Demonising NRC exercise in Assam helps none

KOLKATA, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 2: Demonstrators from the Joint Forum Against NRC during a sit in protest against the National Register of Citizens (NRC) list released in Assam which excluded over 19 lakh people, in front of Assam House on September 2, 2019 in Kolkata, India. (Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The verification exercise for NRC (National Register of Citizens) in Assam seems to have most people's knickers in a twist. The BJP seems to be upset that in the final NRC list only 1.9 million (19 lakh) have been left out as non-Indians. This is roughly around 7% of the population in Assam, when the right-wingers have been claiming that a higher number of people to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The BJP has stated that it would re-approach the Supreme Court to reverify the data, especially the ones pertaining to the districts that are at the border with Bangladesh.

The liberal sections are aghast that the poor and marginalised were forced to get down to come up with papers to prove that their families had been living in India even before 1971- the watershed year of Bangladesh’s creation.

While the BJP and Assam's ethnic hardliners are unhappy with the outcome of the NRC verification, the liberals have been using that as a vindication for the needlessness of the NRC exercise.

Their core argument is that establishing one's identity in terms of nationality in border districts is an exercise fraught with danger. Not just in Assam, world over too, most border-town populace have links across countries, and those links cannot be termed dubious off the bat. While national boundaries are firmly drawn, human relationships tend to involve a lot of grey areas that cannot be established in government documents.

While all this may be within the realm of truth, they cannot be used to demonise the NRC exercise, which it requires to be mentioned here, is a Supreme Court-mandated effort.

Look at it from the government's point of view and its necessity to ensure security in areas where it is vulnerable. The NRC exercise, howsoever unpalatable, is something that is necessitated by the safety needs of the people and border States.

While there can be a debate about the number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, there can be no gainsaying the fact that intruders from Bangladesh have indeed settled in Assam, West Bengal and other places. It is also equally well established that their arrival has created local unrest and a few of them have also been involved in terror activities.

Whne it comes to tackling terrorism, it is not wrong for the governments to err on the side of caution. The NRC exercise was a step in the direction of ensuring safety from illegal immigrants.

The issue of immigrants is, in general, is an emotive issue. It is fine to say that countries should be considerate to immigrants. But it is difficult for a stretched nation, which has its own poor to take care of, to handle more burden.

The Bangladesh immigrant issue is not a black and white affair. The right-wingers' worry and fear do have a cause. The liberals too have a point about national identity and human rights.

But still, the NRC exercise cannot be put down as an ultra-nationalistic attempt.