The North East Students Organisation (NESO), enthused by some Bharatiya Janata Party leaders' promises to update the National Register of Citizens across the country if the party is voted to power in 2019, has demanded that the exercise be extended to other states of the North East with immediate effect.
A delegation of NESO, led by its advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya, on Wednesday met Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju to raise the demand.
At a press conference on Thursday, Bhattacharya said, "Our demand is quite clear. The North East region should belong to Indians, and not illegal migrants from Bangladesh. In order to detect illegal migrants, delete their names from the voters' list and deport them from India to Bangladesh, the NRC is the first step.”
Bhattacharya warned that after the NRC updation process began in Assam, some illegal migrants shifted their base to other states of the North East.
Though he did not share any data on the number of suspected illegal migrants who have entered other states of the region, he said that they pose a grave threat to the unique identity of the other states as well.
“In the meeting with the Union home minister, we have demanded a comprehensive policy to protect the identity of the indigenous tribes and ethnic groups of the region,” he added.
Although the demand to update the NRC in Assam is 40 years old, the issue of detection of illegal migrants hardly ever found space in national politics. In fact, from 1979 to 1985, 855 young agitators who demanded the detection of illegal immigrants were killed in Assam.
Opposition parties, including the Congress, have vehemently opposed the NRC updation process in Assam, which began in 2015 after a Supreme Court order. In the exercise, 4 million people were left out of the final draft.
The BJP, on its part, has contended that illegal immigrants are a threat to national security and some party leaders have said that the party would update the NRC across the nation if voted back to power in 2019.
On Wednesday, BJP chief Amit Shah, addressing a convention of party workers in Rajasthan, said that BJP governments will "drive each and every infiltrator out of the country" after winning elections in 2018 and 2019.
Although the demand for updating the NRC is gaining momentum in the region, there is a counter view which holds that the process will leave out many genuine citizens.
“Conducting this process in Meghalaya would be an exercise in futility, because many people would not have the requisite documents. Tribal communities are very bad at maintaining any records,” said Patricia Mukhim in an interview with The Quint. Mukhim, however, said that if the NRC is to be updated, it should be done throughout the country.
On the problem of tribal communities not having proper records, Sinam Prakash Singh, secretary general of the NESO, said, "This could be a problem. That is why we say that it is not necessary that other states should follow the same modalities as Assam.”
Bhattacharya said that there is no chance of members of local tribes being left out of the NRC.
“We all know the indigenous tribes and ethnic groups in the northeastern region, as well as their surnames. So, they can be directly identified and included in the NRC,” he said.
While the NESO agrees with the Centre on the issue of updating the NRC, it has vehemently opposed the Centre’s move to pass the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. The Bill seeks to grant citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Christians. However, it doesn’t have a provision for Muslim sects like Shias and Ahmediyas, who also face persecution in Pakistan.
Bhattacharya said, "“Religion cannot be the basis of citizenship in India, as per constitutional norms. There has been a long-standing demand to free the North East from illegal Bangladeshi migrants. But there has been an equally powerful conspiracy to favour the illegal migrants. We can see the same design in the Citizenship Amendment Bill. So, we apprised the home minister of the situation.”
The NESO advisor also demanded that the government of India should enter into a treaty with the Bangladesh government to deport illegal Bangladeshis from India. He also said that the government should provide indigenous people of the region exclusive rights over their land and natural resources.
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Updated Date: Oct 11, 2018 23:15:41 IST