GUWAHATI, Aug 14 - After 33 years of signing of the Assam Accord, at least one positive step has been achieved in the form of publication of the complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), mainly because of constant monitoring of the process by the Supreme Court. However, the main clauses of the Accord including detection and deportation of foreigners who entered Assam on or after March 25, 1971, sealing of the international border with Bangladesh to prevent fresh infiltration, providing constitutional protection to the Assamese people, etc., are yet to be implemented.
The demand for updating the NRC of 1951 was raised by the All Assam Students� Union (AASU) way back in 1980 when the historic Assam movement was gathering momentum and after 38 years, the complete draft of the updated NRC was published on July 30 this year and names of more than 40 lakh applicants were not found suitable for inclusion in the NRC. However, there have been allegations that names of a number of genuine Indian citizens were dropped and names of some illegal migrants were included. The process of receiving and disposal of the claims and objections will start from August 30 and only after the final NRC is published, it will give a fair idea of the number of foreigners living illegally in Assam. So far, different persons and organizations have been quoting different figures about the number of infiltrators staying in Assam and if a correct NRC is prepared it will give an idea of the actual number.
Till date, the Government of India has not been able to formulate a policy for dealing with the persons, whose names will not appear in the NRC. There is a proposal for giving long term biometric work permits to the foreign nationals after stripping them of their voting rights as it will not be possible to deport lakhs of people. But no final decision has yet been taken in this regard and it remains to be seen whether the people of Assam will accept the idea of keeping illegal migrants in the State even if they do not have political rights. Moreover, if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is passed, it will violate the spirit of the Assam Accord, which did not differentiate foreigners by their religion.
Deportation: Over the years, the Government of India has not been able to expedite the process of detection and deportation of foreigners and only a handful of persons declared as foreigners could be deported. Because of the failure of the Government of India to take up the issue forcefully with Bangladesh Government, the present process of persons declared as foreigners is a clumsy one and only in the month of July this year, more than 50 Bangladeshi nationals could be pushed back at one go. In the previous years, the deportation figure was in single digit. Whenever India seeks to deport a person declared as a foreigner by Foreigners� Tribunal, the details of the person is sent to the Government of Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Government verifies the original address of the person and often raises fresh questions , which delays the whole process. At this rate, it will take ages to deport the illegal migrants from Assam.
Sealing of border: In clause 9.1 of the Accord, the Government of India promised to make the international border secure against future infiltration by erection of physical barriers like walls, barbed wire fencing and other obstacles. But unfortunately, the process of sealing the border is yet to be completed, which forced the Supreme Court to make strong comments on the slow progress of fencing the border. Moreover, the riverine international border is still vulnerable and only now, the Government is thinking of using modern technology to improve vigil along it.
Constitutional safeguard: Clause 6 of the Accord, in which the Government promised to provide constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to the Assamese people, is vital for protection of the identity of the indigenous people in the face of unabated infiltration. But this clause remains on paper only and the government is yet to even formulate the definition of Assamese people. In clause 7, the Government made a commitment to take steps for speedy economic development of Assam so as to improve the standard of living of the people of the State. As floods and erosion take a heavy toll of the economy of the State every year, the AASU has been demanding that those should be considered as national problems and effective steps should be taken for permanent solution of the same. But unfortunately, the Central Government is yet to take any effective step in this regard.
Tribal belts: Clause 10 of the Accord, in which the Government promised to strictly enforce the relevant laws to evict the encroachers from the tribal belts and blocks and to prevent further encroachment is also yet to be implemented and the gravity of the situation came up again in the report of the HS Brahma committee formed by the Government to look into the issues relating to protection of the land rights of indigenous people.