oppn parties Mamata Banerjee and Assam NRC

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Mamata Banerjee and Assam NRC

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2018-01-05 20:08:14

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Several FIR’s have been registered against West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee by the Guwahati police in Assam for allegedly making a ‘hate speech’ against the non-inclusion of the names of people from the Bengali community in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in that state. While Banerjee did say that it was discriminatory and a conspiracy to omit the names of Bengalis residing for years in Assam, her speech was by no means a hate speech. The Assam police have perhaps acted in haste to register the FIR’s as she was just airing a genuine grievance. Banerjee, too, jumped the gun by making the allegations. She should have realized that this was just a part-publication of the first draft of NRC and was by no means a full and final document.

The process leading to getting one’s name in the NRC is quite elaborate; more so in Assam where lakhs of Bangladeshi infiltrators have skewed the demographical balance post the liberation war in 1971. Hence, it was decided that legacy data would be made available for citizens that will include the last NRC published in 1951 (after the Census) and the electoral roll of 1971 to enable citizens to search their ancestors’ records and prove their family tree or residency in the state pre-1971. However, it was not the only means of proving residency. There were other documents one could submit that included passports, court records, land and tenancy records, LIC policies and the like. Collating the huge data (nearly 3.29 crore people had applied) was a laborious and tedious job, but it has been completed. To expect it to be error-free is expecting too much. If one finds one’s name missing in the final draft, one can appeal to the appellate authority. Hence, Banerjee should have waited till the publication of the final draft before making the allegations.

She was perhaps irked because of the well-known animosity of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) towards Bengalis in general and Bangladeshi infiltrators in particular. The current process of updating the NRC to identify infiltrators was largely a result of the long-drawn out agitation by AASU in the 1980’s. That agitation had in fact blurred the difference between Bangladeshi infiltrators and Bengalis from West Bengal in Assam. But she should realize that the NRC is not only directed against Bengalis. All people of Assam, including of Assamese origin, have to prove their residency post 1971 as per the prescribed process. Also, the Assam police have definitely erred in registering the FIR’s against her. They should have let it pass as constructive criticism and airing of genuine grievances of the people by a political leader. The NRC team, meanwhile, must look into the matter and ensure that en masse deletion of names of Bengalis (or people from any other state) whose families have made Assam their home for ages is not done for specious reasons, if their documents are in order.