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Haryana and UP hint at going the Assam way: Is NRC the new vote churner?


New Delhi, Sep 16: With barely months left for Haryana Assembly elections, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who would be seeking a second term, said that his government wants to implement NRC along the lines of Assam. Khattar received support from his predecessor and senior Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Furthermore, in an interview to the Indian Express, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath praised NRC implementation in Assam. Not just that, he seemed to toe Khattar's line and said, "Using their experience, we can start it here phase-wise."

Image for representation only

There was a raging debate over the NRC implementation in Assam and many cases where people were wrongly deemed 'illegal migrant' came to fore. When the final NRC list in Assam was released on August 31, 19 lakh people were left out.

[NRC: 10,000 paramilitary troops deployed in Assam withdrawn]

The NRC was carried out by the government to identify all the illegal immigrants, mainly from Bangladesh. The NRC exercise was carried out to identify bonafide citizens of Assam.

In July last year, 40,07,707 people out of a total 3,29,91,384 applicants were excluded from the final draft of the NRC. An additional 1,02,462 persons were included in the list of excluded persons in June, taking the total ineligible persons to 41,10,169.

NRC politics:

NRC addresses the core insecurity among the natives that 'outsiders' will poach their jobs. Home Minister Amit Shah has time and again said that no illegal immigrant would be allowed to stay. While on papers it may sound appealing to the indigenous people, the implementation has largely been chaotic.

While the Centre was in strong support of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the state leadership has remained apprehensive and not entirely satisfied with the manner in which the list was being updated. The Assam unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already spoken out against the NRC updation exercise.

[Explained: The Assam BJP's dilemma over final NRC list]

The party worry is that the names of many Assamese and Bengali Hindus who are genuine citizens of Assam, as well as descendants of freedom fighters and families of martyrs of the anti-foreigners' Assam Movement are being left out of the final NRC.

BJP leaders allege that illegal Bangladeshi migrants have obtained citizenship documents fraudulently or submitted fake documents to get their names included in the NRC. The Assam government has claimed that the percentage of people excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens was lower in districts bordering Bangladesh having a sizeable Muslim population than those where Hindus were in majority.

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While NRC at the outset may seem like a legal exercise, it ends up sending wrong signals of communal profiling.

NRC and Haryana:

Khattar's claim assumes significance given that there was movement of people across India's border during the partition. Who would be considered an 'insider' and who the 'outsider', and what would be the criteria to decide is another contentious matter.

Former Haryana CM B S Hooda said, "What the chief minister has said is the law. Foreigners have to leave; it is the responsibility of the government to identify them."

Who exactly is the foreigner here? A debate on that is likely to open a can of worms for the state government.

In the wake of the upcoming Haryana Assembly elections, ML Khattar's remark seems like an attempt to cash on communal politics which would invariably polarise votes on religious lines.

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