GUWAHATI: Various organisations in Assam fighting for on the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh gave a big thumbs up to the NRC final draft.
The All Assam Students' Union (AASU), which first raised the issue in the Supreme Court and has been spearheading a movement for decades, celebrated the draft publication of National Register of Citizens by distributing sweets.
"This is a historic day. The sacrifices of 855 martyrs have not gone in vain," advisor to AASU, Samujjal Bhattacharyya, said. The 855 locals had died during the six-year long Assam Agitation in the early 1980s, which led to the signing of Assam Accord based on which the NRC was updated. "NRC is a national document and a shield for indigenous people. It will help protect the identity of locals," Bhattacharya said. He announced that AASU would help the "indigenous people" whose names did not figure in the NRC.
However, the Assam Public Works (APW), which had filed a petition in the apex court on the 'Bangladeshi' issue, was guarded in its response. "You can say we are 40 per cent happy. Let the final NRC draft be out. It is only then that we will know how many foreigners Assam has," APW chief Abhijeet Sarma told Express.
Back in 2009, Guwahati residents Pradip Kumar Bhuyan and his wife Bonti met Sarma and told him they wanted to do something to save Assam and the Assamese from illegal immigrants. "We drafted a petition and filed it in the Supreme Court. The case gathered pace when it was handed over to Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman on April 2, 2013. The rest we all know. The Supreme Court gave a directive to update NRC," Sarma said.
The two factions of the insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) expressed satisfaction over the NRC exercise. In a statement, ULFA (pro-talks faction) chief Arabinda Rajkhowa termed the draft NRC publication as a "historic" occasion. He praised AASU and APW for their efforts.
The responses of the ruling BJP and the Congress and were on predictable lines. "The entire NRC team deserves applause. It is due to their hard work that we got an error-free updated draft. The names of many have not been included, but they need not panic. They will get the opportunity to file claims and objections," Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said.
His predecessor Tarun Gogoi of the Congress was critical. "We all expected a correct NRC, but this is not. Also, the objective behind the updation of NRC, which is to drive out the illegal immigrants, remains unfulfilled," he said.
"The revisions of voters' list in 1985 and 1997 showed Assam has 3.5 lakh doubtful voters. How come the figure jumped to 40 lakh? We suspect BJP is playing politics," said Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora.
The All India United Democratic Front, often accused of pushing the interests of Muslim migrant settlers, expressed "serious reservations" about the exercise.