NEW DELHI, Oct 27 - Amid growing controversy over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, speakers on Saturday insisted on constitutional safeguard to the indigenous people of Assam.
A seminar on the topic �The untruth, the half truth and the truth of NRC�, organised as part of the Sixth North East Festival here, saw eminent speakers, including some of the petitioners in the NRC case in Supreme Court, dispel some of the myths surrounding the NRC exercise and provide some clarity to the issues involved.
The seminar anchored by senior journalist Kaushik Deka was attended by editors Rajdeep Sardesai and Siddhart Varadarajan, All Assam Students Union advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya, Assam Public Works president Aabhijit Sarma, Prabajan Virodhi Manch convenor Upamanyu Hazarika and Noni Gopal Mahanta, among others.
Giving a brief account of the 33-year-long struggle of the people of Assam against the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh, Samujjal Bhattacharya stressed that Assam cannot take anymore burden, as it has already agreed to take the illegal migrants up to 1971.
He said the political parties were politicking over such a grave issue and lots of disinformation campaigns were going on regarding the NRC update exercise in Assam.
In this connection, he referred to the recent Home Ministry notification empowering the collectors of 21 districts in seven states to accept online applications to grant citizenship to �persecuted minorities� from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh living in India.
The Home Ministry gave powers to the collectors in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi to grant citizenship and naturalisation certificates to the migrants under Sections 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
Bhattacharya said the ruling BJP government at the Centre is out to sabotage the entire NRC exercise as those who have been given citizenship in these seven states can return to Assam and settle down without any questions asked.
The AASU adviser clarified that they were not against any Muslim or Hindu Bengalis but wanted a flawless NRC with names of genuine Indian citizens.
He demanded that India should sign a bilateral treaty with Bangladesh to deport the illegal migrants. �If you have guts deport them,� he said.
Participating in the discussion, Siddhart Varadarajan said that the NRC issue needs broader discussion at the national level and in the national media. �You cannot have a situation whereby political rights have been given to foreigners,� he said.
He also referred to the recent statements by BJP national president Amit Shah who called the illegal migrants termites. �Calling them termites is an attempt to sabotage the process,� he opined.
Joining the discussion, Rajdeep Sardesai wanted clarity on certain issues like way forward after detection of 40 lakh people as foreigners, which no country was going to accept. He also wondered what would be the future when governments are talking about free border movement.
Upamanyu Hazarika said that �1951 should be the base year for constitutional safeguard of the indigenous people... otherwise, they have no future.�
Aabhijit Sarma said that they are unhappy with the NRC update exercise and is going to demand 100 per cent reverification of the entire process.
Noni Gopal Mahanta said the NRC exercise is not going on as per expectation. He said that to make the exercise successful, political agenda has to be kept aside.