It will be premature to extend the NRC to the whole of India at this juncture.
The process will create chaos all over
How can one even think of implementing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) across the whole country after experiencing the bizarre and haphazard way with which it has been executed in Assam? It will not only be premature to extend the NRC in other states at this juncture, but will be a social, cultural and political disaster. Is it not an indication that the process adopted in Assam was so seriously awry that more than four million residents of a single state were out of the Citizens’ Register?
If a process that ascertains the Indian citizenship keeps out a nephew of India’s fifth President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed’s, Ziauddin Ali Ahmed, can we take NRC as the final word for telling us that who is an Indian and who is not? The deputy speaker of Assam’s state Assembly was denied a place in the list of citizens. Even the people who have represented their electorate in the state Assembly, those who have worked or are still working in the police services and the Army, could not find a place in the NRC. Descendants of freedom fighters had been excluded from the list and they are now illegal migrants. A man and his family who fought the British in 1857 are out of the NRC. Fifty-five per cent of those disenfranchised in Assam are women.
Under the process of NRC implementation, people who have been living for generations, that is centuries, in places that were made part of Assam only in 1874 and still live there were asked to prove their citizenship under Section 6A of the Citizenship Act 1955. The law provides a cutoff date of March 24, 1971 for distinguishing deemed citizens and illegal immigrants. For this one has to submit prescribed pre-1971 documents. This has essentially meant treating them as immigrants based mainly on their non-Assamese linguistic identity.
This part of the process was problematic. The people living outside “proper Assam”, the territory that the British annexed to their empire by the Yandabu pact of 1826, which is now called Upper Assam, are all immigrants. Their ancestors have been living in those places since before the Ahoms came into Upper Assam in the second decade of the 13th century. But most of them are declared as illegal immigrants. They are marginalised, landless and illiterate people who, due to their economic and social status, do not have the prescribed documents.
The poor and deprived sections of our population generally do not have access to documentation. If in a state of three and a half crore people, 40 lakh could not produce documentary proofs of their being Indian, just imagine what will happen if the NRC is extended to the whole country? Millions and millions of otherwise naturalised citizens of our country will fail to satisfy the demands of the NRC. Any such process is bound to create chaos, that will not serve any purpose.
I agree with those who feel that Indian citizenship is the greatest privilege because only those who have purified their souls by protecting cows — not cows of Bangladeshi origin — for seven consecutive births are reincarnated as Indian citizens. That’s the reason only one in six people on our planet enjoys the honour of being an Indian citizen. Therefore, even if a need to maintain a national register of Indian citizens is strongly felt by a particular section of our policymakers, I would request them to refrain, and not just eye immediate electoral gains.
The writer is the editor and CEO of News Views India and a national office-bearer of the Congress Party
We’re sitting on a major time bomb
After terrorism and global warming, the most compelling issue faced by humankind is the problem of illegal immigration. Looking for greener pastures and hoping for a better life, these people enter the country illegally risking their own lives and all savings. India is one of the top 10 destinations favoured by illegal immigrants.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been much delayed already. It should have been done much sooner. By and large, these people are unskilled and unemployable; they are absorbed as labour only and do not make any value addition to the host country. Being illegal migrants they are easily prone to exploitation by anyone and everyone. Also, they don’t have a bond within the community or country. This gives rise to ethnic clashes. Political parties like the Congress have been using them as means for widening their votebank for a very long time, ignoring the fairly vocal resistance by local Assamese. Parliament did take note of the situation and passed the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act 1950, and this law extends to the whole of India. The political unwillingness due to short-term gains accrued has allowed the situation to become ugly. Back in 1985, Rajiv Gandhi had signed the Assam Accord, but eventually he also did nothing. Assam has been on boil for so long because influx of illegal immigrants has affected the social and cultural life of original residents irrevocably. The governor of Assam in 1998 had predicted that the implications of this mass unabated infiltration will have to be suffered not only by Assam but by the entire country. But he was very conveniently ignored. The Congress largely has been instrumental in enacting laws to keep this infiltration going on.
This illegal population is an unnecessary strain on our economy. The amount we have to spend on securing our borders and maintaining these infiltrators is huge.
We are living under the shadow of terrorism. This large, unaccountable population is a major threat to our national security. If any of our neighbours chooses to cause a mischief, one can imagine our country is sitting on a time bomb.
The BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendera Modi has shown political will to finally take up this issue. It is high time we take stock and set the record straight. The NRC process in Assam is a step in finding out illegal immigrants. All over the world illegal migrants are being deported back to their native countries because the host countries are unable to deal with the complexities that these uninvited guests give rise to.
The United Nations and the European Union are working together towards sending back migrants to their native countries. There is no need to raise a hue and cry over the NRC. The Congress and the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress are criticising and painting a distorted picture of this only to safeguard their voteshare now. It is only identification of the natives and settlers who came after 1971. And it should be done throughout the whole country to find out the complete statistics.
Once we have the data, we will know the depth and magnitude of the problem. Then only we can think about how to deal with these illegal millions.
The NRC in Assam is a welcome beginning and all political parties should join hands with one belief that the nation comes first.
The writer is head of media relations, co-in charge media, social media and IT of the BJP’s Delhi unit