Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma says the National Register of Citizens or NRC – the list intended to identify legal residents and weed out illegal immigrants from the northeastern state – cannot be viewed as a “red letter” for the Assamese society. The senior BJP leader indicated that he had little faith the list would really help get rid of foreigners.
Over 19 lakh people have been left out in the final Assam citizens’ list which was published at 10 this morning. 3.11 crore people have been included in the list that is available on www.nrcassam.nic.in.
“We have lost hope in the present form of the NRC right after the draft. When so many genuine Indians are out, then how can you claim that this document is a red letter for the Assamese society,” Mr Sarma told local reporters this morning before the list was released.
“In districts bordering Bangladesh, like South Salmara and Dhubri, the rate of exclusion is the lowest and in Bhumiputra district, it’s high. How it can be? We are not interested in this NRC anymore,” he said.
“NRC is no quarter final, semi-final and final for driving out Bangladeshis…wait a while and you will see more finals under the BJP regime.”
Security is tight in Assam, with tens of thousands of paramilitary personnel and police posted across the north-eastern state bordering Bangladesh.
The centre has said people whose names don’t appear in the final NRC cannot be declared foreigners till all legal options are exhausted. Every person left out of the NRC can appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal, and the time limit to file the appeal has been extended from 60 to 120 days.
Mr Sarma said: “We just want the NRC to pass off well, peacefully, and we will ensure it, but this NRC won’t help us get rid of foreigners.”
He said the government was already looking beyond and discussions were on both in Assam and at the centre on new strategy on tackling illegal migrants. “At Dispur and Delhi we have already started fresh strategy on how we can drive out the illegal migrants and we will so come up with new plans,” he said.
Many BJP leaders have raised concerns over a large number of Bengali Hindus being left out of the NRC. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, after meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah last week, had said the centre may consider a law to remove foreigners who could have entered the list and add genuine citizens who could have been left out.
The NRC, first published in Assam in 1951, is being updated following Supreme Court orders to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who have illegally entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.