A little more than 40 lakh people have been left out from the final draft of the NRC. This may be considered a big number or a small number viewed from different angles. If all of them are termed as foreigners, it is considerably a big number. But that is not the thing, though some quarters have already started saying gleefully as if that is the case. No, that is not. Please stop such motivated campaign. The thing is a good many of these people are Indian citizens living in Assam who had come to the state after 1971 but don’t have the required documents to prove that they are bonafide citizens of Assam.
Then there are genuine lapses and errors for which names of many people didn’t appear in the final draft of the NRC. Many such lapses and errors have already come to light which will be corrected in due process. It has also been stated time and again that people whose names don’t appear in the draft NRC couldn’t be branded as foreigners. Definitely not all of them. This is not my version. This is the version of the appropriate authorities. If we take all these things into consideration, we are sure that this figure of 40 lakh will further dwindle. Under the circumstances, the number of foreigners will be much less than 40 lakh. This we shall know when the NRC exercise comes to an end.
Now many people, genuinely and with motivations from outside the state are expressing apprehension that all these 40 lakh people have been turned foreigners and made to lose their citizenship rights overnight by the publication of the draft NRC. Nothing could be further from truth. West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee is saying this and many other well meaning individuals and journalists are also saying the same. But, the thing is here in Assam, the NRC authorities and all other organisations have been repeatedly saying it that the non-inclusion of names on the final draft doesn’t render anybody a foreigner.
Please come and see with your own eyes that the people whose names are not on the final draft are enjoying a normal life here. They are not bundled together and put in a jail or chased away from Assam. Have you seen any such things happening somewhere here? Then why are you comparing the situation of Assam with the Rohingya Muslims? Please try to understand all of them will get ample time to appeal to the authorities to get their names included through due process of law. So the genuine Indian citizens have absolutely nothing to worry. This has been said time and again by the NRC authorities and various government and nongovernmental agencies. This is not the time to spread an unfounded fear among people inside and outside the state. Nobody should do it. Please be patient and wait for the entire revision process of the NRC to conclude. Please remember, nothing untoward has happened so far and there is no apprehension and fear among the people even whose names didn’t appear on the draft NRC.
But, I also don’t understand why the government and police administration infuse a fear among the ordinary people by imagining large scale violence every time a draft of the NRC is published. Remember, at the time of publication of the first draft of the NRC too there was a huge mobilization of security forces. This time also same thing happened. Why there was not a single incident of trouble! It is not that we want such things to happen. But the thing is police with its intelligence services should be able to make an objective assessment of the situation and make their own preparation and warn people accordingly. There is no point creating a fear psychosis among ordinary people unnecessarily.
Coming to the main thing again, how should we view the whole thing called the foreigners issue now that the final draft NRC was published? As has been mentioned above, I am sure that the final number of the left out people from the NRC will be much less than what we have been contemplating all these years. During the heydays of the Assam movement, most of the left parties and liberal minded people used to say that foreigners’ issue was not a vital issue and all the figures circulated by the supporters of the movement were only their creative imagination. It seems they didn’t say the wrong thing. Their stand on the issue has been vindicated now by the draft publication of the NRC. We may not like it. But this is the bitter truth.
For last four decades, the entire narrative in Assam was about this emotive and identity issue. We wasted so much of our time and energy on this. It was so easy for a section of the Assamese middle class to fool us. The so called votaries of the Assamese nationalism should stop doing this from now. Should I say the unpalatable and naked truth? They were seeing foreigners in every nook and cranny, because they subconsciously considered every poor bearded and lungi clad Muslim on the street a foreigner.
The NRC has come as a saviour for these poor people. Please treat them as human beings, educate them and introduce family planning among them. But please don’t treat them en block as foreigners. Now that it is no longer the key issue, let us divert our attention to more vital issues- the issues of joblessness, healthcare, education and agrarian crisis.