We warned against NRC: TMC to BJP

We warned against NRC: TMC to BJP

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. (PTI Photo)

 With the BJP-led Assam government now wanting to cancel the National Register of Citizen (NRC) in Assam and Home Minister Amit Shah wants to "re-do it" again, the Trinamool Congress on Friday said it had warned about the pitfalls three years ago about the "anti-Indian citizen" exercise.

Party leaders said they had raised apprehensions about the exercise, which now the BJP-led Assam government wants to cancel, from 2016 when the Narendra Modi government had proposed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill and presented a dissent note to a Joint Committee of Parliament that examined it explaining how it would be detrimental to lakhs of citizens.

“The Trinamool’s position has been consistent. Three years ago in 2016 we emphatically said, NRC was a big disaster in the making. Three days ago, the BJP leaders have been compelled to junk the NRC in Assam,” Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha leader Derek O'Brien, who was a member of the Parliamentary panel that looked into Citizenship Amendment Bill, told DH.

In their dissent note submitted in January this year, both O'Brien and Saugata Roy had estimated that in the around 40 lakh people in Assam whose names were omitted in the draft NRC, 28 lakh were Bengali Hindus, 10 lakh were Bengali Muslims and two lakh Hindus from states other than Assam and West Bengal.

In the NRC published in August this year, over 19 lakh people were excluded and Trinamool Congress sources said those excluded were around 12-14 lakh Bengali Hindus, four lakh Hindus from Bihar, Jharkhand and other states and around 3.5 lakh Bengali Muslims.

Describing the NRC was “anti-Indian citizen” exercise, O'Brien said those who do not find their names in the list have to appeal in Foreigners Tribunal. “Why should an Indian citizen be made to go to foreign tribunal to prove that he is a citizen,” he said.

A senior Trinamool Congress leader said, "now they want to do the exercise again in Assam along with a countrywide exercise after finding that it was not according to their calculations. Our MPs in the Parliamentary panel had warned them that this will happen."

“BJP claims itself to be a party that protects the interest of Hindus. But what we see is that they are actually working against the interest of Hindus,” a senior Trinamool Congress leader said indicating that it plans to counter the saffron party on this count.

The Trinamool Congress has also shot off a letter to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu accusing Shah of misleading the House on Citizenship Amendment Bill while answering questions on NRC.

On Wednesday, Shah had said in Rajya Sabha during Question Hour that the NRC exercise will be carried out across the country and will be repeated in Assam. The BJP had in its manifesto for Lok Sabha elections had also promised a countrywide NRC and it is raising the pitch for NRC in West Bengal, claiming that it will ensure that illegal immigrants will be thrown out.

Shah had remarked that there has been a consensus among all parties on the provisions related to persecuted minorities in neighbouring countries in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and there was a consensus among parties about religions. The Bill intends to provide citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan while leaving out Muslims from these countries who have illegally entered India.

However, O'Brien in his letter said it was not factually correct and pointed out that in their dissent note and the Chairman should refer to the report submitted by the Joint Committee to ascertain the correct positions of different political parties and his party's position was "emphatically outlined" in the Parliamentary report.

In the report submitted in Parliament on January 7 this year, O'Brien and Roy had said that they wanted the deletion of "specific mention of six minority communities and also the names of our neighbouring countries", which they emphaised was needed to "secularise" the Bill.