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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 33 New Delhi August 4, 2018

NRC and Beyond

Tuesday 7 August 2018

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

The publication of the draft National Register of Citizens of Assam has thrown the State into turmoil. Naturally, because over four million Indian citizens’ names are just not there in the draft Register. They include Bengali Hindus, Bengali Muslims, Nepalis and Indian citizens from other States like UP, Bihar etc., who have been living in Assam for generations. By no stretch of imagination can they be called foreigners or Bangladeshis. Though Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured that this is only a ‘draft’ and those whose names have been excluded will have time till September 28 to apply for inclusion with necessary documents, the objective behind the preparation of the NRC raises doubts as to how many would still be left out of the final document after September.

To make matters far worse, the BJP Government of Assam has chosen to deal in a most cavalier fashion with a parliamentary delegation of the Trinamul Congress which had gone to Silchar to have a first-hand knowledge of the situation by meeting the affected people.. They were not allowed by the police to come out of the airport lounge but detained there. At the time of writing they are supposed to be taken to some place some forty miles away, detained there overnight and possibly herded into a plane leaving for either Kolkata or Delhi the next morning. The members of the delegation, which included a West Bengal Minister and several MPs, were reportedly manhandled by the police.

Then three FIRs have been lodged against West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in three different police stations in Assam under different sections of the Indian Penal Code. Most likely, an arrest warrant will be issued against her and a police team sent to Kolkata to arrest her and bring her to Assam. It will be a deliberate act of provocation and it seems the sole purpose of what happened at the Silchar airport and the lodging of FIRs against Mamata is to provoke the TMC into some public protest against the BJP in West Bengal. That will give the Modi Government the much needed excuse to dismiss the Mamata Government on the pretext that law and order had broken down in West Bengal.

Then, after a few months, a midterm election to the State Assembly may be held under Central rule with the Central forces creating a situation in which voters will be too terrorised to come out and vote freely. During the last few months, Mamata has emerged as the rallying point of all anti-BJP forces at the national level—a fact that the Modi-Amit Shah duo cannot ignore and countenance. For them it is absolutely necessary to size her down before the 2019 general elections.

As far as the latest phase of the Assam problem is concerned, the second National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the State was published on July 30.

The Assamese frankly admit that they know it is physically impossible to ‘deport’ the so-called Bangladeshis. What they want is that these people should be prevented from taking part in and influencing the outcome of election results.

This will be possible only by disenfranchising the (unidentified or arbitrarily identified) Bangladeshis. The whole exercise of preparing the second NRC was aimed at depriving them of their voting rights and making them stateless. It remains to be seen how the ground situation develops after September 28, and how those who eventually fail to get their names enlisted in the final NRC react.

August 2                  B.D.G.

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