On July 30, 2018, Assam published the final list of updated draft of National Register of Citizens. Sailesh, Register General of India, said that out of 32.99 million people who had applied, only 28.98 million were included in the draft. As such, nearly 4.0 million people were excluded from the list.
Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee strongly objected against this exclusion that she hinted was intentional.
She said, "Names of people were removed on the basis of surnames also. Is the government trying to do forceful eviction?"
Claiming that "people are being isolated through a game plan", she feared that this is a plan to throw out Bengali-speakers and Biharis. Slamming the move as "vote politics by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)", she requested the Home Minister Rajnath Singh for an amendment.
The All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Congress, Aam Admi Party, Samajbadi Party and some others stood by Mamata. In Kolkata, people from all walks of life joined a welfare rally led by economist Amiya Bagchi on August 24. They demanded that there be no division on the basis of religion and language in the name of NRC.
The 4.0 million people excluded from the NRC list are already being identified as 'illegal foreigners' in Assam. Powerful quarters in Assam and Delhi are saying that some of these people may be pushed into Bangladesh.
On August 28, the Indian Supreme Court gave the verdict that information of 10 per cent of those excluded will be re-examined by an independent organisation for satisfaction of the Court.
During the BIMSTEC Summit held in Kathmandu of Nepal around the end of August, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assured his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina that India will not do anything against the interests of Bangladesh on this and Rohingya issue.
But such diplomatic assurances are not sufficient. There has been no follow-up through actual steps taken. As far as Rohingya issue is concerned, it is well-known that Russia, China and India are supporting Myanmar.
Opposition parties in India have alleged that the NRC process was initiated to drive out Muslims from Assam. It is estimated that out of the 4.0 million Bengalis excluded, 2.5 million are hindus, 1.30 million are muslims and 200,000 are hindi-speaking Nepalis.
During a rally in Kolkata on August 11, 2018, the president of ruling BJP Amit Shah hit out at Mamata Banerjee for opposing the NRC in Assam. He said that NRC is the only way to stop infiltration from Bangladesh. He accused her of compromising the interests of Indians in Assam and West Bengal for her vote bank politics.
TMC's Rajya Shabha Member Derek O'Brian said later that it is not only an issue of West Bengal. He said that their aim is to protect all citizens of India and that this is no cheap politics.
Amit Shah recalled that the NRC was prepared according to Assam Accord, signed between representatives of Assam movement and Indian government in presence of the then Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi, in 1985. Shah said that BJP will complete NRC legally and every intruder will be deported.
The Bangladesh government should take up the matter with India. Dhaka's civil society should also arrange processions like Kolkata. Also, Mamata Banerjee needs to be thanked for her bold stand and deep regards for Bangladesh.
Muhammad Quamrul Islam is an economist, advocate and social activist.
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