Bharatiya Janata Party’s West Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh on Wednesday backtracked on implementing the National Register of Citizens in the state. “When would it take place and what would happen is a matter of future,” he told The Hindu.
The National Register of Citizens is an exercise meant to differentiate between undocumented migrants living in India and genuine Indian citizens. Ghosh’s comment is a significant U-turn from his earlier position. Till now, he has maintained that the NRC was in inevitable in West Bengal, and the saffron party campaigned widely for its implementation.
“The NRC was implemented in Assam owing to a Supreme Court order,” said Ghosh. “Rajiv Gandhi made the agreement saying they will do the NRC. The BJP did not make the agreement [and] it went to court. On the basis of the court order, it was implemented [in Assam], this has to be made clear.”
Following the NRC exercise in Assam, more than 19 lakh people were left out of the final list of the updated citizens’ database that was published on August 31. The number of people left out comprise around 6% of Assam’s entire population. They will now have to appeal against the decision in foreigners’ tribunals.
The BJP leader added that the central government will take a call on a nationwide NRC if there is a need. However, regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act, Ghosh said it will be “implemented in the country and in Bengal as it is passed in Parliament”.
Ghosh’s comments come days after both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah denied talks of a nationwide NRC. On Tuesday, Shah claimed there was no link between the NRC and the National Population Register after the Cabinet approved funds of Rs 3,900 crore to update the NPR. However, the Census of India website describes the NPR as “the first step towards the creation of a National Register of Citizens”.
“There is no need to debate this [pan-India NRC] as there is no discussion on it right now, Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi was right, there is no discussion on it yet either in the Cabinet or Parliament,” Shah had said. The prime minister had claimed on Sunday that nothing had “happened with the NRC” and that lies were being spread about the exercise.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has time and again reiterated that her party Trinamool Congress would never allow the National Register of Citizens exercise to be implemented in the state.
Banerjee, who is a vocal critic of the NRC exercise as well as the amended citizenship law, had raised the matter at a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah in September. In October, the home minister said the Centre would implement NRC in West Bengal, adding that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill would be passed first to provide citizenship to all Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist refugees.