GUWAHATI, July 19 � Assam Accord Implementation Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday told the Assembly that it was for the House to decide how best to update the national register of citizens (NRC) after taking into confidence all concerned but without conceding �political space to non-political bodies.�
�We are open-minded and will take everybody into confidence but the decision will be made by the House on the basis of the cut-off date of March 25, 1971. However, we will have to look differently on humanitarian grounds on those entering the State from Bangladesh due to compulsions like religious persecution,� Sarma said, and asserted that political space should not be given to non-political bodies on the issue of NRC and a consensus decision by the House would be in the best interests of the State.
Sarma said that the NRC of 1951 was not the final document for determination of Indian citizenship, as there were a number of valid government documents which one could produce in support of his/her citizenship status. He said that there was uncalled-for politicisation of the NRC 1951 during the NRC update pilot project in Barpeta resulting in violent protests and death of several persons.
Accusing the All Assam Students� Union (AASU) of unnecessary interference in the NRC update process and complicating matters, Sarma said that by bringing in the issue of indigenous populace and through aggressive campaigning, it was creating doubts, confusion and distrust among the different sections of people. �We will soon start pilot projects in different constituencies after preparing a correct form,� he said.
Sarma also revealed that a Cabinet sub-committee headed by the Revenue Minister Prithibi Majhi has been formed to look into the issue of NRC update.
Sarma said that the House would try to arrive at a consensus on what status to be given to the refugees who had fled Bangladesh fearing religious persecution. �Even the Assam Accord is silent on this matter. I am not saying that we should immediately grant citizenship status to these people but the entire gamut of associated aspects should be discussed in depth,� he said.
On the sealing of the Assam-Bangladesh border, the Minister said that in areas where fencing was not possible due to presence of rivers or disputed status of the site, security would be enhanced for preventing infiltration. �We need an alternative strategy for the riverine segment and will constitute a committee of technical experts for the purpose.�
Sarma also said that an all-party team would soon visit the Indo-Pakistan border to get a firsthand account of the foolproof security arrangements there. �Then we will visit the Assam-Bangldesh border so that we can identify the lacunae and ensure a security mechanism on the lines of those along the Indo-Pak border,� he added.
Earlier, raising the issue, Padma Hazarika (AGP) called for an amicable solution to the sensitive NRC update process issue by taking all concerned into confidence. �Consensus is already there on the cut-of date of March 25, 1971 for Indian citizenship, and the need is to have anther consensus for a correct update without harassing Indian citizens and at the same time ensuring that no foreigner can enter his/her name in the NRC,� he said.
HBA Qasimi (AIUDF), while alleging that religious and linguistic minorities were being harassed, said that the citizenship forms of the NRC update pilot project (later stopped) were full of anomalies and besides the Government failed to provide copies of the NRC-1951 in its authentic form, triggering confusion and apprehension among the minorities.
According to Qasimi, there were 28 defects or anomalies in the forms and 80 per cent of the people were unable to fill up those at Barpeta. �We all want a correct NRC as it is critical to resolving the foreigners� issue and ensuring peaceful coexistence in the State,� he said.
Keshab Mahanta (AGP) advocated a visit to the Indo-Pak border by an all-party delegation so that a similar model could be replicated on the porous Assam-Bangladesh border.
Manilal Goala (Congress) said that there were people in border areas who had still been paying land rent to the Government even after those had fallen into Bangladesh�s hand in 1966 in the hope that thy could get back their ownership again. �These people should either be given back their land rights by reclaiming the land or compensated adequately,� he said.
Manoranjan Das (BJP) and Bhupen Bora (Congress) also took part in the discussion, offering their suggestions.