Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Tuesday claimed that "negative elements" were trying to disrupt the ongoing process to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and his government was determined to thwart any such attempts.
Sonowal also asked "genuine" Indian citizens not to panic as their concerns would be adequately addressed in the mega exercise aimed at identifying those illegal immigrants who had entered the state after 1971. "There are some negative elements. These negative elements are trying to disrupt the smooth proceedings of the NRC update. The state government is alive to the situation. "There are some groups which are trying to create unrest in Assam in the name of NRC.
Our government is determined to thwart any such attempts," he told PTI here. Sonowal is in the national capital and he held a meeting with Home Minister Rajnath Singh and top officials of the Union Home Ministry to review the present security scenario in the state and preparation to deal with any possible law and order situation which may arise after the publication of the final NRC on July 31.
"Both the state and the central government will take adequate steps for peaceful publication of the NRC. I appeal to the people to extend cooperation, the way they did during the publication of the draft last year," he said. The chief minister said grievances of all bonafide Indian citizens will be adequately addressed in the update process of the NRC, a list of Assam's residents.
"No one should panic. No genuine Indians will be harassed," he said. Sonowal warned extremist elements not to indulge in violence and said no such person will be spared. "Strong action will be taken against anyone who involves in violence or helps extremists.
The state has recorded the most peaceful Lok Sabha elections. A record 81.52 per cent people (of the electorate) exercised their franchise," he said. When the draft NRC was published on July 30, 2018, there was a huge controversy over the exclusion of 40.7 lakh people from it. The draft NRC included the names of 2.9 crore people out of the total 3.29 crore applications. Some 30 lakh of the 40.7 lakh people, left out of the draft of NRC, filed for inclusion of their names in the document.
Around 600 objections were submitted by individuals who suspect the citizenship of others who made it to the list. The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the NRC update process, has made it clear that the final NRC has to be published on July 31, 2019. Of the 40.7 lakh people whose names did not figure in the draft NRC, 37.59 lakh names were rejected and the remaining 2,48,077 were on hold.
However, they were given an opportunity to prove their Indian citizenship with 1971 as the cut-off year. The verification process is being carried out for these people who had submitted documents afresh.
The Supreme Court-monitored NRC exercise, aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in the state that borders Bangladesh, was carried out only in Assam, which faced an influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century. When the NRC was first prepared in Assam way back in 1951, the state had 80 lakh citizens. According to the 2011 census, Assam's total population is over 3.11 crore.
The process of identification of illegal immigrants in the state has been widely debated and is a contentious issue in state politics. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students Union in 1979.
It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985, in presence of the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had claimed that the NRC exercise was carried out with a "political motive" to divide people and warned that it would lead to "bloodbath" and a "civil war" in the country.
Following exclusion of over 40 lakh people in the draft NRC, Banerjee had also said those "Indian citizens have become refugees in their own land". She had alleged the NRC was an "attempt to evict Bengalis from Assam".