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Stakeholders express apprehension over 'free and fair' NRC


Press Trust of India Guwahati
As the day for publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) approaches on August 31, all major stakeholders have expressed apprehension over how "free and fair" the list would be.
Barring AASU, all major political parties, including BJP, Congress and AIUDF, have expressed fear that names of many genuine Indian citizens might be left out while those of the illegal foreigners may be included.
Similar doubts have also been voiced by the original petitioner- Assam Public Works (APW)- whose writ petition before the Supreme Court led to the NRC updation under the supervision of the apex court.
"As the original petitioners in the NRC case, we are not happy with the process. We had requested the Supreme Court for hundred per cent re-verification but our demand was denied", the NGO APWs President- Abhijeet Sarma- told PTI on Thursday.
This is going to be an incomplete NRC and "we are scared that the names of many illegal foreigners will be there while genuine Indian citizens may be left out", he said.
"If post-NRC names of illegal foreigners are in the list- who will take responsibility for this. The NRC State Coordinator should be held responsible for this", he added.
There are still two NRC related cases pending in the constitutional bench of the supreme court and "we wanted these cases to be disposed off before the publication of the final NRC. We waited for nearly 35 years, why not for two or three months more for a foreigner-free NRC", Sarma said.
The ruling BJP, which had made "a foreignerfree NRC" a major election plank at both the Lok Sabha and assembly polls, recently expressed worry that names of illegal foreigners might make it to the NRC and also accused the State Coordinator Prateek Hajela of "acting unilaterally in consultation with just two to three organizations".
"In such a situation, an error-free register is doubtful. It seems we will get an NRC which will include the names of illegal foreigners and exclude genuine Indian citizens," state BJP chief Ranjeet Dass said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary even cited data in the state Assembly last month to make a case for fresh verification of those included in the NRC claiming that the rate of exclusion in the districts bordering Bangladesh was less than the state average, "which was proof enough that people have been wrongly included in the NRC".
Assam Pradesh Congress President Ripun Bora also expressed concern that the final NRC will not be "free and fair and I am saying this from our previous experiences of the draft NRC publication where names of genuine Indian citizens were left out".
Those left out include army and BSF personnel, families of freedom fighters, Sahitya Akademi winners, indigenous people, tea-tribes and many more and "we feel that the government is motivated and are pressurising some officers to delete names of people belonging to a particular religion", the Rajya Sabha MP told PTI.
"We have every reason to believe that the final NRC will not be fool-proof but even now we urge the NRC authorities and the government to ensure the names of no genuine Indian citizens are left out from the final list", Bora said.
AIUDF wanted a free and fair NRC but "it has come to our knowledge that some officers associated with NRC have been given verbal orders by different quarters to include names of people belonging to a particular religion and delete those belonging to another religion", party spokesman and MLA Aminul Islam told PTI.
"This has been done to harass a particular community and pacify another as a design has been initiated to ensure a Muslim-free India", he alleged.
"After Jammu and Kashmir, the target is Assam where the ruling dispensation is set to disturb the muslim community by putting pressure on them", he said.
Controversial BJP MLA Shiladitya Dev, on the other hand, alleged that Hindu refugees are being shown as foreigners while the names of muslim Bangladeshis will be published in the final NRC.
It is only the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) who asserted that they have full faith in the Supreme Court monitored final NRC and the apprehensions expressed by different political parties and organizations are a ploy to confuse people.
"NRC is a legal process being monitored by the Supreme Court to ensure the publication of an illegal foreigners free Register and we have full faith it is going to be free and fair", AASU Chief Advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya told PTI.
"The NRC publication is a step forward towards ensuring a permanent solution of the vexed foreigners' issue in Assam and it is being continuously monitored by the Supreme Court which should instil confidence in people", he said.
Assam government has also issued a statement allaying the fear of those whose names may be left out of the final NRC stating non-inclusion of a person's name in the register does not by itself amount to him/her being declared as foreigner as only Foreigners Tribunals can declare a person a foreigner.
The Centre has extended the time limit for filing of appeals from 60 days to 120 days and necessary amendment has been made to Foreigners' (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019.
It is for the first time since 1951 that the NRC is being updated in Assam to identify bonafide residents.

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First Published: Aug 29 2019 | 6:00 PM IST

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