Tension Prevails as the Final Draft NRC is Released
According to reports, prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure have been imposed in ten of the thirty-three districts in Assam, before the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published today. Although the Supreme Court prescribed June 30 as the date for publishing the NRC, due to logistical issues arising out of the annual floods in Assam, the date was shifted to July 30. The government – probably realising the sheer magnitude of the exercise – appealed to the people to remain calm and provided a 52 day window for submitting claims and objections if one's name does not feature in the present NRC. The final NRC is slated to be published in December this year.
According to a local Assamese news channel, DY365, the state NRC coordinator said that “Out of the 3,29,91,385 total applicants, 2,89,83,668 people have been found eligible to be included in the National Register of Citizens”. This would mean that a little over 40 lakh names have not featured in the current draft of the NRC. Even though 40 lakhs is a significantly smaller number than some may have estimated earlier, it is still a number representing a population of people larger than the population of any North-eastern state other than Tripura. While the government has announced a 52-day window for people to make corrections, opposition parties have reportedly demanded that the time be increased to 90 days. Irrespective of whether the window will be extended or not, what this shows is that nobody is going to be deemed a foreigner only because their name did not feature on the NRC.
Welcoming the exercise, the All Assam Students union (AASU) has stated that an NRC free from Bangladeshis will justify the sacrifice of those martyred in the Assam Agitation. English language daily, The Sentinel, has carried editorials expressing support for the exercise. On Saturday,an editorial highlighted the difficulties in determining the citizenship of people given that the people of Assam and Bangladesh are very similar. Today's editorial lauded the NRC exercise stating, “As the NRC exercise moved past the verification stage, the desperation of the pro-foreigner lobby has risen with the knowledge that a sizeable number of such bogus papers may have been detected during scrutiny. No wonder the talk about victimisation of ‘genuine Indians’ has grown shriller! There are already obvious attempts to bring forth pan-Islamists, Hindutva brigade and other sinister players to fish in troubled waters. Following a mischievous online campaign from foreign soil, a section in national media has now raised the bogey of a ‘Rohingya-like situation’, post draft NRC publication.”
The Assam Tribunecarried an editorial today, urging people to keep calm following the NRC publication. The editorial mentioned that the situation is so tense that a small spark is all that is required to set off a conflagration. They stated that “The NRC updating is an attempt at identifying the Indian citizens with the help of valid citizenship documents and establishing their family linkage with the ancestors. It is being carried out under the strict supervision of the country’s Supreme Court and not a communal exercise, as is being alleged and campaigned against, by ill-informed or vested interest circles.”
One common thread which has featured in all reports on the NRC in Assam is that there is a clearly identifiable air of tension. Though no violence has broken out or been reported, both the local press and the mainstream dailies have mentioned that there is a sense of unease and apprehension. Whether this is related to the heavy troop deployment, the prohibitory orders, or existed prior to these two actions, may be a chicken and egg problem. However, what is clear is that the local press looks at any attempt to question the exercise, as being at the instigation of outside forces, whether in the name of Hindutva or otherwise.
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