Calm prevailing in state since the publication of the draft NRC is testimony to the fact.
Claims of civil war doubtful
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) update process has always been a contentious issue in Assam, with influential groups in the state like the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), demanding its update ever since it had begun a state-wide agitation against illegal migration in 1979. In fact, AASU had submitted a memorandum to then-Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, on February 2, 1980, stating its demand for updating the NRC of 1951. It was seen as the only way through which illegal migrants, especially from Bangladesh, can be detected and deported.
The update process also had to cross numerous hurdles, including violent protests, which stalled a pilot project carried out in the Chaygaon and Barpeta revenue circles of the state in 2010. More recently, an online campaign was undertaken against the process on a web campaigning community portal, ‘Avaaz’, which termed the ongoing process of updating the NRC “a ploy” to delete Muslim applicants’ names.
However, despite all the odds, the process, which involved scrutiny of 68 lakh forms and five crore documents, has finally reached its last phase.
But the question now is what lies ahead?
With more than 40 lakh names not included in the draft NRC, will it lead to untoward incidents in the state?
Is it really going to be a ‘civil war’ as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee puts it?
I do not think so. The calm prevailing in the state since the publication of the draft NRC is a testimony to the fact.
The Assam government has to be commended for the way it has handled the situation. By keeping the citizens apprised of the update process, allaying fear and suspicions and proper use of both traditional and social media, the government has ensured that genuine Indian citizens have nothing to fear. The Assam police too played an important role by ensuring that the process goes on smoothly and till date there has been no untoward incidents reported in the state. The Supreme Court of India has played the role of an able supervisor.
And, the issue of non-inclusion in the final NRC among the 40 lakh people left out in the draft too is being addressed. The office of the state coordinator of national registration (NRC), Assam, has already advertised the ways in which a person whose name is not in the final draft can file his claim for inclusion in the final NRC. If an individual is a genuine Indian citizen, he or she will find a place in the final NRC.
But, there are still chances of some fundamentalist forces trying to destabilise the situation. An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report of December 2017 states that some radical groups, like the Kerala-based Popular Front of India (PFI), were equating the NRC update process with the Rohingya problem in Myanmar, and were spreading rumours that “lakhs of Muslims are going to be thrown out of Assam.” These kinds of forces may try to influence a section of population in the state, who had not found their name in the draft NRC. However, Assam is a state that has rarely seen radicalisation amongst its Muslim population, so chances of such forces finding a place amongst the local population is slim.
As the situation stands now, it can clearly be interpreted that there is no serious internal or external security threat to the state or the nation because of the NRC update process and neither is there any chance of disturbance of peace.
It is the time where we should congratulate each and every person associated with the update process and hope that the final NRC will be able to detect the illegal migrants and that the government, both at the Centre and state, devise ways to deport them to their respective abodes.
Arunav Goswami is the assistant director, Centre for Development and Peace Studies Guwahati