With Assam on the edge ahead of the publication of the draft NRC, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal today sought to dispel apprehensions and said "genuine" Indians missing from the citizenship register would get enough opportunities to incorporate their names.
Massive preparations are in place to ensure peace and no one will be allowed to take law in their hands after publication of the first draft of the National Register of Citizens, a list of the state's citizens, on December 31, the chief minister said. "No one should have any apprehensions. If the name of a genuine Indian citizen is missing in the part draft of the NRC, he or she will get proper chance to incorporate it," Sonowal told PTI here.
The chief minister also made it clear that the government would tolerate no violence. "We have received central forces and they are being deployed across the state to ensure peace. No untoward incident will be allowed to take place," he said. A massive exercise to update the NRC is being carried out in Assam following a directive of the Supreme Court in 2005. However, the exercise started as late as 2015 under the Congress regime. It got a major push only after the BJP came to power with illegal immigration from Bangladesh as a poll plank.
The apex court had ordered that the first draft of the NRC be published by December 31 after completing the scrutiny of over two crore claims along with that of around 38 lakh people whose documents were suspect. Sonowal said 40,000 government officials, including deputy commissioners of the districts, sub divisional officers and circle officers, are involved in the massive exercise which has been going on in 6,500 NRC centres. "The district administrations have been holding regular meetings with various socio-cultural, students organisations, senior citizens and writers seeking their help in peaceful publication of the part draft of the NRC. We hope the process will be completed smoothly," he said.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba spent two days in the state last week, reviewing preparations for the publication of the part draft of the NRC and security arrangements, as ensuring peace in the state is a top priority for the Centre and the state governments, officials said. Of the 3.28 crore applications submitted, there was confusion over the inclusion of 29 lakh people who had submitted certificates issued by 'gram panchayats' as proof of identity, after a Gauhati High Court order in February had deemed 'panchayat' certificates invalid, the officials said.
The Supreme Court set aside the high court order and upheld the validity of the certificates as identity proof if they were followed up with proper verification. The apex court also asked authorities to stick to the original deadline for the publication of the draft NRC and include names of those whose claims were verified. The NRC was last updated in Assam way back in 1951. Then, it had recorded 80 lakh citizens in the state.
Since then, the process of identification of illegal immigrants in Assam has been debated and become a contentious issue in the state's politics. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) in 1979. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985 in the presence of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.