Assam Politicos Turn Combative Against former CJI; Rejects Assam Accord based NRC
GUWAHATI: A day after Chief Justice of India (now retired) Ranjan Gogoi who is being hailed in Assam by many as a “Jaitya Nayak” after he delivered the historic verdict on Ayodhya land title case, the BJP government’s move to declare the NRC which was carried out in Assam under his supervision as null and void is raising several uncomfortable questions.
The musical chair played by the BJP in Assam, specifically concerning the NRC, laid bare the political compulsions and also drove home the point that our policy makers can resort to any tactic even if that means undermining the highest judicial institution of the country – the Supreme Court - in order to suit their vote bank needs.
Otherwise what explains the rationale that Rs 1600 crore was spent in one of the biggest exercises undertaken by the apex court to update the citizenship in a state which, for decades, has been plagued by the issue of illegal infiltration?
Strangely, the same party which was trumpeting a few months ago about solving the decades-old issue suddenly turns its back on it.
Notably, the NRC updation process which is one of the clauses of the historic Assam Accord was hanging in balance after a tripartite agreement was signed between the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Assam government and the Centre during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministerial tenure in 1985.
Not an inch was moved since 1985 after Assam came out of that violent agitation that was primarily against the illegal migrants.
The Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government tried to move ahead with the updation process. But it had to stop following large scale violence by minority groups that claimed many lives.
Since then, NRC was always a political hot potato which was baked by political parties time and again for their own vested interests till the apex court intervened and set the ball rolling. Now again, the BJP has proved that it has disowned its own son by questioning the Supreme Court’s stand on NRC based on the Assam Accord.
After the union home minister, Amit Shah, declared that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise would be conducted across the country, he also mentioned another significant statement that in Assam, where the updated NRC was published on August 31, will also have another round of the exercise afresh.
News reports quoted Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma as saying that the Assam government has asked the Centre to reject the recently updated NRC. Therefore, Shah’s remarks on the floor of the Parliament must then be read as the Narendra Modi government’s approval to Assam’s request.
Leader of Opposition in Assam, Debabrata Saikia, talking to G Plus said, “The BJP keeps doing all these for their political interests. They know that in the scenario where the economy is moving slowly and people are not getting jobs, these stunts would gain them vote banks in the name of religion.”
Even some members of BJP are shocked by the BJP’s move of questioning the apex court’s judgement.
A state level executive member of the BJP talking to G Plus under condition of anonymity said, “I agree that the national NRC is important for the country to identify the genuine citizens but questioning the Supreme Court’s judgement is not correct. Requesting the Centre to cancel the NRC is like questioning the apex court’s efficiency in monitoring the entire NRC process.”
Talking about legal grounds, it is not clear if the Centre has the power to conduct another round of NRC in Assam.
On August 13, the then Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, said that that the update of the NRC in the state would depend on the decision of a constitution bench.
According to media reports the court had said that it makes clear that subject to orders as may be passed by the Constitution Bench in Writ Petition (C) No.562 of 2012 and Writ Petition (C) No.311 of 2015, National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be updated. The bench has still not been constituted.
There are many questions to be analysed by the bench and among the questions that the larger bench will have to decide is the validity of March 24, 1971 as the exclusive cut-off date in Assam for citizenship.
If that bench, still not constituted, passes an order for or against Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, exclusive to Assam, the apex court has stated that the present NRC will be updated.
Meanwhile, it needs to be mentioned here that that a case is ongoing in the apex court since 2012 (case number 562/12) challenging the Assam Accord and the case was referred to the constitutional bench. The petitioners of this case are challenging the Assam Accord by saying that 1951 should be the cut-off date for NRC and not 1971.
In 1979, the Assam Agitation and in 1985, the Assam Accord was signed. 855 people died and are today referred to as martyrs, lakhs of people had their careers spoiled, many people were disabled and even after 34 years of the accord people are still confused with what should be the cut-off year - 1951 or 1971. If the NRC is cancelled and a fresh NRC is conducted taking 1951 as the cut-off, the validity of Assam Accord comes under serious question.
Photo Credit: The Logical Indian