mr. Sonowal said, “Nobody needs to panic. This is just a draft NRC. There is a process of Claims and Objection where one can apply for their name to be included if their names don’t figure in NRC. Even those people who are illiterate, our government will help provide assistance to them. Nobody will be treated as a foreigner until the entire NRC process is over.”

Under directions of the Supreme Court, Assam is updating the NRC to find out number of undocumented immigrants who may have entered the State from neighbouring Bangladesh after the cut off date of March 24, 1971. In the first list of the updated NRC, published on December 31 last year, 1.9 crore persons were recognised as citizens.

In all, 3.3 crore people from 68.7 lakh families have submitted six crore documents to prove their Indian citizenship.

Issue of the Stateless

Now, there is growing speculation that nearly 20 lakh people could find themselves ‘Stateless’ after the second NRC list is published.

“Let the Registrar General of India come out with their figures. The figures floating in the media are not authentic....Even after the NRC process, only the Foreigner's Tribunal can declare someone as a foreigner. This is a lengthy process and people need to be patient and disciplined,” the Chief Minister said.

Asked about the fate of the people who could not prove their Indian citizenship once the entire NRC process gets over, he said, “The State government will consult the Centre but this is an unprecedented situation. Assam is the first State to update the NRC.”

On fake news

Mr Sonowal, who is facing his biggest challenge in his two year tenure, said maintaining law and order is a priority and “any attempt to create disharmony and spread fake news” will be dealt with firmly.

“I have instructed all Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police, MLAs and ministers to be among the people. We have also set up a cyber monitoring cell for social media. I want to make it clear: we will go after anyone who wants to to create social disharmony by spreading fake news. I repeat we will track these people and put them in jails,” Mr Sonowal, who also holds the Home portfolio, said.

On Citizenship Act

The Chief Minister, however, was cautious on the proposed Citizenship Amendment Act that proposes to grant citizenship to religious minorities from neighbouring countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who have settled in the State by December 31 2014.

The issue has virtually divided Assam with support and opposition to the bill in different parts of Assam. People in the Barak Valley (southern Assam) have welcomed it since many Hindu Bengali families fear that they may be left out of the NRC process. But in other parts of Assam, there is strong opposition as it violates the provisions of the 1985 Assam Accord, signed between the Rajiv Gandhi government, All Assam Students Union (AASU) and civil society group, Assam Gana Sangram Parishad.

BJP ally, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), one of the main forces behind the Accord, has threatened to walk out if the Centre goes ahead with the proposed bill.

“The Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee is examining the bill has assured that they will consult all stakeholders before coming out with the report. In any case, the NRC is not directly linked with this bill,” said Mr. Sonowal.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 1:23:55 PM |

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