According to NRC state Coordinator’s office, the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, which was finally released on Saturday, has identified 3.11 crore applicants as citizens excluding names of 19.07 lakh hopefuls. The NRC list includes all the people who were able to prove their citizenship according to a Supreme Court monitored mechanism.
While communal politics over the NRC has already started, mainly from the opposition camp, which has claimed this process to be biased against Muslims, it is important to note that majority of individuals identified as non-citizens are from the Muslim community which also explains the outrage on the part of the opposition camp which have used these ‘migrants’ to forward their political agendas.
However with the release of this final, list sharp questions are sure to arise on the conditions which led to more than 19 lakh individuals crossing over into Indian territory and their resulting impact on state’s resources. Assam which has witnessed large political movements to address this issue of ‘foreigners’ over past decades has surely been on the receiving end of this influx which has not only created administrative challenges but also cultural and social challenges.
While the political leadership at the centre and in the state, which was dominated by the Congress majority of the time over past decades, had remained a mute spectator to the large scale illegal influx, people of Assam and other regions where some of the illegal immigrants migrated to were left to compete with them for state’s resources. However what led to these governments perpetuating the illegal influx had more to do with the political benefits which these parties reaped out of this influx.
Serious allegations have also been leveled against several political parties specifically the Congress for using the state machinery of Assam to create a favorable environment of illegal immigrants while at the same time getting paid back in terms of political support. Reports of many of these immigrants having ‘valid’ voter id’s and other documentation have also surfaced. Many experts have also flagged the rapid demographic change in Assam due to this influx.
The lacklustre efforts of the government to check increasing illegal immigration through the Indo-Bangladesh border was ineffective to address the problems for Assam. Since the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war, millions of Bangladeshi immigrants (the vast majority of them illegal) have poured into neighboring India and now the NRC mechanism mandates people in Assam to show documentary evidence that either them or their ancestors moved to Assam before March 25, 1971, the cut-off date for the same.
Governments turning a blind eye to this mass influx of illegal immigrants is clearly evident with more than 19 lakh ‘illegal immigrants’ being identified in Assam itself. Reports of these immigrants moving to as far as Kerala have also surfaced. Nonetheless, it is surely essential to set the responsibility of such desecration of Indian Constitution which has now spiraled into a major crisis in Assam and other states. Looking at the success of Assam’s NRC process, calls for a pan-India NRC are also being made to weed out illegal immigrants who have settled in other parts of India.
While the Government of India is poised to enact legislation to grant citizenship to the persecuted religious minorities from Bangladesh and other neighboring nations, these 19 lakh individuals can appeal in special tribunals to prove their case of citizenship. These foreigners’ tribunals will be equipped with legal staff and the 19 lakh people who have been declared illegal immigrants could make their claims for citizenship. Nonetheless it remains to be seen if the Congress comes out and takes responsibility for allowing such activities just for the sake of political benefits.