From our special correspondent
Guwahati, January 2, 2018
What former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had agreed in 1985 to end the “troubled” six-year-long anti-foreigner movement in Assam has almost been fulfilled under Narendra Modi government but only after being ordered by the Supreme Court.
Release of the first draft of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) containing 1.9crore names on the mid-night of December 31 has provided Assam what was promised more than 37 years ago. Rajiv Gandhi had signed the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985 with the leaders of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Jatiya Sangram Parishad–two organizations leading the anti-foreigners movement. More than 855 indigenous agitators and hundreds of suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh were killed during the Assam Agitation between 1979 and 1985. Killings of more than 3,000 Muslims at Nellie in Morigaon district, about 40km East of Guwahati, still known as Nellie massacre, is a testimony of the violence Assam witnessed in its fight against foreigners.
As the Agitation pestered for long with no signs of solution, Rajiv Gandhi agreed to detect, delete and deport the illegal migrants living in Assam with March 24,1974 as the cut off date. It was agreed that the National Register of Citizens 1951 would be updated in Assam to detect the foreigners and put an end to the concerns by indigenous people that their identity would be threatened by the illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
But the “most important” promise agreed in Assam Accord to update the NRC remained confined to papers only after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. No major progress was seen and the foreigners continued to be a major issue in every election in Assam. The AASU and other organisations alleged that Congress not only failed to fulfill Rajiv Gandhi’s promise but made the illegal Bangladeshis it’s major vote bank to win elections. No significant step was taken even during Atal Behari Vajpayee government although BJP fought election with the promise that illegal Bangladeshi migrants would be rooted out from Assam.
The issue of NRC update, however gained momentum in 2005 when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a tripartite agreement with AASU and Assam government (Congress under Tarun Gogoi) to update the NRC with March 24, 1971 as the cut off date.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Assam Public Works, an NGO in the Supreme Court in 2009 made much difference as the issue of foreigners reached the Apex Court which subsequently issued several orders for updating the NRC 1951 in Assam.
A pilot project to update the NRC was started by the Congress government in 2010 but the exercise had to be stalled following violent protests by All Assam Minorities Students’ Union. Two AAMSU supporters had died in police firing and several others injured during a violent protest in Barpeta district.
The Supreme Court’s order prompted Manmohan Singh government at the Centre and the Register General of India to resume the NRC update process in 2015. The Supreme Court issued several orders including the one on November 30 last year when it directed the Centre to release draft of the NRC by December 31 and rejected a government plea to extend the deadline till July 30 this year.
The office of NRC coordinator, while releasing a part draft on the midnight of December 31 said in Guwahati that rest of the names who submitted genuine and acceptable documents for inclusion of their names would be released after verification. A total of 3.29 crore applicants have applied and submitted more than six crore documents for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC.
You can also contribute articles and opinions for our website by mailing them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com