The National Register of Citizens final draft in Assam has caused much debate in India. While most of the people seem to have welcomed the idea, some opposition parties like Congress and TMC have chosen to oppose it. The parties which have depended on the votes of illegal Bangladeshis to win elections and to keep up the façade of minority appeasement at the cost of burden on India’s taxpayers and Indian resources seem to be distraught of their future prospects. PM Modi led BJP in the centre and state has worked hand in hand with the Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal to fulfil their promise of identification of the illegal Bangladeshis in the state. While the start looks promising today, it has come quite a bit late. The first time a central government promised to identify and deport illegal Bangladeshis from Assam was way back in 1985. Congress led by late Rajiv Gandhi was in power at the time, and Ram D Pradhan the then Home Secretary acted as the representative of the central government.
The accord signed by the Congress government with the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) happened after a six year agitation by the two parties which demanded identification and deportation of illegal Bangladeshis. The agitation which started in 1979 gained widespread support from Assam. Talking to Economic Times, Ram Pradhan ex-Union Home Secretary, who had then acted as the representative for the central government spoke about how the Congress had failed to uphold its promise made to the people of the state. Ram Pradhan said that the Congress did not go ahead with its promises as ‘it would have seriously impacted its vote bank and would have created an upheaval in the country’. Pradhan opened up about how a survey to identify the illegal Bangladeshis had begun in November 1985 but was stopped after facing angry challenges from the Muslim and Bengali communities in Assam. Pradhan said, “This was part of the accord, but they realised that the survey would seriously impair the vote bank of the Congress,” he added, “There was huge anger among the Muslims and the Bengalis living in Assam as they felt that they had been living and working there, but were being asked to prove their identity,”
Pradhan went on to add how Rajiv Gandhi tacitly took the decision to end the survey and identification process which was the most necessary part of the Assam accords. Pradhan said, “There was a lot of dissatisfaction among the people in Assam. While Rajiv Gandhi did not ask for the exercise to be stopped, he said it should be done properly, which slowed down everything. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) also realised that it was not easy to implement it, so the whole thing eventually petered out,” Rajiv Gandhi had been worried about the prospects of Congress in the rest of India if he continued with the drive to push out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants who belonged to the Muslim community from the country. He also feared unrest would break out in the country if the promises made in the Assam accord were carried out in full.
Pradhan went on to add that he was aware of illegal Bangladeshis coming over and settling in India and also backed the claim made by BJP chief Amit Shah that the NRC was a result of the Assam accord. The former Union Home Secretary said, “NRC is meant to identify the illegal people only. They (BJP/Shah) are right, they are not wrong.”
The statements made by the former bureaucrat show how the Congress had fallen back on its promises in Assam. Their vote bank politics and their minority appeasement at the expense of the country’s resources has been a drain on India. The Congress therefore could directly be held responsible for the big problem which India faces today not only in Assam but also in West Bengal and neighbouring states like Bihar, Jharkhand etc.