In the aftermath of the horror of Partition, there was movement of people across our eastern border.
If the National Register of Citizens — both as a concept and in its compilation — has been shown to be riddled with problems, the ongoing sorry experience of Assam in trying to construct an NRC for the state should have been a lesson for our polity. In particular, it should have cautioned our political class to exercise greater restraint in demanding NRC in various states.
The plain truth is that in Assam the NRC exercise has degenerated into a witch-hunt directed against members of a particular religious minority residing in the state. Deaths have been recorded arising from the shock of being listed as a foreigner, and in the course of running pillar to post by very poor people trying to establish their identity based on documents in their possession.
In this backdrop, it is shocking that Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar should, in an exclusive interview to this newspaper, ask for an NRC for Haryana. In view of the upcoming state Assembly election, this can only mean a cynical attempt to draw or deepen a communal cleavage in an effort to polarise votes on religious lines.
In the aftermath of the horror of Partition, there was movement of people across our eastern border. Some of this followed the decades-old historical pattern of migrant agricultural workers from the then East Bengal of undivided India being welcomed in Assam to fill the labour gap. In Haryana, or the South Punjab of those times, there is no evidence of a similar phenomenon.
Citizens and illegal aliens can be separated through the NRC route, says Mr Khattar. Has he met a single illegal alien? If so, why hasn't his government arrested them?
Not to put too fine a point on it, but there appears to be an attempt on the part of the BJP leader to paint a certain community of people as undesirable in order to polarise the electorate before the polls. It is to be seen if the ruling party plays the NRC card in the other poll-bound states of Maharashtra and Jharkhand, and in Delhi next year.