The draft National Register of Citizens on July 30 has left out more than four million of Assams 32 million people. While those excluded have a chance to re-apply for citizenship by September 28, there is no clarity on the governments policy on those who fail to make it to the final NRC, to be published by the year-end. Adding to the confusion is the governments push for the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016, which may end up legalising half of those excluded in the NRC. In an exclusive interview with Kaushik Deka, BJP National General Secretary and Northeast in-charge Ram Madhav explains his party’s stand on those excluded by the NRC and why they support granting citizenship to Hindu immigrants, Excerpts:
Q: What is the BJP’s stand on those who will be left out of the final NRC, due out by the year-end?
The publication of the final NRC may take some months. Those left out will technically be foreigners. They’ll still have the option of seeking redress from the foreigners’ tribunal, the high court and Supreme Court. Our country also has provisions for refugees. Some of the excluded may seek that status.
Q: Seeking legal redress may take several years. Will the excluded continue to enjoy all the rights of citizens?
After the final NRC, all excluded people will be technically foreigners. The Election Commission will remove their names from the voters’ list; it has already asked the NRC state coordinator to submit all the details. If the FTs or the courts later find someone excluded from the NRC to be a legitimate citizen, their name will reappear on the voters’ list.
Q: The EC has said exclusion from the NRC won’t exclude a person automatically from the electoral rolls. The NRC state coordinator too has said that exclusion won’t mean a person is an illegal foreigner, that only the FT can declare a person illegal.
Once the final NRC is out, after exploring all available provisions for those facing religious atrocities in other countries, well begin corrective measures such as disenfranchising those found illegal by the NRC. Otherwise, what’s the meaning of this entire exercise?
Q: Since you use the word refugee, are you saying Hindu illegal migrants excluded from the NRC will get citizenship?
The BJP has been backing the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which seeks to provide citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. This bill is not restricted to Assam, it’s for the entire country.
Q: But won’t the people of Assam see it as a betrayal of what they’ve been demanding: stripping all illegal migrants, regardless of religion, of citizenship? Assamese civil society has made it clear that indigenous people feel threatened linguistically and culturally.
As far as Assam’s linguistic and cultural identity is concerned, well protect it by implementing Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, providing constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity of the Assamese people. India, traditionally, has never turned its back on refugees. We have a responsibility towards those who come to India persecuted. They are our own people. It was one country before 1947. For political and historical reasons, they became refugees in India.
Q: If India was one country and we are committed to its people, why is the same logic not applied to Muslim refugees?
That’s why we have 1971 as the cut-off year for Assam while it is 1951 for the rest of India. We have already accepted immigrants of all religious faiths till 1971. After 1971, except persecuted minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, others will be treated as illegal migrants.