NEW DELHI: The BJP on Monday promised to extend the controversial National Register of Citizens — to identify illegal immigrants — to all states and renewed its commitment to enacting the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill in its manifesto.
The Congress promised its exact opposite — withdrawal of the Bill that caused widespread resentment in the Northeast.
At present, Assam is the only state to have NRC, but its draft did not include the names of around 40 lakh people. The final NRC list is to be released on July 31.
The BJP’s manifesto proposed to “implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country” to combat the infiltration of illegal migrants, but political commentators raised serious concerns, citing lack of clarity about the process.
The NRC point in the BJP manifesto came as a surprise because in the past it had always claimed there was no proposal to extend it to other states. Union minister Hansraj Gangaram Ahir told Parliament on December 18, 2018: “At present, there is no proposal to extend the National Register of Citizens to States other than Assam.”
On NRC, the manifesto said, “There has been a huge change in the cultural and linguistic identity of some areas due to illegal immigration, resulting in an adverse impact on local people’s livelihood and employment. We will expeditiously complete the National Register of Citizens process in these areas on priority. In future, we will implement the NRC in a phased manner in other parts of the country.”
NRC has been opposed by many in Assam who have questioned the method of arriving at this list of ‘genuine list’ of residents and several people have also alleged that they have been unfairly left out of the citizenship lists. Political commentator Mahendra Lama said, “We do not know the intentions behind this promise but it does not seem like a good idea especially when there is a lot of confusion over how the process works. The process of arriving at this list is not scientific.”
Lama added that the NRC process seems incomplete because there is no clarity as to what will happen to people who are declared foreigners.
“How will we treat people who are found to be foreigners? There are no clear provisions for foreigners. We call them by different names-- infiltrators, refugees, illegal migrants, economic migrants, environment migrants. There is no clarity over this. They need to be treated accordingly.”
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, which also featured prominently in the BJP manifesto, has also triggered immense controversy especially in North Eastern states where a lot of migrants reside and residents oppose this as they believe their resources are compromised due to these migrants.