The recent indication by Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal that his government might contemplate the legislative route to deal with the anomalies arising from the draft National Register of Citizens published in July 2018 cannot but cause concern. It has the potential to deepen communal faultlines.
Around 41 lakh people were excluded from the draft NRC, which appears ridden with serious mistakes, on reported evidence. Of these, around 36 lakh have sought re-examination. This itself suggests the draft was unreliable in the extreme.
In this confusion, as the state government could not finalise the NRC by the July 31 deadline this year, the Supreme Court granted a one-month extension, but it’s now clear that even this extended deadline cannot be met.
It appears that most of the exclusions are of Muslims. It was to keep illegal Muslims out that the NRC seems to have been conceived, but reports of malfeasance abound. The axe seems to have fallen on many with sound credentials. Many non-Muslims too are among the exclusions.
The BJP regards the Hindu migrants even after the cut-off date of 23 March, 1971 to be refugees — to be sheltered with Indian citizenship — while the Muslims are deemed undesirable aliens. It is widely believed that the legislative route is being thought of to get around the problem of the Hindu exclusions.
Since no one has any idea what the government’s options are in tackling illegal migrants (those who do not make it to the NRC), probably the best way forward is to build a political consensus on this matter. Throwing them into the Bay of Bengal is not an option....