SC-driven exercise is given political colour

The exercise, which was driven by the apex court, has now become a political tool being used by the BJP across India, willfully ignoring its exclusive nature.

The exercise underway in Assam to update the National Register of Citizens is an example of how even a serious issue related to the demographic integrity of a border state, with security, economic and social implications, can turn into political football.

As the process of filing claims and objections begins on August 30, the last hope for some 40 lakh people left out of the NRC draft released on July 31, one wonders how politics intervenes to colour even a Supreme Court-monitored process. One obviously cannot ignore the fact that the BJP came to power for the first time in Assam riding on the emotive issue of evicting Bangladeshi illegals from Assam.

Now, since the final draft of the NRC was published on July 31, there seems to be a frenzy among BJP leaders to hold the NRC exercise across the country, willfully ignoring that the NRC was prepared in 1952 exclusively for Assam, and not even for the other North-East states.

Union minister Giriraj Singh, who often kicks up controversies with his statements, latched on to the NRC issue quickly, demanding that it be done even in Bihar. His argument: a large number of Bangladeshi illegals are in that state, too.

Other BJP leaders followed, with demands coming from every state where such an exercise could help play a minority versus majority card.

A team from BJP-ruled Jharkhand landed in Guwahati to study Assam’s NRC model. The Jharkhand government requested the union home ministry to start the exercise in the tribal-dominated state, too. When the Centre did not respond, it decided to approach the Supreme Court by filing an intervener petition into the case related to Assam’s NRC draft, pleading that Jharkhand should also be made a party to it.

Could poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, also BJP-ruled, be far behind? It, too, contacted Assam’s NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela.

In neighbouring Rajasthan, where the BJP is facing massive anti-incumbency as it heads to elections, its home minister Gulabchand Kataria declared that the NRC exercise should be held across the country to weed out Bangladeshi illegals from everywhere.

But it is West Bengal, where the BJP desperately wants the NRC fire to spread. It is the state where the party is making a serious bid to make its presence felt. State BJP president Dilip Ghosh and state in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya think there are over one crore illegal immigrants in WB who need to be identified and driven out. Ghosh has announced that if the BJP is voted to power in Bengal, there would be no escape from the NRC exercise. The rhetoric is typically incendiary – the alleged one crore Bangladeshis and their supporters must all pack their bags. Union minister Babul Supriyo added his bit by charging that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was protecting these illegals as they were her vote bank.

From down south in Hyderabad, Raja Singh, BJP MLA from Goshmahal assembly seat of Hyderabad, shouts that Bangladeshis who refuse to return to their country must be shot.

To all this, the reaction from the opposition camp is on expected lines. Congress has deliberately avoided getting into the merits of the issue, even as some leaders described the NRC updating exercise as “our baby”.

Trinamool Congress (TMC), Aam Aadmi Party and Samajwadi Party MPs (all three, which get a major chunk of Muslim votes) in West Bengal, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh respectively staged protests outside Parliament during the Monsoon session over the Assam NRC issue. But the TMC faced a setback when Dwipen Pathak, its Assam unit chief, resigned from the post opposing Mamata Banerjee’s stand on NRC.

The BSP supremo Mayawati, who has assiduously tried to create a Dalit-Muslim combination in UP, has gone ballistic over the BJP’s handling of the NRC issue. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi dared the BJP government at the Centre to conduct NRC surveys in Mizoram and Jammu and Kashmir.

But the BJP seems unfazed. In the Rajya Sabha, BJP president Amit Shah reminded Congress that the need for updating NRC arose out of the Assam Accord of 1985, which was signed by Rajiv Gandhi. Shah said the Congress had not shown the courage to implement it, the BJP had to do the job.

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SC-driven exercise is given political colour

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