NRC opens up Pandora’s Box for debates on nationality in India

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
The second Draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam, where about 40 lakh people who did not figure in the list can still file the claim, has sparked off mixed reactions where most of them have turned it into a political issue, not paying any heed to the assurances made by Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh on the Floor of the Parliament that no genuine Indian will be left out. Other in the meantime have welcomed the exercise and demanded the same to be implemented in their respective states, mainly to check on illegal infiltration.

The protests over the draft NRC in Assam has even spread to Bengal with Matuas, a Sect founded by the 19th century Social Reformer- Harichand Thakur in Bangladesh, organised rail blockades, last week,  in large parts of North 24 Paraganas and Nadia district. The Matua Mahasangha, a pressure group of the Namasudra caste, alleged that out the about 40 lakh people who did not figure in the NRC nearly 6 lakh were from the Matua Sect.
The pressure group while airing its grievances stated that they are facing an uncertain future and have condemned what it terms as the vindictive move by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre. The Vice President of the Matua Mahasangha, Dhanesh Narayan Guha further stated that such coercive action by the Centre in the name of NRC may lead to a backlash against Matuas living in Bangladesh, as he claimed that about five crore Matuas, predominantly from Bangladesh, lived in West Bengal.
Perhaps the incident which has hit the headlines the most is the episode where a delegation of six Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders headed by Sukhendu Sekhar Roy who is the Rajya Sabha MP from West Bengal, was prevented from leaving Kumbhirgram Airport in Silchar in Assam, as they landed, on the grounds that Section 144 Cr. PC was in force in the entire Cachar district. Later the leaders were taken into custody prompting TMC’s Derek O’Brien to condemn the action of the BJP Ruled state. Arguing that a ‘super emergency’ is on, he added that his party leaders did not go there to break the law. They are lawmakers, not law-breakers, he had quipped.
As many as five FIRs have been filed in various Police Stations in Assam against TMC Chief, Mamata Banerjee who is also the Chief Minister of West Bengal, for a statement she had made which has been termed as ‘incitement’. Police said effigies of Banerjee, who is opposing the NRC in Assam, were burnt and protests were held against her across Assam during the day.
Countering the FIRs against Mamata, two police complaints were also filed against Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in West Bengal by TMC MLA Mohua Moitra and MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, both members of the TMC team, for the alleged manhandling and illegal detention at the airport after their return from Silchar. The team was kept under preventive detention by the Assam Police at the Silchar airport after they reached there on August 2 to take stock of the situation following the publication of the NRC final draft and were sent back on August 3. 
On the other hand allaying fears of the over twenty thousand Khasis residing in barrack valley of Assam whose name did not feature in the draft NRC list, AASU Chairman Samujjal Bhatacharya on August 5, 2018 assured that the AASU and NESO will take it up and they should be rest assured that their name will feature in the list.
Bhatacharya claimed that there are many genuine residents whose name did not feature in the list. They should not fear, we will take it up. The names will appear, he had said.
KSU General Secretary, Donald Thabah has also said that of the over one lakh Khasis residing in the Barrack valley, the names of over twenty thousand did not feature in the NRC. He also said that they discussed the issue in a meeting.
The point to ponder is that it is not only in the case of the NRC where many genuine Indian names did not figure in both the draft published lists. It is the same case for Elector’s Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) and the Aadhaar Card of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), even the Ration cards of different states where the genuine citizen, who is either in the rural areas or illiterates failed to get themselves registered, while many migrants, who managed to manipulate the required documents are in the list. The agencies undertaking the registration of any of such documents need to figure out some mechanism, be it through documents or personal verification with the assistance of local authorities or traditional institutions that do have some records about their own people.
Like in the case of NRC all are just focusing on the 40 lakh names which were left out, there is no one to enquire if all the list published on July 30, with 2.9 crore names out of the total 3.29 crore applicants in Assam. The first draft of the NRC was published during the intervening night of December 31 and January 1 this year, containing 1.9 crore names are all genuine Indian? While the whole focus is in the list of 40.07 lakh applicants who did not find a place in the historic document, touted to be a proof of Assamese identity.
A similar dilemma can be seen in the case of EPIC, Addhar, Ration Cards or the state Insurance Schemes where till date there is no means to check if all genuine people have made to the list. There is also a need to figure out how to rectify anomalies wherein genuine people who could not make it to the list for years. It is then only that it will be easier to ascertain who are actually Indian citizens.


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