Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said the purpose of the National Register of Citizens has become futile and that a way should be devised to exclude more people living in districts near the Bangladesh border.
“Not enough names have been cut in Hailakandi, Karimganj, Dhubri, Goalpara [districts],” he said, according to DY365, an Assamese news channel. “The whole point of the NRC has become futile. No point making the Citizenship Bill an issue...Target should be to devise a way to cut names in Dhubri, Goalpara and other border districts.” Sarma made the remark on the sidelines of the state executive committee meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Assam’s Majuli.
On July 30, the Assam government published the final draft of the register, which excluded more than 40 lakh of 3.29 crore applicants. Several parties have protested against the publication of the draft list. A day after the document was published, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to not take coercive action against those not in the list.
The minister said the average rejection rate even in interior districts is just 6%-7%, except in Kamrup Metropolitan district, where it was 14%. “It has put a question on the basic premise of the Assam Accord,” Sarma said. “The Supreme Court judgement quashing the IM (DT) Act [Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act] was based on the fact that there has been an unnatural population growth in the border districts, but in the NRC, names of people living in the border districts have not been left out at all.”
The minister mentioned the rejection rates in the districts, despite this being information that was submitted in a sealed envelope to a Supreme Court bench, which had refused to share the details with the state government.
The Assam Accord was an agreement signed between the Union government and Assamese nationalists in 1985 to mark the end of a six-year long and often violent anti-foreigner mass movement.
Sarma also urged people to participate in the claims and objection process “to ensure that more names are left out” in Mancachar, Dhuburi and other border districts when the final National Register of Citizens is published. “Now it is the responsibility of the people to take part in the claims and objection process instead of going on and on about the citizenship bill,” he said.
National Register of Citizens
The stated aim of the counting exercise is to separate genuine Indian citizens in Assam from those the government calls “illegal migrants”. According to the terms of the exercise, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state before midnight on March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner.
Launched in 2015, it involved processing the applications of 3.29 crore people who hoped to be included in the register. Over the course of three years, the mammoth exercise has been through several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.