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11 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Update of Nat’l Register of Citizens IN ASSAM

Bangla-speaking Muslims pass anxious moments

Bangla-speaking Muslims 
pass anxious moments

Bangla-speaking residents of Assam, predominantly Muslims, are anxiously waiting to see if their names will appear in the second, thus the complete draft of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) that, according to the Indian Supreme court, must be published by May 31. And, the Indian apex court, which is supervising the updating, ordered the competent authorities to come up with the final NRC by June 30. At the midnight of December 31, 2017, the first draft containing 1.9 crore people was published leaving behind 1.39 crore to be considered for the complete draft. A total of 3.29 crore people applied with documents to be proved as Indian citizens.

“I am carrying out the task under the supervision of the Supreme Court and things are going on well,” Prateek Hajela, the chief of the NRC updating that has been going on since 2015, told The Independent in an exclusive interview at his office in Guwahati recently.

While visiting different parts of Assam from February 21 to 25, people whose names did not appear in the first draft appeared a little anxious as the day of publication of the complete draft approaches. The anxiety seemed to have gripped the Bangla-speaking applicants, predominantly Muslims from poor background, more due to the fear of a possibility to be eliminated from the draft.

Speaking to politicians, journalists and common people, this correspondent found different versions. A section of people, who are supporters of the ruling BJP and feel strongly about Assamese identity, has already concluded before

the finalisation of the NRC updating that quite a few lakhs ‘Bangladeshi illegal immigrants’ reside in Assam and that they have no place in their state. Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan unequivocally told The Independent on February 27 that there is no illegal immigration from Bangladesh.

And, Bangladesh foreign ministry officials think the issue is an internal one of India and that New Delhi never raised this issue with Dhaka at any level of talks.  Another group of people doubt the actual objectives of the NRC.

They feel that it is a political issue from which the BJP and its allies want to benefit from the Hindu majority. Roughly two-thirds of Assam’s 3.3 crore population are Hindus while the remaining are Muslims. They think that the issue will not be settled once and for all because if it is addressed amicably then there will be nothing much to do politics about.

They said that although about 34 per cent of the Assam’s population are Muslims, socioeconomically they, particularly Bangla-speaking ones, lag far behind than others becoming more vulnerable to elimination from the complete draft as they are not good about keeping records of their births and family trees.

This group of individuals also says that the Bangla-speaking Hindus are also subjected to vulnerability but their condition is much better than the Muslims due to the pro-Hindu policy of the Indian government, led by Narendra Modi.

Another section of people fear that the NRC will never be complete as if a large number of people are eliminated from the final draft there will be so many court cases, which will make the process virtually endless. They also say that the NRC is a very good thing provided that it is being done with a good intention.

A proper NRC will help solve the problem and it should be done without any bias to anybody. They expressed optimism that good sense will prevail among the stakeholders, saying that the situation may be grave if several lakhs of people are eliminated from the final list.

 “I do hope that every stakeholder will act sensibly so that there will be no unrest in the state,” said Nitya Bora, editor of Asomiya Pratidin, the largest circulated Assamese daily. “A good intention is the main thing,” he said.

“Look, the situation is fluid here. We are hearing that many lakhs of Muslims may be eliminated from the list. If that does happen, you can easily guess what might follow,” said Mahbubul  Hoque, who runs an education empire in Assam.

“No people, who want peace, want that. All what we need is a fair and unbiased process that will determine true citizens of India,” he said.

The government is saying that there are enough legal avenues ensured in the process for those eliminated from the final list to be included, but the question is whether people- especially Muslims with poor background- would be able to avail these opportunity, said Fazluzzaman Mazumder, a lawyer of Gauhati High Court.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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