New Delhi, August 8: The Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says that there is no danger of anyone whose name is not in the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) of being sent to a detention camp. The NRC exercise is sure to be a “win win” for all sections of the population in Assam, he said in an interview to Liz Mathew of the Indian Express.
When we came to power two years back, we promised the people of Assam to free the state of illegal immigrants. We believe that updating the NRC is an important tool to identify illegal migrants. We also believe that a flawless NRC will be the primary security shield for people living in the Barak-Brahmaputra Valleys, the hills and plains of Assam. Keeping this in view, our government has been providing all assistance towards preparation of a flawless NRC, being carried out through a legal process under the supervision of the honourable Supreme Court.
My personal commitment in this context may be seen from the fact that I visited the NRC office on May 25, 2016 (the day he was sworn in), even before entering my own office, and held a meeting with officials to expedite the process on a war footing. During the last two years, I have held several meetings with DCs (district collectors) and SPs (superintendents of police) to review the progress of the NRC. I have also had several rounds of discussion with the Union Home Minister and officers of the Home Ministry, including the Registrar General of India, on various issues related to NRC updation. We have deployed more than 50,000 officers and other staff of the state government, even at the cost of timely implementation of some programmes and schemes, only to ensure that we can come up with a flawless NRC.
The final NRC which is expected to come up later will definitely be a win-win situation for all of us. From that point of view, it will surely be a significant milestone for all of us.
What is the recourse available to someone who is not in the NRC draft? There is a fear that they will be sent to camps.
There is no question of anyone being put in a detention camp. Moreover, no one will be treated as a foreigner if his or her name does not appear in the NRC draft. One must remember that the NRC to be published on July 30 is only a draft NRC and genuine citizens who get left out need not panic as they could still get their names in the final NRC. After the draft publication, adequate opportunity will be given for filing claims and objections. All claims and objections will then be duly examined. Sufficient opportunities of being heard will be given before each claim and objection is disposed of. Thus all individuals will get a sufficient opportunity for all the remedies available under the law. Only after that will the final NRC be published.
What is the state doing to deal with the insecurity and fear among people?
I have confidence in the political maturity of the people of Assam. We have all seen how the people of the Barak-Brahmaputra Valley, hills and plains of Assam, acted when the first draft NRC was published on December 31, 2017. I take this opportunity to thank the people of Assam and all the organisations of the state for cooperation in the NRC updating process. I am sure this time also the people of the state will display similar maturity. Moreover there should not be any social insecurity or fear among people because the NRC (process) is being carried out in an impartial, transparent and meticulous manner, and would continue to remain the same. I can assure that when we come up with the final NRC, it will have names of all the genuine Indian citizens residing in the state. I take this opportunity to appeal to the people of Assam not to believe in any fake news or rumours which can vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
What steps have you taken to maintain law and order situation?
Our chief secretary and DGP have visited all the districts to take stock of the law and order situation. With DCs, SPs and senior officers of security forces I have reviewed the law and order. The Centre has provided all possible assistance to the state. Meanwhile, social media cells are actively working to stop the circulation of rumours and fake news. At the same time, steps have also been taken to provide the correct position for taking legal action against culprits who spread misleading messages. We are confident there won’t be any untoward incidents.
You had said earlier that the government would not give any constitutional rights to people who fail to make it to the final NRC. Are you sticking to it?
The final NRC, which will come up through a legal process under the supervision of the apex court, will definitely provide a tool to make the distinction between a bona fide Indian and a foreigner. So our first priority is to identify the foreigners. What steps the government takes will come next.
The BJP also has a proposal to amend the citizenship Act (to give citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries). Have you spoken to your allies to get them on board?
The government of India has already said that before taking any steps on the Bill, the people of Assam would be taken into confidence.