BJP Worried As Many Bengali Hindus Missing From Draft Assam Citizens List

Assam NRC: After right wing organisations came out in protests, the Assam government said it may take the legislation route to fix the NRC their way

NRC Bill 2019: The final citizens' list (National Register of Citizens) will be published on August 31


Umakanta Bhowmik, 52, is busy at his small eatery in Garchuk, on the outskirts of Guwahati. He's a Bengali Hindu and a supporter of the BJP from the days of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He and his family are among the 41 lakh people whose names were excluded from the draft Assam citizens' list published last year.

With the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) coming out on August 31, Mr Umakanta is anxious and even upset with the BJP for what he claims is the high number of Hindus not appearing in the draft list.

"Not once, but for seven times we went to the NRC hearings for re-verification with my family members. We don't have much hope. I am a grassroot BJP supporter. We Bengali Hindus were the first supporters of BJP in Assam," he said.

"We established the BJP base in Assam and now the government could not help us when we are harassed in this way," Mr Bhowmik told NDTV.

The NRC, first published in Assam in 1951, is being updated as per directions of the Supreme Court to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who have illegally entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.

Many in Assam say they are sceptical of the NRC exercise now, which other states are planning to run. The ruling BJP in Assam too has raised concerns about wrong inclusions and exclusion.

Sources said the BJP may be worried over exclusion of a large number of Hindus. It is estimated that a majority of Assam's 18 per cent Bengali Hindu vote bank supports the BJP.

In the national election this year, the BJP won nine out of 14 seats in Assam - a stellar performance due to consolidation of tribals, Assamese Hindus and Bengali Hindus.

"What we have observed in the draft is that Bengali Hindus are the most affected and there are reasons the main lapses are on the government's part," said Shantanu Mukherjee, general secretary of Sara Assam Bangali Ekya Mancha, a group working for the rights of Bengali Hindus in Assam.

For the last two months, the BJP has tried everything - both the centre and the state filed petitions with the Supreme Court for re-verification of the NRC data, which the top court turned down.

After right wing organisations came out in protests, the Assam government said it may take the legislation route to fix the NRC their way.

"We will appeal to the government that if names of Indians are excluded then we should go for a legislation. There is no question of religion here; one may be Hindu, Muslim or any caste or community," said Assam BJP chief Ranjeet Kumar Das.

BJP's firebrand Bengali Hindu MLA Siladitya Dev minces no words. "The NRC coordinators are reluctant towards Hindu migrant who came before 1971. They are keen towards Muslims who came later. So the NRC has become a documentation process and whoever can manage will get a place," Mr Dev told NDTV.