The national NRC will render Assam process irrelevant: BJP

BJP’s Assam spokesperson Rupam Goswami uses Bangladeshis and Muslims interchangeably; and adds that a lot of Bangladeshis have made the state their home because of welcoming nature of Assamese people

Rupam Goswami
Rupam Goswami

Ashlin Mathew

Now that the NRC has been published, what is the BJP’s stand?

First of all, you need to understand what the NRC is. It is nothing but a process of documentation. Secondly, if you look at the order of the NRC, you’ll see that there are two cases still lying with the Constitutional Bench in the Supreme Court. The first one is a 2012 case and the other is of 2015. The first case states that the base year should not be 1971 and that it should be 1951. The base year for the rest of the country was 1951. How can it be 1971 for Assam? The other relates to citizenship. The verdict in these two cases will affect the NRC.

In 1967, there was a Gauhati High Court order stating that even if a person’s name is included in the NRC list, it doesn’t mean they are Indians.

In the final NRC list, some have been left out and some have been included. Several indigenous people have been excluded. How has it happened? In a family, if two brothers have been included, but the third brother hasn’t been included, then the process is faulty.

Can we be sure of the software? There are issues in that too. If the software was working well, it would not make such exclusions. People in the same family will use the same legacy data.

The NRC coordinator, Prateek Hajela, has said in court that voter lists of 1966 and 1971 could not be linked to the software. What does that mean?

It means a person having three legacy documents of 1951, 1966 and 1971 can trade his documents. Hajela has said this in the Supreme Court. If documents have been traded, it means foreigners have been inducted into the list.

What do you mean by trading documents?

If a person has three legacy documents, they can sell the other two. A person can use legacy data from 1951 and sell the 1966 document.

Why would anyone sell their legacy data?

For the basic reason that people are corrupt.

Don’t people have different names? How can people show similar names of parents?

That is the difference between Muslims and the others. Muslims can have different surnames. The children do not have the same surname as the father.

If someone’s father’s name is Hamid Ahmed, his son’s name may be Hamid Ali. Once you get the legacy data of a person, then all he has to do is to prove that he is the son of the person. Then he can go and get a birth certificate. The main problem is to get a legacy document. You can manipulate all the other documents.

Hajela has said all these in the court. I have not said anything new.

Legally, where does the NRC stand?

Legally, the NRC cannot say if a person is a foreigner or not. Only a Foreigners’ Tribunal can declare a person to be a ‘foreigner’. If the Foreigners’ Tribunals will follow the 1964 Citizenship Act, then the 1971 data is irrelevant.

This process was started in India because we need to streamline our country. So, we need to have this. We cannot have anybody and everybody staying in the country.

A number of Bangladeshi Hindus who had migrated have been excluded. They are the BJP’s voters. Will that cause a problem?

The BJP is least bothered about voters. We believe that if we work, people will vote for us. Last time when we won, how many Bangladeshi Hindus were here? Can we win using only their votes? We work and we are committed. People have faith in our leader Sarbananda Sonowal and Narendra Modi. That is why we won.

What is the post-NRC scenario?

Everybody is happy. All citizens are satisfied. However, this is a faulty NRC and nobody will accept it. There are so many complaints against it. At least 80 per cent of the population of Assam has been stating that this is not acceptable and we are the elected government here. So, we have to listen to our citizens.

After the Supreme Court will finish its processes, it will hand over the details to the government. There is a rule that those who have been left out of the NRC can apply but the border police can still verify their citizenship.

Suppose, someone has got a job using a forged certificate and after 10 years, it comes to light. Then, shouldn’t the person be punished? So, in the same way, just because a person is on the NRC list, it doesn’t mean that it is the last word.

A person may have entered the NRC with forged documents, but in the long run, the government will scrutinise each and every one. If your documents are false, you will be in trouble.

Many more from the excluded 19 lakh are likely to be included in the final list…

The Congress government had conducted a pilot NRC project in two districts – Barpeta and Chaygaon. Violence broke out and it was stopped. But, if they had taken the pilot project to Upper Assam, there would not have been any such incidents.

Why was there a complaint at that time? It was mostly because the minorities from Bangladesh do not have the requisite papers. They know very well that they are Bangladeshis. But, now they have made their papers. It is quite interesting that the border districts of Bangladesh have an exclusion rate of just 6 per cent in the draft. And Guwahati city and Karbi Anglong had 16 per cent exclusion rate. What does it mean? The border districts should have a higher exclusion rate than other districts.

Don’t you think the people you are calling Bangladeshi migrants could have moved away from these districts?

No, no, that’s not the demography there. We know that. In Karbi Anglong, there are no minorities. Yet, there have been exclusions.

Since the BJP is heading the government, what will you do?

The government will verify the NRC list. Also, the national NRC is coming up soon. If that is coming up, then the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for it will be different. That is what BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma has also been saying. There will not be a chance for 1971 to be the cut-off date.

When there is a national NRC, then we will also go for it as other states will not accept Assam’s NRC. Then the rules laid down for it will apply to us too. That means there is no meaning of this NRC. Moreover, if anyone approaches the court against this NRC, it will be rendered null and void.

The NRC was an off-shoot of the Assam Accord. It also states that it would protect the indigenous people. That was one of the main reasons for the Accord. At that time, they couldn’t decide who all were the indigenous people. Now a committee has been formed to decide on this and work is going on. I don’t know what the Government of India will do, but they will definitely protect the indigenous people of the Assam.

Wasn’t the Supreme Court monitoring the process?

So what? Are you saying the Supreme Court can never be wrong? If someone appeals in the Supreme Court because there are many anomalies, I believe the Supreme Court will look into it. The Assam government is also likely to appeal. I believe in the Supreme Court.

What does monitoring mean? If the Supreme Court had made a committee for every district, then I think monitoring would happen. In this case, Supreme Court has directed the process. I don’t think they have entered the system and monitored the process of the system.

But, the National Register General declared that they will not conduct a Census in Assam because of the NRC?

See, all of this is creating nothing but confusion.

In Hojai, a number of Bengali Hindus have been excluded. Why?

There was 36 per cent exclusion in the draft list from the area. There is also another line of thinking and that is why we support the Citizenship Amendment Bill. In 1971, because of religious persecution, many people fled East Pakistan. They mostly had just the document mentioning their refugee status but it has not been accepted in the NRC process. What documents can those fleeing people have? They were running for their lives.

The Muslims who came here did not come because of religious persecution. They came here for their livelihood.

Even though the Union Home Ministry said that no one will be picked up and sent to detention centres, several detention centres have been constructed. Why?

That is because there are several declared foreigners. More than 1 lakh people have been declared foreigners.

I can only prove that a person is not an Indian. How can I prove whether they are Bangladeshis or Nepalis or Burmese?

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