Getting rid of illegal immigrants is still a distant dream in the Northeast. The manner in which all sections of the society have erupted in protests (although on different pretexts) after the publication of final National Register of Citizen (NRC) in Assam, definitely raises serious doubts about its intention and implementation. At the end of the long-drawn process, spending thousands of crore, still we are nowhere near solving the vexed issue of illegal immigration. It’s a pity that while the ethnic, linguistic, cultural identity of the Northeast region has been under threat for decades, we are yet to come out with a foolproof plan to prevent complete change of demography in the region, which looks imminent. It is more worrying that people with vested interests are trying to paint this burning issue with communal or linguistic colours. But the fact remains that no infiltrator should be judged by caste, creed, religion or language. An illegal immigrant should always be dealt as per the law of the land.
The futility of this exercise can be judged from the fact that the Assam Public Works, which went to the Supreme Court for revision of NRC, after the publication of the final list has officially commented that instead of safeguarding the interest of indigenous people, the final list has pushed them towards extinction. In another curious turn of events, the man who was given the charge to prepare NRC, Prateek Hajela, did not find his name in the draft list. He had to include his name along with his daughter by appearing before the authorities concerned. There are many such incidents which establish the fact that proper caution and homework was not done before taking up this difficult job.
There is no harm of having such a register in any country, especially, those which are affected by illegal immigration. But still no one is sure what kind of documents one should have to include his or her name in said register. The authorities are claiming that scientific measures have been adopted to prepare NRC. But it is hard to understand what kind of scientific methods they are talking about. No scientific method will denounce defence personnel as citizens. Which system declares a sitting MLA non-citizen? Thus instead of solving the crisis, the just released NRC has raised many unpalatable questions.
The moot question remains: whom should the nation accept as its citizen? What are the proofs to be submitted to become the citizen of India? Earlier laws granted citizenship to anyone who was born in India. In mid-90s, the Act was changed to check unabated infiltration. In the amended Act, it has been made mandatory that either of the parents should be an Indian citizen for the child to be considered as a citizen of the country. Another Act is in the pipeline where it has been proposed to grant citizenship to the refugees of Indian origin from neighbouring countries. Quite interestingly, the proposed amendment has not included people of India origin from a particular community. Beyond doubt, all these changes and proposed change in the Citizenship Act has made the task of preparing NRC more difficult and Northeast is suffering the most for such complexities in law as the indigenous people living here today are virtually swamped by the presence of outsiders.