Prime Minister Narendra Modi today expressed regret over many in Assam facing hardships while the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was being compiled to identify illegal immigrants, but assured them that no genuine Indian would be left out of the document.
"I am aware that many of you had to face hassles because of the complicated process of compiling the NRC. The exercise had been stuck for a decade, and it's moving forward today only because of your strength. I want to congratulate Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his team for making this happen despite all the challenges," he said at an election rally in Silchar region ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Although Silchar has traditionally been a BJP stronghold, there is considerable resentment in the region over a number of Bengali Hindus who voted for the party in the 2016 assembly elections being left out of the NRC process. Another area of contention is the BJP's failure to implement an election promise regarding the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, aimed at changing the definition of illegal migrants from certain communities, in the face of opposition from regional parties. The legislation has been termed "anti-Assam" even by the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the BJP's ally in the state.
PM Modi, in his address, assured the people that the BJP government is doing everything in its capacity to take the legislation forward. "The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is linked with emotions and related to people's lives. It is not for the benefit of anyone but a penance against the injustice and many wrongs done in the past. I hope the bill is passed soon in parliament," he said.
The Prime Minister also spoke on his government's decision to implement Clause 6 of the Assam Accord, aimed at adopting appropriate safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social and linguistic identity of the Assamese people. "This clause had been hanging for nearly 35 years, but now the road is clear..." he claimed. "I am indebted to the people of Assam for voting for the BJP in the recent panchayat elections, and I am committed to repay this debt by ensuring the state's development."
PM Modi arrived at Silchar from Imphal as part of the first phase of his Lok Sabha poll campaign, wherein he is scheduled to address rallies in 20 states over a course of 100 days before the model code of conduct comes into force.
Terrorist groups in Manipur had called for a boycott of PM Modi's rally and organised a general strike as a mark of protest.
The BJP made massive in-roads into Assam in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls by winning seven of its 14 parliamentary seats. Two years later, it emerged as the single-largest party in the state assembly by winning 61 seats. Its alliance partners -- the Bodoland Peoples Front and the AGP -- won 12 and 14 seats respectively.