Politics over NRC in Assam: BJP, Congress engage in war of words
Guwahati, Jan 2: The issue of illegal immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh is one of the most controversial subjects in Assam's socio-political life since several decades.
Thus from the administration, security agencies to the common man, everyone knows that the publication of National Register of Citizens (NRC), which will finally establish whether a person is a bonafide citizen of India or not, might disturb the fragile peace in the northeastern state.
Since the last several weeks, Assam was on tenterhooks before the release of an initial part draft of the contentious NRC on Sunday midnight. Thankfully, all went well.
However, it has triggered a war of words between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress.
The first draft of the much-awaited NRC for Assam has listed 19 million people out of the 32.9 million applicants as legal Indian citizens in a massive exercise aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in the state that borders Bangladesh.
On Monday, Assam BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass alleged that during the tenure of the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, "only one per cent" progress was made in updating the NRC.
He added the process gained momentum only after the Narendra Modi government came to power at the Centre. Dass accused the Congress of having a secret understanding with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) to derail the NRC update.
"As a result of a conspiracy hatched by the two parties, a pilot project, which was taken up in 2009 to update the NRC in Chaygaon and Barpeta revenue circles, had to be stopped because of violent protests," he was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
Taking credit for the publication of the draft NRC, Dass said it could be published only because of the efforts of the Supreme Court, the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) and the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state.
The Congress had denied the charges labelled against it by the BJP. "It's another blatant lie by the BJP," said Assam Congress spokesperson Apurba Bhattacharyya.
"The decision to update the NRC was taken at the tripartite talks between the Centre, the Assam government and the AASU in Delhi in 2005 under the chairmanship of the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," he said.
In fact, Bhattacharyya made counter-allegations against the BJP accusing the saffron party of creating roadblocks in the NRC update.
"It became clear that chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal's visit to the NRC office a day after taking oath of office was nothing but a political gimmick when the process was slowed down because of delay in release of funds by the government," he said.
Bhattacharyya added it was only because of strict monitoring by the Supreme Court that the draft NRC could see the light of day.
On Monday, people flocked to seva kendras across Assam in large numbers to check whether they figured in the list containing the names of those who were recognised as citizens of India in the Supreme Court-monitored exercise, hours after the document was released at midnight.
A top official said there is no need for anyone to panic and that other names are in various stages of verification.
"There is no need for anyone to panic. Other names are in various stages of verification and as soon as the verification is done, we will come out with another draft ... Substantial progress has been made, but still lots of work need to be done," Registrar General of India Sailesh said.
"This(NRC) is unprecedented. There is no example in this country. I doubt if there is any other country in the world having such a complex methodology to determine the citizenship of the people," the RGI told reporters.
Security was tightened across the state to ensure law and order.