Rajya Sabha proceedings disrupted by noisy protests over Assam NRC draft; House adjourned to tomorrow
As the Rajya Sabha debated the NRC issue after Congress and TMC members created an uproar, Amit Shah countered them by asking whether the Congress wanted to save he "illegal Bangladeshis".
NEW DELHI: The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday saw the Opposition taking on the government over the NRC, saying the Centre should consider it a humanitarian issue and not use it for political gains as lakhs of people had been left out in the draft citizenship list.
The Upper House took up the issue for discussion following suspension of the question hour. Several members raised concerns over 40 lakh people being left out of the draft list. Initiating the discussion, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said it was a matter of human rights and the onus of recognising citizenship lay on the government.
“It should not be seen as an issue specific to some caste or religion and the governments at the state and the Centre should not use it for political gains or votes,” he said.
"We don't want any person to be driven out of the country. This is not only about 40 lakh people, if you consider their children, families, it comes to 1-1.5 crore people," Azad said, adding the issue may have international ramifications, especially on India's close friend Bangladesh.
He observed that the onus of proving identity as a citizen of India should lie upon not just an individual but the government as well.
Azad said the government should make legal provisions for the affected persons and there should be no harassment.
The Leader of Opposition further said even if one document is there out of the 16 documents required to prove identity, it should suffice, adding that no political party should make it a political or vote issue.
While the Congress asked the government to adopt a humanitarian approach and not leave out any Indian from the Assam's National Register of Citizens (NRC), TMC demanded its complete withdrawal claiming that Indians were left out of it.
As the Rajya Sabha debated the NRC issue after Congress and TMC members created an uproar, Shah countered them by asking whether the Congress wanted to save he "illegal Bangladeshis".
Trinamool Congress MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said six months ago, 2.4 lakh people were identified as doubtful voters in Assam. “I don’t know how this number went up to 40 lakh within six months,” he said.
The House witness uproarious scenes, with some members coming into the well, over BJP chief Amit Shah’s statement that the Congress could not implement the NRC even though former PM Rajiv Gandhi signed the Assam Accord in 1985.
Noting that the NRC was the spirit of the accord which sought to identify illegal migrants and prepare a list of Indian citizens, he said the exercise was now being conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
"NRC is being conducted on the SC order. There are 40 lakh people (missing in the list). Whom do you want to save? You want to save illegal Bangaldesis," he posed.
He said "This was the Congress PM's initiative. He (Rajiv Gandhi) did not have the courage. We have courage and we are doing it."
Shah's remarks provoked noisy protests by the Opposition members led by those from the Congress and the TMC.
The House was first adjourned by Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for about 10 minutes during the debate and then for the day.
Emphasising that the fundamental rights allowed any Indian citizen to live anywhere in the country, SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav said many people belonging to other states living in Assam had not been included in the NRC.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh was present in the House but could not reply due to the noisy protests.
Earlier, Naidu, while allowing the Question Hour to be dispensed with today, termed NRC as a "serious and sensitive" matter.
BJD's Prasanna Acharya said no one should read politics on the issue because it is very sensitive.
He urged Home Minister Rajnath Singh to provide an assurance that all irregularities in the NRC will be taken care of.
"In the heat of the argument, let us not forget that this is an issue where national security is involved, humanitarian angle is also involved," Acharya said.
Y S Chowdary (TDP) claimed that proper procedure was not followed in the exercise of compiling the NRC and as a result, 40 lakh people have been declared refugees.
CPI(M)'s T K Rangarajan alleged that it was an illegal report and does not take into account several people from other parts of India who moved to Assam earlier.
Manoj Kumar Jha (RJD) said it cannot solely be a "heartless bureaucratic exercise" but should have a humanitarian approach, while Veer Singh of the BSP said an informed decision should be taken in this regard.
Majeed Memon (NCP) said it was not an issue of people from one religion alone, but the constitutional values with regard to the rights of an Indian citizen are involved.
He said India will become the "laughing stock of the world if the people living in Assam since 50 years were dumped somewhere else."
Biswajit Daimary (BPF), who belongs to Assam, said the names were not included in the NRC list due to lack of documentary proof. Such people have been given time to submit the documents.
"There won't be any action taken on over 40 lakh people (whose names are in the NRC list). They can submit the documents and proof. There should not be any confusion on this," he said.
Swapan Dasgupta (Nom) said "my only appeal is that let there be a rigorous and fair scrutiny.
Let us not be in denial that there is a real problem in Assam.
"This NRC did not come out of thin air. It was preceded by a susained agitation in which 100s of people lost lives and in which there was huge emotional outpouring in Assam and in other parts of north east," he said.
"There is a perception which is not quantified that there is a large foreigner population living in Assam. We can only deny this at our own peril," he said.
Jose K Mani (KCM) said the Assam issue is a national issue, besides being a constitutional and humanitarian issue.
The stakeholders have not been consulted and the government should have a road map to address the problem.
D Raja (CPI) said the issue has become sensitive and has the potential to disturb relations with neighbouring countries and even harmony among the states.
He also said the government should take Parliament and political parties into confidence while dealing with such issues.
V Vijaysai Reddy (YSRCP) said Indian citizens who are not in the list should be restored without harassment, while Sanjay Singh (AAP) said "We should not give religious colour. We should look from humanitarian point of view."
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) suggested that the government to tackle the issue in an amicable way, while Dharmapuri Srinivas (TRS) said that the government should reconsider and revaluate the list.
Sukhdev Singh Dhinsa (SAD) also spoke about minorities.
Later, the sources said the Chairman discussed the issue with Leader of Opposition Azad and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs during the adjournment.
Naidu conveyed his unhappiness over the way a good discussion on NRC in Assam was derailed towards the end.
The Chairman, the sources said, told Azad that for the first time he had suspended Question Hour on the demand of all sections of the House to discuss the issue but the purpose was defeated by the disruptions.
(With PTI inputs)