‘After 2019 polls, BJP will forget NRC, Assam’

‘After 2019 polls, BJP will forget NRC, Assam’

MP Gaurav Gogoi

In an interview with DH’s Sagar Kulkarni, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi says that the NRC process is Congress’ baby and that the BJP is now trying to make political gains out of it.

Congress, too, was in two minds over its stand on updating the NRC?

That’s not true. Right from day one, we maintained that the NRC was an exercise started by Congress, a fact that was later admitted by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, too. The controversy happened in the Rajya Sabha because BJP president Amit Shah perhaps did not know at that time as to who had started NRC. The protests in Rajya Sabha were against that. Rajnath Singh’s statement supported the Congress position. 

What is the Congress’ stand on NRC now?

We have maintained a consistent stand that this is an exercise to identify foreigners, and action against foreigners must follow the due course of law. At the same time, the objective of the exercise is defeated when it turns out that Indians who have migrated to Assam from Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, UP, etc., are not found in the list of Indian citizens. Therefore, we raised our concern about the apathy shown by the government on this matter.

It was disappointing that Amit Shah, instead of owning up that there has been a gross error on their part, tried to indulge in propaganda and self-publicity, labelling those left out of the NRC draft as foreigners and creating more stress for them by saying that the government would take away all their rights. The BJP never aimed to publish an accurate NRC. Their only aim was to gain publicity.

How differently would a Congress government have done the job?

We would have done a much better job of verification. The applications of 3.2 crore people in Assam were being submitted during the Congress government till 2016. Post-2016, when the new government came in Assam, they only had to study the papers and publish the draft.

There are so many people who are excluded, people who have migrated from Bihar, Rajasthan, etc. And why are they excluded? Because they have not got their papers from those state governments. The government could have called up those states and told them that people from their respective states have not got the requisite verification.

How were 40 lakh people left out of the final draft NRC? 

There are so many reasons why papers are getting rejected. One of the reasons is that Assam government officials were not accepting documents simply because they were in Hindi. The Assam government could have sorted this out by seeking another extension from the Supreme Court. This is what we would have done.

Our NRC would have been an accurate one. All genuine Indian citizens would have been part of it. We would have got an accurate estimate of how many foreigners are there. The BJP has still not answered, despite all the propaganda, how many foreigners there are in Assam.

The NRC process has its roots in the Assam Accord of 1985, but it was initiated only in 2005. Why the 20-year delay?

The Assam Accord gives a special cut-off year of 1971 for the identification of foreigners, but it does not say, update the NRC. So, that year – 1971 – remains the basis for any population verification exercise. NRC came about because even after the accord, people wanted a revision of the voter rolls. This happened twice under the Asom Gana Parishat government.

The third voter revision happened in 1997. But the issue of foreigners is a sensitive topic. So, the Congress government said, let us do another exercise, we have already revised the voter list thrice, now let us update our NRC of 1951, and put in modalities on which there is a consensus. So, we got an all-party consensus and then started the process.

Will you help the 40 lakh people left out with the verification process?

We have written to the union home ministry on behalf of the Gorkha delegation, the Hindi-speaking Bhojpuri and Marwari associations. They have come to us. In fact, many BJP MPs and MLAs have come to me to say that their own party is branding them as traitors and the Congress is the only party that is speaking on behalf of everyone.

Many people are illiterate and do not how to fill up a form. They do not even know why their initial application has been rejected. Congress is setting up camps in Bengali-dominated areas. We have assured everyone that the rights of genuine Indian citizens will be protected.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is another concern when we talk of NRC…

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill talks of a new cut-off year of 2014 for specific communities. That itself nullifies the Assam Accord. It shows the duplicity of the BJP. Congress is very clear, we are for upholding the Assam Accord. Yes, there are genuine concerns of various communities and those concerns must be addressed keeping in mind the history of Assam.

BJP is not serious about governance. BJP is sacrificing the interests of Assamese and all the communities that have moved into Assam for their narrow electoral politics because 2019 is near. You see, after 2019 they will forget about NRC, they will forget about Assam.