Home Minister Amit Shah's plan to redo the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam along with the rest of India today found support from BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, who has long termed the final list prepared exclusively for the northeastern state earlier this year as "faulty".
"We believe that the NRC prepared by former state coordinator Prateek Hajela has failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people of Assam. There are many shortcomings, as we have already pointed out. While various groups in Assam have already filed review petitions before the Supreme Court, we now want this faulty list to be scrapped in favour of a nationwide NRC," Mr Sarma, who is also the Finance Minister of Assam, told NDTV.
The BJP leader's assertion came hours after Amit Shah announced in Parliament that the centre will undertake the NRC exercise across the country. "Nobody from any religion should be worried. This is just a process to get everyone under the citizen's list," he said, adding that a new NRC list will be prepared for Assam in view of concerns about the last one.
As many as 19 lakh people were left out of the final Assam NRC list released on August 31. However, even leaders of the ruling BJP expressed dissatisfaction over its execution, considering that many Hindu migrants had not made it to the list. After a Supreme Court order on his transfer, Prateek Hajela was subsequently replaced by Assam Civil Service officer Hitesh Dev Sarma as the NRC coordinator.
Mr Sarma also claimed that Assam should not have a NRC cut-off that's different from the one applied across India. "The National NRC can be based on the Assam model. We are not saying that we should change the Assam cut-off or revise the Assam accord, but we will not object to a new cut-off that adheres to the national standard," he said, adding that the NRC will be an ongoing process similar to the preparation of electoral rolls.
The Assam Minister said that efforts are being made to incorporate some "genuine concerns" of northeastern states on the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill, aimed at expediting the citizenship process of minority migrants from neighbouring countries. "For the last three to four months, our Home Minister has been in talks with various Northeast groups. The new draft will address some of their key concerns," he said.
The NRC exercise aims to identify illegal migrants who have settled in India over the decades. Critics, however, allege that there is little clarity on what the centre plans to do with those left out of the list.