After the publication of the updated NRC
of Assam and after settling of all complaints in this regard, there will be three categories of people. These categories are (1) the people who were domiciled in India at the time of the Constitution, (2) the migrants who came to India after the enactment of the Constitution till March 24, 1971 by whatever means and continued to stay here thereafter and (3) the migrants
who came to India from March 25, 1971 till date. The migrants who came to India on and after 1971 are foreign nationals and liable for appropriate action for expulsion (except the children born in India till 2014 as defined in the Citizenship Act).
The vexed question is, if the foreign nationals illegally entering India as indicated above (the third category) are a large number and if their country of origin does not want to take them, what will be their fate? Then they are India’s liability, whether we like the situation or not. In a situation like this, they cannot be deprived of human rights and India has to follow international human rights requirements. They cannot be treated like the Rohingyas
of Myanmar. They should specifically be given opportunities to earn livelihood for survival, dignity of existence and opportunities for their children’s future career. In such circumstances, the Government of India will have to treat them as a special category of foreigners and ensure their human rights as it has been done in respect of the Tibetans staying in India. They will have to be given a specially devised identity card.
The second category i.e. those who are in the stream of migrants entering India after India adopted the Constitution till March 24, 1971 and continued thereafter, all of them will be citizens of India in terms of Assam Accord, and will be entitled to all the rights of citizens.
But Assam Accord clause 6 makes room for some special constitutional safeguard for the ‘Assamese’ (to be interpreted here as the indigenous people of Assam) which has to be guaranteed by the Central Government. What are these safeguards? There are various demands in this respect and some reservations in economic, political and cultural areas are legitimately anticipated by the indigenous people. The nature of protection is not worked out formally as yet.
I see these rights as (1) reservations of seats in the Legislative Assembly, (2) a Legislative Council for indigenous people, (3) reservations in Government employment (all only through constitutional amendment), (4) reservations in educational institutions of higher studies within Assam, (5) reservations in Government contracts up to a specific financial limit, (6) restriction on transference of land prohibiting the foreign nationals from purchasing land in the State. Of course, reservations cannot exceed 50% as per the Constitution. Prohibition on purchase of land by foreign nationals in Assam is of utmost importance.
But there is a question. Who will be ‘Assamese’, or for that matter, how the indigenous people will be defined for these constitutional safeguards? I feel indigenous people will include all people domiciled in Assam at the time of the enforcement of the Constitution in 1950. The only reference document available for this purpose is the NRC of 1951, I presume.
Some vested interests are trying to raise passions in a manner as if the whole exercise is aimed at excluding the Bengali speaking people of Assam from the NRC, which is a disturbing campaign. There should be utmost restraint in response to such reactions. This is a provocation and we need to see that all citizens living in Assam, to whatever community they belong are safe. The NRC authorities and for that matter the Government should dispel such notion and expose the conspiracy if any. No Indian citizen should be left out and no foreigner should be included in the NRC. That is the purpose of the NRC exercise and there should not be any deviation. We trust the Supreme Court which is overseeing the exercise.