R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, April 16 - Though the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the election campaigns, are claiming credit for the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) said that no party has the right to try and take credit for the process, which gathered momentum only because of constant monitoring of the Supreme Court.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Ripun Bora said that the process of updating the NRC started during the time of Congress Government. He said that during the UPA regime, the then Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh chaired a meeting to review the implementation of the Assam Accord and the decision to update the NRC was taken in that meeting. He also said that the Congress Government in the State started the process of updating the NRC.
On the other hand, state BJP spokesman Rupam Goswami said that the process gathered momentum only during the BJP led Government's tenure. He said that immediately after assuming office as the Chief Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal visited the State NRC Coordinator’s Office and since then, the State and Central Governments have been constantly providing all required help including deployment of officers to expedite the process. He also alleged that during the Congress regime, the progress of the work remained very slow.
However, the AASU said that no political party can claim credit for the process of updating the NRC and it reached the final stage only because of constant monitoring of the Supreme Court. The AASU also hoped that the State would get a correct NRC only because of the monitoring of the Supreme Court.
AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya told The Assam Tribune that the demand for updating the NRC was first raised by the students' body during the Assam movement and the issue was raised by AASU during the first meeting with the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on February 2, 1980. After the signing of the Assam Accord, the AASU had even submitted a proposal with modalities for updating the NRC but no step was taken by the Government of India in this regard.
Bhattacharya revealed that in 1999, in an official level tripartite meeting, it was decided that the NRC of 1951 would be updated and the Centre would provide Rs 20 lakh for it. The Centre also released the first installment of Rs five lakh. But the process did not go off the ground. Again in 2005, the decision to update the NRC was taken in a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh but no progress was noticed. In 2010, a decision was taken in a meeting chaired by the then Union Home Secretary GK Pillai, to start pilot projects in two revenue circles but the State Government suspended the project after incidents of violence in Barpeta.
The AASU chief adviser said that the process of updating the NRC started gathering momentum only after the Supreme Court started monitoring the process. Even then, the Congress Government submitted an affidavit saying that 2014 should be the cut off year for updating the NRC, which was rejected by the Supreme Court.
Bhattacharya said that now the process gathered momentum only because of Supreme Court's constant monitoring and from time to time, the Court had to express its displeasure because of actions of the Central and State Governments including transfer of officers engaged in the process. That is why, the only credit for expediting the process of updating the NRC should go to the Supreme Court and not to any political party, he added.