The release of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam has been rocking parliament for the past few days. The opposition led by the Congress and Mamta’s TMC have been up in arms on the issue.Though sensing national view, the Congress is showing a change in stance. The draft NRC was initially released on 01 Jan 18. The final NRC had a list of 1.9 crore out of a total applicant pool of 3.29 crore. It however left out 40.07 Lakhs as from the 3.29 crore, 2.89 crores were initially found eligible.
The process was done on the orders of the Supreme Court, issued in 2013. It was not a political initiative. The system followed the citizenship act of 1955 and rules framed in the Assam accord. Its aim was to flush out illegal migration from Bangladesh and other regions. The initial updating process was conducted from May to Aug 2015, in which 3.29 crore applied.
Subsequently, the verification process was launched. This involved house to house verification, determination of authenticity of documents etc, all aimed to rule out bogus claims. Even now, there are over 2.47 Lakhs, within those left out, whose cases remain under scrutiny. However, those left out are not labelled foreigners nor being sent to camps, pending deportation. Claims and objections can be filed, and their cases would be reconsidered. In some cases, verification has been held up because of lack of confirmation by different states, the largest being West Bengal.
The creation of the NRC for Assam has been a bold step and needs to be complemented. The Congress, the most vocal of all parties on the NRC was forced to commence the process on orders of the court, had turned a blind eye when large scale illegal migration took place into the state.
The Congress formulated the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) (IMDT) act in 1983, which was skewed in favour of illegal migrants. Fearful of changing demography, Lt Gen Sinha, the then Governor of Assam wrote to the President in Nov 1998, “Large scale illegal migration from East Pakistan/Bangladesh over several decades has been altering the demographic complexion of this state. It poses a grave threat both to the identity of the Assamese people and to our national security.” There was no reaction of the centre.
In 2005, striking down the IMDT, the Supreme Court observed, ‘The dangerous consequences of large scale migration from Bangladesh, both for the people of Assam and for the nation, need to be emphatically stressed. The silent and invidious demographic invasion of Assam may result in a loss of geo-strategically vital districts of lower Assam. The influx of illegal migrants is turning these districts into a Muslim majority region. It will be a matter of time before they demand merger with Bangladesh.’ The militancy in Assam is the result of these faulty vote bank policies of the Congress.
In 2005, while being a member of the opposition in the centre, Mamta Banerjee as an MP had lashed out against state and central governments against illegal migration in West Bengal. She had then stated, ‘Illegal migrants from Bangladesh are also part of the voter list in West Bengal. The state government has done nothing about it’. Since becoming the CM, understanding the impact of votes, she has changed her tune. For her, it is votes and power first, impact of changing demography resulting in security issues is last.
In Bengal, all border districts with Bangladesh are major law and order issues, solely because of a skewed demography, created by massive influx of Bangladeshi illegal migrants. There are regular reports of anti-national activities including bomb and weapon manufacturing units. Since they support the TMC, there is no action being taken to declare them as illegal migrants. Reports of violence, which are a regular feature in this region are suppressed and visits by the media and other political parties banned.
The Rohingya illegal migrants occupying sensitive pockets even in cities as far north as Jammu, alongside hordes of Bangladeshi migrants, which if not checked would result in a changed demography. The Valley based political parties have never accepted these migrants into the valley but are supporting them to continue in Jammu, knowing it would change demography and end up as their vote banks.
National political parties have made major blunders earlier and would continue doing so only to garner a few additional votes. All political parties were silent when Kashmiri Pundits were hounded out of the valley, changing demography in the region for eternity. None even worked to evaluate means to move them back. This debacle and lack of counter measures would haunt India for a long time to come. The nation cannot let its own regions be overrun by illegal migrant population, impacting demography.
The Government rightly stated in the Supreme Court when questioned on the Rohingya issue, ‘India is already saddled with a very serious problem of illegal migrants.’ It added that it is attempting to address this problem keeping national resources of the country, requirements of our own population and national security in mind.
India cannot afford to accept illegal migrants, when its own nationals are unable to gain the benefits of development and resources. While India grows economically, the benefits should belong to the Indian citizen, not illegal migrants. This is an era of realpolitik; no longer can India remain a nation of Buddha and Gandhi, accepting all and sundry who find entry into the country by illegal means. We need to consider our own nationals first, irrespective of religion, caste or creed, before considering illegal migrants.
The NRC may have errors, there may be names missed or maybe some wrongly added. This would be rectified, and amendments done. This is after all the first time this exercise has been done in India. Declaring the complete system to be flawed, desiring it be scrapped, illegals permitted to stay changing demography for a handful of votes is clearly not seeking the best for the nation.
This exercise also needs to be conducted in regions like Jammu where demography is rapidly undergoing a change and could impact national security in a very short time.
(The author is former Major General in Indian Army)