Will Assam NRC not turn boomerang in North-East?  

Fate of 1.39 crore in hangs in balance

Agency from Guwahati adds: The fate of reportedly 1.39 crore in Assam hangs in balance. The draft will be published at 12 pm at all NRC Sewa Kendras (NSK) across the state on Monday and applicants can check their names in the list which will include the applicant’s name, address and photographs, NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela said.

The applicants can check their names in the draft by visiting their respective designated NRC which will be available on all working days from 10 am to 4 pm from July 30 to September 28. (Agency)

By Pradeep Kumar

ITANAGAR, July 29: The D-day to end question of Indian citizenship and illegal Bangladeshi migrants in Assam is tomorrow on Monday, when the final draft of the Supreme-Court mandated National Register of Citizens (NRC) is made public.

One and all wait for the draft with bated breath as those among state’s 32 million people who find their names in the list will be relieved. But those left out have to face a new struggle to prove their citizenship.

With no clear estimate of how many people might not enter the list, threat of violence is looming large for which elaborate security arrangements have been made with deployment of large contingents of security personnel to prevent any untoward incident.

The NRC compiled only for Assam in 1951is being updated to weed out illegal immigrants in tune with 1985 Assam Accord signed after a six-year agitation against Bangladeshis.

The updating methods beginning in 2015 had raised many questions as there was no such exercise in the past. The first draft comprising names of 19 million people was released on 31.12.17 on the ground that anyone living illegally in the state since 25.03.1971 (as per Assam Accord) would be kept out of the list. The state residents had to apply with proof that they or their ancestors were in the 1951 NRC or any subsequent voter list till the cut-off date for inclusion in the list.

Assam’s 267-km long boundary with Bangladesh is yet to be sealed and foreigners’ tribunals (there are 100 in Assam) have declared only 91,000 people as foreigners since 1985. Nearly 1,000 of them are now housed in six temporary detention centres.

Assam and Bangladesh don’t share an extradition treaty and even after someone is declared a foreigner; it is very difficult to send them back. Indigenous Assamese people fear they will lose their land, language and identity if unabated influx continues.

As per the linguistic data of the 2011 census, the percentage of Assamese speaking population decreased from 58% to 48% between 1991 and 2011. While during the same period, Bengali speaking figure rose from 22% to 30%.

An interim report of a six-member committee to protect land rights of indigenous people set up by the state’s BJP-led Govt in 2017 noted that illegal immigrants comprised a majority of population in 15 of Assam’s 33 districts.

Central and state ministers have made it clear that no one would be declared a foreigner if their names don’t get included. Those applicants will get a chance to take legal recourse by submitting claims, objections and clarifications between August 1 and September 28. The complete list would be published only after all these claims are settled. There is no deadline yet for that process.

Nagaland may be the next State in the NE to update the 1951 NRC after studying how the exercise in Assam pans out.

“We are contemplating an exercise to undertake NRC. We will initiate after seeing its success in Assam. Illegal migrants are becoming a major issue for the State,” Nagaland chief secretary Temjen Toy told The Hindu on Thursday. Nagaland Police would be deploying forces to areas bordering Assam to “check and prevent” influx of undocumented migrants from Assam, Toy added.

Nagaland having 1.98 million population, including 1.18 million voters (2011 Census), has occasionally driven out suspected ‘Bangladeshis’ out to Assam, which other Northeastern states blame for spill-over of illegal migrants.

The BJP-led Govts in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur too are taking steps to prevent a possible influx of ‘stateless people’ from Assam.

Manipur has deployed special teams of security forces at Jiribam adjoining southern Assam’s Barak Valley and Mao on the border with Nagaland.

Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu has instructed police officers to strengthen the outposts along the border with Assam.

West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress Govt headed by Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee has sealed the porous border of her state with Assam and any state resident crossing the area have to pass through five-year layer of security.

Refugee camps have been demarcated at six different locations where all those not included in NRC would be sheltered. Those illegal migrants after living in the state like others and being used as vote banks for so many years will lose their identities and have to go to those designated camps. However, the Centre will build a stand-alone detention camp at Goalpara with 3,500 capacity at a cost of Rs six corre.

Questions: 1) Will it not snowball into crisis in neighbouring states? 2) Will large number of people deprive of home & hearth and livelihood create other social problems? 3) Will those refugees not go wayward to earn their livelihood?  Will it not boomerang with far reaching consequences?

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