Will The NRC Exercise Backfire? Here’s Why The BJP Is Demanding A Re-Verification Of The Data

by Swarajya Staff - Aug 7, 2019 06:44 PM +05:30 IST
Will The NRC Exercise Backfire? Here’s Why The BJP Is Demanding A Re-Verification Of The DataAn NRC official. (via Twitter)

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation exercise is reaching its climax with the Supreme Court mandated 31 August date for its publication fast approaching. However, the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) both at the Centre and the state are demanding a re-verification of the data.

What The Data Says

The Assam BJP has been in a fix ever since a draft was submitted by the state’s
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary in the state assembly on 1 August.

The data showed that the percentage of people excluded from the NRC draft was higher in Hindu-majority districts than that in Muslim-dominated districts, most of them bordering Bangladesh. This has raised questions on the reliability of the exercise itself, with a particularly large number of indigenous inhabitants having being excluded from the register from tribal districts.

The data for various districts shows the disparity in inclusion. As much as 92.78 per cent, 92.33 per cent and 91.96 per cent of the residents in Muslim-dominated South Salmara, Karimganj and Hailakandi districts respectively have been included in the data.

However, Hojai and Darrang districts which are tribal-dominated have just a 67 per cent and 69 per cent inclusion rate. Similar disparity has been observed across districts leading to the higher inclusion percentage in regions with sizeable Muslim population.

“In the indigenous and tribal-dominated districts such as Karbi Anglong, West Karbi Anglong, Baksa and Sonitpur, 14-15 per cent people have been excluded. Likewise, 22 per cent people in Bongaigaon and 18 per cent in Guwahati have been excluded,” Patowary said.

What Political Parties Say

Several BJP members from the party have expressed doubt over the fairness of the exercise ever since the numbers have been made public.

“A fair NRC will be like the Magna Carta but a flawed one would threaten the integrity and sovereignty of the country,” said BJP MLA Debananda Hazarika.

BJP members have cited cases in districts, example South Salmara, where several people have linked themselves to a single legacy person to legitimise their indigenous inhabitant claims. The state government had even claimed that foreigners have been roped in as officials for the exercise.

“This was always our concern and this is what is coming to light now. Hindus have been disproportionately targeted,” said Rajdeep Roy, BJP MP from Silchar.

State Opposition leader and Congress MLA Debabrata Saikia however, took a shot at the BJP. “The NRC has basically boomeranged for the BJP. They are panicking because there is a buzz that there will be more Hindus than Muslims in the final exclusion list,” he said.

The Centre and Assam governments had earlier submitted a plea in the Supreme Court (SC) demanding a 20 per cent re-verification of the data in border districts and 10 per cent for other districts. The plea was however, rejected by the apex court which is monitoring the exercise.

Way Forward?

While the SC has rejected its plea for re-verification, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patowary has said that they will appeal for an extension to the NRC deadline to make room for a re-verification.

He slammed the NRC co-ordinator Prateek Hajela who had claimed that a 27 per cent re-verification had already been done. Patowary claimed that the re-verification, if it happened, was done keeping the people of Assam and the Central and state governments in the dark and is hence irrelevant.

An NGO, Assam Public Works, meanwhile has sought a 100 per cent re-verification of the final draft as it brought to light an incident where two NRC officials were caught seeking a bribe from an applicant for inclusion in the register.

Several villagers have begun receiving notices for a re-check of the citizenship documents since Saturday (3 August). As many as 30,000 people have been directed by the NRC authorities to appear for the re-verification, a PTI report has said.

While the original draft, which had excluded 40 lakh people from Assam’s 3.29 crore population, had led to the hope that illegal immigrants can be rooted out of from the reeling state, the current data has certainly dashed some of the expectations. In view of the data, it is important to ensure that legitimate state subjects do not end up bearing the brunt of this exercise.

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