NRC is here but Assam's 'fight' will drag on

NRC is here but Assam's 'fight' will drag on

Applicants wait to check their names on the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Buraburi Gaon, Morigoan (PTI Photo)

Publication of the final list of updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951 on Saturday morning fulfilled the demand raised nearly 30-years ago to weed out "illegal migrants" from Assam.

But the list that left out over 19.06 lakh applicants did not satisfy most organisations leading the agitation against foreigners or fighting legal battle in the Supreme Court seeking update of the NRC.

"The NRC update was meant to exclude foreigners, not to safeguard them. Today is a disastrous day for the Assamese people as we failed to have an error-free NRC. Nearly a year ago we had sought re-verification of the applicants as we had a suspicion that illegal migrants were being included in the NRC. We will again move the Supreme Court, the president and prime minister seeking 100% re-verification," said Abhijeet Sarma, president of Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO based here.

Acting on APW's writ petition filed in 2009, the Supreme Court in 2013 issued orders to the Centre and Assam government to resume the NRC update work.

Expressing doubt over data entry for NRC by Wipro, a private firm, Sarma said they would appeal the apex court to carry out third-party verification of the data entry work and audit of the money spent so far to update the NRC.

"We will keep fighting to drive out foreigners," he said, minutes after the final list was released.

Assam's fight against foreigners began soon after the Partition, following large scale influx from erstwhile East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1971.

But the Assam Agitation had given it a shape of mass movement resulting in the Assam Accord in 1985 that decided the cut-off of March 24, 1971, to detect foreigners.

Adviser of All Assam Students' Union (AASU), Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharyya expressed unhappiness over NRC saying the list excluded only 19 lakh people whereas many central ministers in the past had pegged the number much more.

"But we have faith in the Supreme Court and we hope the apex court will address the discrepancies in the NRC process. We will go to the Supreme Court again," he said.

The ruling BJP added fuel to the doubts expressed by local organisations by alleging that NRC was not error-free and a section of officials included foreigners with fake documents.

Such stance, according to political observers, would keep the anti-foreigners agitation and politics over it going on for more years.

"People of Assam are fed up with politics over foreigners and NRC issue since 1980 and they expected that to end today. But that seems to be far away even now," one of them said.

The former chief minister and one of the signatories of Assam Accord, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, however, sounded a little relieved.

"At least the NRC update process has reached this stage due to the Supreme Court. Instead of the blame game, the government should take concrete steps to weed out foreigners," said Mahanta, who had led the Assam Agitation between 1979 to 1985.