The Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia lashed out at the national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Amit Shah, for his statement in the Rajya Sabha that all the 40 lakh people, who have been excluded from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam are “illegal infiltrators”.
Stating that Shah had made a false assertion in the august House by terming all 40 lakh people as “ghuspethiya” or ‘illegal infiltrators’, Saikia urged all members of the House to bring a breach of privilege motion against the BJP president.
Saikia said that Shah deliberately ignored widespread reports about the final draft of the NRC not containing the names of the descendants and relatives of 19th century freedom fighter Bahadur Gaonburah, former president of India, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, the first Deputy Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly (1937-1946) Maulavi Muhammad Amiruddin, freedom fighters Pramod Bhattacharjee, Dibesh Purkayastha, Gauri Shankar Roy and a host of other famous personalities of the State.
Saikia said that Shah was wrong to accuse the Congress of lacking the courage to complete the National Register of Citizens (NRC) because the genesis of the NRC process lies in the Assam Accord which was masterminded by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 and was followed by the signing of a tripartite agreement in 2005 when the Congress was in power both at the Centre and the State.
The Congress leader also said, in fact, the Government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh had released Rs 489 crore in 2013 and 80 per cent of the NRC work was already complete when the BJP-led alliance came to power in Assam in 2016. On the other hand, the then NDA Government had released a meagre amount of Rs 5 lakh for NRC work in 1999 out of a promised sum of Rs 20 lakh, and the BJP’s present ally AGP, which was in power in the
State at the time, had failed to put even that to any use.
Pointing out that even the wife of the sitting BJP MLA from Silchar LAC and former Deputy Speaker of the Assam Legislative Assembly, Dilip Kumar Paul, has been excluded from the final draft of the NRC, Saikia said Shah ought to change his one-track divisive mentality and take into account the fact that the 40 lakh names in question include a huge number of Indian nationals from states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, etc., who have been residing in Assam due to marital ties or for remunerative occupation.
In this context, the Congress leader said that it was for negligence and failure of coordination on the part of the Central Government that resulted in many of the relevant States not responding to verification requests sent by the State NRC authority in connection with those residents of Assam who had come here from other parts of India.
This inaction resulted in lakhs of Indian citizens being omitted from the final draft of the NRC and instead of indulging in chest-thumping and pursuing a divisive agenda, Shah belatedly should ensure that these states send the required data during the claims and appeals phase that will ensue. Saikia said that Shah’s sweeping comment, which sought to convert numerous genuine citizens into “ghuspethia” at one stroke, will hurt the sentiments of all right-thinking residents not only of Assam but India as a whole.
Saikia termed the West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee’s allegation about a conspiracy to exclude Bengali-speaking people from the NRC and her prophecy of a “civil war” as uncalled for
hue and cry.
He said that no political party or social organisation of the State would countenance such a divisive stance and urged Banerjee to admit her mistake and apologise to the people of Assam. Instead of wasting her energies in
fomenting distrust and division, Banerjee should ensure that the verification documents of reportedly more than five lakh people, which are gathering dust in various offices of the West Bengal government, are duly processed and sent back to the State NRC authority, Saikia added.