As the year 2018 draws to an end, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has gone hammer and tongs over the publication of the final draft National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) by the NRC authorities under direct supervision of the Supreme Court on July 30.
The Ministry has projected the publication amidst peace as a huge achievement. Various statements made by Delhi and Dispur prior to and post publication hold testimony to an anticipation of massive law and order problem in the wake of the publication of the draft.
The massive security arrangements made by the Government across the State to counter anticipated law & order problems likely to be triggered by trouble mongers following the publication of the draft NRC belied the response to the publication by the people of Assam with monastic peace.
The people of the State can take pride for all times in the fact that the publication of the draft NRC was welcomed by the people of Assam with absolute peace.
Beyond a shadow of doubt, the credit of maintenance of peace prior to, during and post publication of the draft goes almost entirely to the people of Assam. It may be recalled that right from the word go, the people extended full cooperation to the authorities in the NRC updating process.
Such cooperation extended to the point of families incurring huge expenditure in attending to the verification processes organized by the authorities in far off districts. There are innumerable reports of families in rural areas disposing of belongings like livestock to eke the transportation cost in order to attend to hearings as part of the verification process organized by the NRC authorities.
While there could be no yardstick of making an estimate, from general observation that a single family might have incurred an expenditure in the range of Rs 2000 to Rs 10,000 or even more in travelling to another district to abide by the directives of the authorities, one could easily estimate that tens of crores of rupees or may be even more might have been incurred by the ordinary public in their quest for a fair and just NRC.
The whole-hearted participation of the people with the NRC authorities and the peaceful conduct of the verification process are clear pointers to the fact that the people were committed to use peace as a weapon against any sinister design that trouble mongers might have harboured.
And why not? After all, since the beginning of the historic Assam Movement against foreigners in the late seventies of the last century, the people have desired from the core of their hearts for a process that would lead to a foreigner-free State. It was a movement for the protection of the identity of the locals and prevention of further damage to the already damaged demography.
Significantly, NRC update process finally emerged to fulfill the decades-old desire of the indigenous people for a process for identification of foreigners and protection of the local people of the State.
With so much at stake, it was just natural that the people would leave no stone unturned to facilitate the NRC update process to be a smooth one. Accordingly, at the end of the day, the draft NRC could be published amidst absolute peace in the State.
It may be worthwhile to point out to the rest of India at this juncture that Assam is the land of Mahapurush Sri Sri Sankardeva and Azan Pir. Peace, brotherhood and communal harmony preached by the two saints among the people, irrespective of caste, creed, community, language, religion or ethnicity, have cast a profound impact on the people – generation after generation – till this day.
The priceless lessons imparted by these two saints may not be comprehensible to a sizable section of the people outside Assam. In fact, their teachings have become an integral part of the way of life of the general people of Assam. It is no wonder that the NRC update process from the very beginning till the publication of the final draft and also into the post draft period has been enveloped in complete peace.
However, totally ignoring the mental framework of the people which is firmly anchored on peace, brotherhood and communal harmony and has virtually made peace and draft NRC publication synonymous terms, and also the intense desire of the people to have a foreigner-free NRC with all efforts directed towards that end, the MHA has seemingly heaped all praises for the peaceful publication of the draft on the Government and the security forces.
While due credit must be given to the NRC authorities that worked under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court, the lion share of the credit for the peace that prevailed must go to the people of Assam. On their part, the security forces did play their assigned role.
Meanwhile, there are several other areas in the State where the Government miserably failed to deliver or maintain peace. On this count the brutal lynching of two youths in Karbi Anglong by a killer mob would perhaps continue to be a shocker in the public mind for long years to come.
The authorities have the stereo- type answer that the law is taking its own course and that several persons have been picked up and criminal cases have been registered against them. Irrespective of the final outcome in the court of law, the incident clearly reflects that the administrative and police network is so weak and ineffective in character, the ugly head of violence like open lynching can raise its ugly head at will.
The massacre at Dhola in Tinsukia district where five innocent persons lost their lives is another huge black mark on the administration in the year 2018. Which way the police investigation may be proceeding and if justice would ever be done is, of course, a big question mark.
Further, the perennial problem of flood and erosion maintained a rising and menacing trend in 2018 as in the earlier years. The State only witnessed high rhetoric let loose by Dispur and Delhi in the matter of corrective measures while the sufferings of the flood and erosion hit people mounted by leaps and bounds. On can safely presume that the scenario in the coming year may take the same shape or may be even worse. In the case of Guwahati, one smart shower was sufficient to cause flash flood in the city in 2018. Will half-a-shower be sufficient to throw life out of gear in 2019?
The year 2018 also witnessed some important bridges being inaugurated. Factually speaking, the construction work of these bridges began decades back and such bridges are not an achievement of the last few years. Interestingly, 2018 did not witness the launching of any such monumental project of public interest.
The year 2018 also witness umpteen number massive protests with the people of Assam against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. However, as of now all such protests have apparently been reduced to a naught with the BJP-led Government at the Centre having seemingly decided to get the Bill passed in the present Winter Session in the wake of the huge victory the party registered in the recent Panchayat polls in the State.
With several BJP leaders having made statements to this effect, it sums up to the conclusion that on the one hand the people (mainly the urban and the elite) vehemently registered their protest against the Bill, the rural folks’ preference for the BJP in the Panchayat polls came in as a shot in the arm for the saffron party to speed up the process of the passage of the Bill. Significantly, till the Panchayat polls results were announced, the BJP dispensation was on the back foot in respect of taking up the Bill in the current session of the Parliament. It now appears that the rural lot perhaps thought differently than those who protested against the Bill.