GUWAHATI: After a wait of 34 years since the Assam Accord was signed at the end of a six-year-long bloody anti-immigrants’ agitation, Assam is set to get an updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Saturday.
It was committed in the accord, signed in 1985 between the then Rajiv Gandhi government and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), that the NRC of 1951, unique to Assam, will be updated. The demand for its updation was in the light of alleged unabated migration of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Given the threat posed to Assam’s demography and pressure on land, language and culture, the anti-foreigners’ agitation was launched. In due course, a political party, Asom Gana Parishad, was born out of it which promised to rid Assam of the immigrants. It tasted power twice but the problem remained.
The Assamese had fought for long demanding the updation of the NRC. They believed its updation could only help detect and deport the immigrants. As such, when the Supreme Court in 2013 issued an order to the Centre for the updation of the document, the Assamese had heaved a sigh of relief. They believed they were, at last, going to get something that will protect them.
On the eve of the publication of the updated final NRC, there is a widespread fear among the migrant settlers, particularly Bengali Hindus and Muslims, although it is still under check. The state government said people excluded would not face immediate detention and that they would be given ample opportunities to fight their cases in the Foreigners’ Tribunals.
The government has also announced that it would extend legal help to those excluded free of cost.
Amidst the perception that some elements might try and foment trouble, the state’s Director General of Police (DGP), Kuladhar Saikia, has warned that anyone found taking law into his hands will be dealt with firmly.
“We have taken various measures to maintain peace and communal harmony. Steps have been also taken to thwart any untoward incidents. If any person tries to take law into his hands, he will be dealt with firmly,” he told reporters.
He said the situation was absolutely “normal” and “under control”.
“We have no apprehension on the law and order front. As people cooperated with us during the publication of the last two drafts of the NRC, there was no incident. We expect similar cooperation from them this time too,” the DGP said.
Stating that the superintendents of police in all districts had already surveyed their areas and assessed vulnerability and sensitivity, he said the police control rooms across the state had been activated and they were working in synergy with the police headquarters and the NRC authorities.
The top cop said the police had also kept a hawk’s eye on social media activities.
The updation of the NRC is a gigantic exercise, said to be the biggest ever under the sun. During the six-year-long exercise, the NRC authorities had to examine over 60 million documents submitted by a little over 3.29 crore applicants.
Ahead of the issuance of forms, they digitized six lakh old pages of four key documents including the 1951 NRC and the voters’ lists of 1961, 1966 and 1971. Each entry in the documents was given a legacy code to establish linkage with parents. They prepared a “family tree” for each household with its head as the legacy person.
The authorities had set up 2,500 NRC Seva Kendras across the state where people went for re-verification of documents. Each NSK was equipped with two laptops, one scanner and a printer. The entire exercise entailed Rs.1,200 crore.