Citizenship Tangle

Assam: ‘NRC was my baby and the BJP failed to nurse it properly,’ says former CM Tarun Gogoi

The Congress leader said a defective National Register of Citizens draft was published with the names of over 40 lakh people missing.

Congress leader and former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the plan to update the National Register of Citizens in the state was his “baby”, which had not been nursed properly by the Bharatiya Janata Party, PTI reported on Sunday. He said the idea was conceived and “given birth” when he was in office.

“After I demitted office, the BJP failed to nurse my baby properly and as a result, a defective NRC draft was published with the names of over 40 lakh people missing,” said Gogoi, who occupied the office from 2001 to 2016.

The Assam government on July 30 published the final draft of the register. Out of 3.29 crore applicants, more than 40 lakh people did not find a mention in the list. In an interview to The Indian Express on August 1, Gogoi had said that the published list was “full of mistakes”.

“There is a big leakage, as a result of which 40 lakh people have been put in uncertainty, creating a sense of insecurity,” said the three-time chief minister. “Because of the BJP government’s short-sighted politics, they are creating all sorts of problems.”

Gogoi said it was vital to have a correct and updated register as the government may treat those not on the list as second-grade citizens and deny them land rights, reported PTI. “The authorities now must concentrate on preparing an error-free NRC as directed by the Supreme Court and ensure that genuine Indian citizens whose names are missing from the draft are not harassed further,” he added.

A day after the draft was published, the Supreme Court ordered the Centre to not take any coercive action against those whose names were excluded from the list. The court reiterated that the document was only a draft.

Gogoi said those who are in the voters’ list of 2014 should be automatically included in the citizens’ register. “This should be done so that objections can be raised against those people who may be suspected as foreigners but have found a place in the voters list,” he added.

The former chief minister accused the BJP of not being interested in solving the problem of infiltration. It only wanted to use it as an agenda for the upcoming state and Lok Sabha elections, and this was evident from the party’s decision to introduce the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which is mainly aimed at bringing in more foreigners, he added. “The BJP has always played politics with the foreigners’ issue on communal lines and is just not interested in solving the problem,” he told PTI.

Gogoi said that even though the BJP blamed the Congress for protecting Bangladeshis, the scheme to detect foreigners by updating the NRC was “taken by me with the core objective to determine genuine Indian citizens.”

The Congress leader alleged that the BJP would use the NRC and infiltration as a poll matter. “We will have to tell the people that this is the BJP’s poll strategy to divert attention from their all-round failure,” he said.

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