Hope clashes with fear as Assam readies final NRC list

Hope clashes with fear as Assam readies final NRC list

(AFP File Photo)

Over four-decades long hope for foreigner free Assam clash will the fear of losing citizenships as the final list of updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) is ready for release on Saturday morning.

Nearly 40 lakh applicants, who either did not figure in the draft NRC list released on July 30 last year or were dropped thereafter are waiting to see their names in the final list. 

Amid the hope and fear, doubts expressed by the ruling BJP and some local organisations about quality of NRC enumeration, however, added confusion among those eagerly awaiting for the exercise, which began in February 2015 under the supervision of the Supreme Court. 

"Indigenous people of Assam are hoping for an updated NRC free from illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The update of the NRC 1951 is part of the Assam Accord of 1985 and was carried out under constant supervision of the Supreme Court. We expect and error-free NRC but the government will be held responsible if a single foreigner is included and an Indian dropped tomorrow," said the influential All Assam Students' Union (AASU), one of the signatories of Assam Accord. 

The NRC is being updated with March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date, as per the Accord, which was signed following the six-year-long Assam Agitation (1979-1985). The clamour against foreigners, however, began years after the Partition as Assam witnessed large scale influx from erstwhile East Pakistan or present Bangladesh. A tri-partite meeting chaired by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005 decided to begin the NRC update process following constant agitation by AASU and several other organisations representing the state's majority indigenous people.

With additional central forces already deployed in vulnerable locations, restrictions imposed on crowd gathering and vigil against "fake" social media posts regarding NRC, the atmosphere in many parts of Assam on Friday was compared by many with "almost similar" to the one that prevailed in Jammu and Kashmir a day before Article 370 was scrapped by Narendra Modi government.

Hoping for an error-free NRC, the All Assam Minority Students' Union, believed to be representing the state's 33% Muslim population said they would launch a "democratic movement" if genuine citizens are dropped from the updated NRC. 

The opposition Congress sought to take credit for the NRC saying a pilot project of the exercise began way back in 2010 when they were in power. But it had to be stalled after violence erupted in Muslim-dominated areas in Western Assam's Barpeta district.

Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO based here had moved the Supreme Court in 2009 as the NRC exercise slowed down thereafter. The apex court in 2014 issued an order to both the Centre and the state government to resume the NRC work and even served several deadlines, including the date of release of the final NRC. 

"We are not hoping anything as the NRC being released tomorrow is half-done NRC. Two more petitions are still pending in the Supreme Court, one of them challenged the March 24, 1971 cut-off date. We are looking at the verdict of the Constitution bench," APW president, Abhijeet Sharma told DH on Friday.