New Delhi: The Chief Justice of India, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on Sunday hit out at “armchair detractors” and “social media” for questioning the Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC), asserting that it was “neither a new nor a novel” idea but was aimed to update 1951 NRC and to identify the number of “illegal immigrants.”
“The NRC is neither new nor a novel idea. It found expression as early as in the year 1951 and in the particular context of Assam, in 1985 following the Assam Accord. Infact, the current NRC is an attempt to update the 1951 NRC,” CJI Gogoi said while releasing a book Post Colonial Assam 1947 to 2019 by an eminent Assam journalist Mrinal Talukdar.
Dwelling on the perspective of updating the NRC, CJI said, “This is an occasion to put things in proper perspective – the NRC as it will finally emerge is not a document of the moment – 19 lakhs or 40 lakhs is not the point. It is a base document for the future – kind of a reference document to determine future claims.” Pointing to the havoc that the speculation regarding the number of illegal immigrants was playing in Assam, the CJI Gogoi said that prior updating of NRC, the “whole discourse had been repeatedly fed with enormous amount of guesswork as to the number of illegal migrants, which in turn fuelled panic, fear and vicious cycles of lawlessness and violence.”
And the situation was worsened by callous reporting by few media outlets and there was an “urgent need to ascertain with some degree of certainty the number of illegal immigrants, which is what the current exercise of NRC attempted,” the CJI said, trying to clear some of the misgivings created by a section of armchair commentators and the social media.
The exercise of updating the NRC, the CJI said, was nothing but an attempt by which the stakeholders seek to remedy the “wrongs and omissions” of that turbulence, whose effects changed the courses of lives of not only individuals but of communities and cultures across the region.
Hitting out at the arm-chair commentators, CJI Gogoi said, “At this cross-road, we need to keep in mind that our national discourse has witnessed the emergence of arm-chair commentators who are not only far removed from ground realities, but also seek to present a highly distorted picture.”
The emergence of social media and its tools, CJI Gogoi, said have also “fuelled the intent of such commentators, who thrive through their ‘double-speak’ language sitting in the confines and comforts of their spaces.”
“They launch baseless and motivated tirades against democratic functionalities and institutions, seeking to hurt them and bring down their due processes. These commentators, and their vile intentions, do survive well in situations where facts are far removed from the citizenry, and rumour-mills flourish,” he said pointing to the damage these arm-chair commentators were causing to the democratic institutions.
“… when unrestrained mudslinging, casting unsubstantiated aspersions and launching personal attacks against both the institution and its members, masquerade as public discourse. We all will do well to remember, that it does not take long to tear down an institution but it takes eons to build an effective one”, CJI said cautioning the commentators to guardagainast any thiong that is devoid of ground realities.
“Assam, and its development agenda”, CJI Gogoi said, “too have been victims of such arm-chair commentaries, wherein the ‘due-processes’ have been questioned and challenges have been thrown at vital initiatives that were aimed at ushering in a new era of peaceful co-existence, leading to overall progress and prosperity of the entire region.”
Pointing to the trend of “mutual peaceful co-existence”, CJI said, “We must remember …. globally, one common thread that runs through us all is the fact that matters to which we are attached most or we love most are those that we never got to choose, but were trained to accept and cherish.”
“Our parents and our siblings, our birthplace, our culture, our religion and even our nation! We never got to choose any of them, yet we accept them and live happily with them. We are most attached to them too, – aren’t we !!?”, CJI said in a poser.
Unfortunately, CJI said that this simple idea of ‘acceptance’, especially of people who may be different or diverse from us, is an idea from which people are at great distance.
“We seem to be in an era where our failure to accept what is different from us, is no longer considered a short-coming. In fact, we wear such ‘failure’ on our sleeves, with misplaced pride and vanity, little realising that the very basis of all societies or communities centred around and grew upon the ‘idea of acceptance’ of the diverse”, the CJI said cautioning to guard against anything that hurts the idea of acceptance.
Progressive Societies, he said were “meant to grow on bonds nurtured by ‘acceptance’ and ‘inclusiveness’, growing around the objective of ‘peaceful, mutual coexistence’.”
Telling the media to desist from the urge of finding wrongs and shortcomings everywhere just for the sake of finding the one, CJI Gogoi said, “The constant desire to play to the gallery by demeaning institutions and all their efforts, must be resolutely avoided.”
However, he made it clear that this restraint has to be a “self-check”.