The battle in the Supreme Court over the preparation of the final draft NRC is seemingly taking the turn of a non-ending one, laced with appearance of more ‘last date’. It may not be out of place to ask Dispur if its ‘last date’ drama is over or more pleas before the Supreme Court on ‘last date’ is in store in its seat of power.
In the latest instance, Dispur managed to get the last date of publication of the final draft of the NRC deferred by another one month on the ground that the first wave of flood caused immense damage in the State even to the point of causing hurdles in the process of updating the NRC.
While the date for the publication of the final draft NRC has now been extended till July 30, the powers that be at Dispur may be asked several pertinent questions on its NRC updating process.
Going by the media reports, in its last hearing on July 2, the NRC State Coordinator submitted before the apex court “a confidential report in a sealed envelope” and “based on which the apex court gave some directions,” a media report stated.
The apex court has now “permitted deletion of 1.50 lakh names that were included in the draft of part NRC …… but later on scrutiny were found to be ineligible to be included in the citizens register.”
Further, “The names of 64,000 doubtful voters and 4,500 foreigners will be kept on hold and their descendants will be identified, the Bench ruled,” the media report stated.
The question that certainly arises pertains to why Dispur did not seek such directions all these months and waited till the previous last date had elapsed. Was there an axe of a certain hue to grind?
Again, while the very purpose of updating the NRC is to produce a foreigner-free document, going by the report in the media, one fails to delve into the logic behind putting “on hold’ the names of 4,500 foreigners.
Referring back to the NRC updating process over the last couple of years, it may be relevant to state that the powers that be at Dispur indulged in several political misadventures like rejection of panchayat documents or introduction of the obnoxious ‘original inhabitant’ issue, forcing the apex court to come down on the State Government with a heavy hand.
In the matter of panchayat, the know-alls of Dispur may be told that there are millions in rural Assam who have not seen the world beyond the confines of their respective panchayats. For them the panchayat office is their Dispur and Delhi. Again, so far as the issue of ‘original inhabitant’ is concerned, historically speaking, even SwargadeoSiu-ka-Pha who came from the Thai region do not fit into the absurd concept of ‘original inhabitant’ devised by Dispur. Likewise, Mahapurush Sri Sri Sankardeva’s origin can be traced back to Kanauj.
While, such misdemeanor by Dispur may run into volumes, on the basis of the above two examples, may one have the audacity to say that the intention of the Government was to cut down entry of names on a selective basis at will. Again, whereas it was clear that multiple litigations would crop up, was the design of the Government to provide grounds for litigations with the ulterior motive of delaying the updating process?
So far as floods in Assam are concerned, the people, save possibly Dispur, know that only the first wave is over and many more are in store till September. If one flood wave is enough ground for the Government to pray for deferment of publication of the final draft NRC by a month, with waves after waves accompanied by mounting devastation likely on the cards over the next few months, one wonders if Dispur can really abide by the July 30 deadline.
Whereas the public pulse is seemingly alien to Dispur, it has been in the air for long that under one pretext or another, the earlier deadline of June 30 would be missed.
Some even feel that the final draft NRC may be years away. And such views among a conscious section of the public is primarily based on the fact that an updated NRC at this stage may cause a multitude of hurdles in the implementation process once the extra-constitutional Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 becomes an Act.
While views and opinions are a different cup of tea, Dispur may be squarely asked if there is a possibility of the people of Assam witnessing a new chapter on history on August 1, 2018 or will there be more ‘last date’.
Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org