Homeland Security

NRC of Assam relates to illegal immigrants, painting it ‘communal’ is wrong
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 02 Aug , 2018

Publication of final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam has aggravated the already turbulent political scene with approaching general elections. Over 40 lakh people who have been left out who had applied for inclusion in the NRC. Reportedly 52,000 Assam State government officials have worked over some three years (2015-2018) to produce the final draft. The State Coordinator of the NRC has stated that the reasons why over 40 lakh people have been left out cannot be disclosed for reasons of confidentiality.

Though the figure of over 40 lakh not included in the NRC looks large, but why this figure is large and why the need for NRC for Assam in the first place; requires to look back what has happened in Assam over the years.

It is important to note that the half-finished list of NRC published in January 2018 was on orders of the Supreme Court. Even the draft published now is not ‘final’ wherein 3.3 crore applicants have reportedly been verified. Those left out can reapply for inclusion with proof, which may see further changes when the final list is published. It, therefore, stands to reason that the Supreme Court would scrutinize the reasons of those left out, should it so want. Even after the final list is published, those not in the list can file affidavits with the foreign tribunal in Assam. This again may take months, maybe years to get resolved because most, if not all of those left out can be expected to file affidavits, assisted and supported from forces within and abroad given the political and communal twist given to this whole issue.

Though the figure of over 40 lakh not included in the NRC looks large, but why this figure is large and why the need for NRC for Assam in the first place; requires to look back what has happened in Assam over the years. In 1983, the Congress regime at the Centre passed the infamous Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) IMDT Act.  The 1983 IMDT Act virtually shielded illegal immigrants because under its provisions, the burden of proving the citizenship or otherwise rested on the accuser and the police, not the accused – major departure from the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946. Besides, it was mandated that the accuser had to be residing within three kilometer radius of the accused. The accuser was required to file an application, not accusing more than 10 persons and deposit a fee.

Looking at the provisions of the 1983 IMDT Act, instituting it specifically for  Assam, while the Foreigners Act 1946 applied uniformly to balance India, was an anti-national act of gigantic proportions; perhaps with as malicious intent, if not more than Article 370 in J&K. Which Assamese citizen would have the time and finances to fight legal battles that his neighbor next door was an illegal immigrant?  But apparently there was a much larger conspiracy considering much before the formation of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibir Rehman (pro-India leader in East Pakistan) wrote in his book ‘Eastern Pakistan: Its Population, and Economics’ that “because East Pakistan must have sufficient land for its expansion, it must include Assam to be financially and economically strong”. It is significant to note that members of the committee that drafted the 1983 IMDT Act were suitably rewarded, one even appointed to the highest office in India subsequently.

…illegal immigrants in Assam would not be from Bangladesh alone, but from other countries also – like Myanmar.

For some strange reason the Supreme Court took no suo moto cognizance of the IMDT Act when it was applied to Assam in 1983. It was only after a legal case filed against it that the Supreme Court finally scrapped this unwarranted Act in 2005. However, the original demography of Assam had been drastically altered over the intervening 22 years. At the same time, illegal immigrants in Assam would not be from Bangladesh alone, but from other countries also – like Myanmar. They would probably include Rohingyas also, including and other than those accepted by the Congress government as UNHCR refugees despite India not being signatory to UN 1951 Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol – another demographic conspiracy fitting into the larger geopolitical game.

If Mujibir Rehman was looking at India’s northeast and in particular Assam, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party under Khaleda Zia with its radical base, Islamist agenda and pro-Pak-China leaning was running anti-India terrorist camps in Pakistan with Al Qaeda and SSG instructors as per intelligence reports. Yet predominantly, the number of illegal individuals in Assam would probably be from Bangladesh because successive governments of West Bengal, both Communists and Mamta’s Trinamool Congress actively promoted illegal immigration from Bangladesh, also institutionalizing it by providing Indian identity papers once individuals and groups crossed over into India;  money was fixed for each adult and child illegal immigrant. Having paid “entry fee”, they were shown a camping site where they could stay for two days while they were provided papers with Indian identity. This was continuous flow for years on end and the “illegality” would obviously be difficult to establish.

Though there were multiple reasons for it, the primary aim was to go on increasing vote-banks to win elections. It is for the same reason Mamta Bannerjee threatening civil war and proclaiming she is ready to consider accommodating the over 40 lakh not included in the NRC; as if West Bengal is her personal fiefdom. The NRC is far from being finalized, and as and when it does, it can be taken for granted that the Foreign Tribunal will be approached by all and sundry left out. Already there are reports of Pakistan’s ISI going full speed to sabotage the NRC.

NRC is about illegal foreigners, not a Muslims issue as some politicians, scholars and paid media is trying to portray, painting it into a communal issue…

In all the discussions in our media, the fact that our processes are excruciatingly low with institutions and entities infiltrated by anti-national elements, we never address the issue of multiplication of numbers of illegal immigrants over the years and its implications towards national security. Take the reports of presence of some 40,000 Rohingyas in India some time back, what would the number have multiplied by now? If PC Chidambaram as Home Minister colonized 4000 Rohingyas in Jammu despite Article 370, that number has multiplied many times over, some also found with aadhar cards. We need to reflect that UNHCR did not turn Islamist overnight with the recent UNHRC Report on Kashmir. It obviously was playing larger game in synch with the Indian government when latter accepted Rohingya refugees despite not being signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees and subsequent protocol.

The bottom-line is that the NRC is about illegal foreigners, not a Muslims issue as some politicians, scholars and paid media is trying to portray, painting it into a communal issue for the sake of vote-banks in the backdrop of approaching elections is wrong. If deportation is to follow the final NRC, to what extent would it happen and over a period of how many years is not known but deportations no doubt create turbulence. Is there a case for us to examine how other countries have / are dealing with the problems of illegal immigration. How and why did Myanmar (then Burma) oust Indian-origin Burmese? Burma faced no threat to national security on account of Indian-origin Burmese, as India faces with illegal immigrants – Bangladeshis, Rohingyas, whatever.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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One thought on “NRC of Assam relates to illegal immigrants, painting it ‘communal’ is wrong

  1. Thanks Sir for this educative piece. Congress and now TMC have been indulging in this anti national act with impunity. How many soldiers may have lost their lives due to the resultant insurgency?

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