GUWAHATI: The final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list in Assam, excluding 19 lakh people, is getting mixed reactions. While some are calling the NRC list as being biased against Muslims, many are calling Assamese people “xenophobic”. Some international humanitarian organisations have gone to the extent of issuing a “genocide alert”. However, no instances of “genocide” or communal violence have been reported from any part of the state. In fact, it is largely because of misinformation being circulated that some people have started saying that the NRC is inherently biased against Muslims, when the truth is, a large number of Hindu Bengalis have been excluded from the list in the Barak Valley. According to some unofficial estimates, the number of Hindu Bengalis excluded from the NRC is around 5-8 lakh. Similarly, thousands of indigenous people have also found their names missing from the final list published on 31 August.
Ankur Tamuliphukan, a history scholar from Assam, criticised some Delhi-based activists and media organisations for ignoring the local context and specificity of the region. He said, “Oversimplification of the whole NRC process by putting it into the ‘Hindu-Muslim’ binary is not going to solve anything. The media needs to play a fair role as this kind of oversimplification only harms the liberal politics of Assam.”
On the issue of immigration, Tamuliphukane said that people Assam had never segregated immigrants on the lines of their religion. “If you read the history of movements against immigration in Assam, the term immigrant refers to an ‘outsider’. The fight by Assam’s people has always been against the ‘outsiders’ and not against any particular religious community,” he added.
The clash between immigrants and the indigenous people of Assam dates back to the British era when large scale immigration from East Bengal into the state started during the last decades of the 19th century. Partition of India took immigration to new heights. This resulted in the then Chief Minister of Assam, Gopinath Bordoloi, putting pressure on the Congress to bring in the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950.
NRC was prepared in Assam for the first time during the conduct of the 1951 census. It was carried out under a directive of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) by recording particulars of each person enumerated during that census.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is “highly dissatisfied” with the NRC’s low rate of exclusion. Aparajita Bhuyan, Assam BJP spokesperson, told The Sunday Guardian: “It would be better not to have this kind of NRC where many immigrants got their names enrolled. It was done under the observation of the judiciary. So now the judiciary should take steps to review it, as we suspect wrongful inclusion in the list.”
Lurinjyoti Gogoi, general secretary of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), said: “There is a historical background why NRC was prepared only in Assam in 1951. It was due to the long history of immigration which is a threat to the indigenous culture and population of the state. Principally, the NRC should have been updated from time to time, but it is now that the NRC has been updated. So, the question of the NRC list being ‘anti-Muslim’ or ‘anti-Hindu’ is illogical.”
“NRC is a list of Indian citizens. It has nothing to do with any religion, be it Hindus or Muslims, Sikh or Jains. There is a Muslim fundamentalist lobby that is trying to portray the NRC as ‘anti-Muslim’. AASU’s stand is clear—we are against any foreigner, irrespective of their religion,” Gogoi added.
However, the AASU is not happy with the number of people who have been excluded from the NRC list. According to the AASU, the number doesn’t come anywhere close to the number of foreigners stated to be residing in the state by previous state or Central governments.