Rajya Sabha suspended the Question Hour on Tuesday morning to hold a discussion on the final draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam. This after, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu called the issue “serious and sensitive” matter. This is the first time in his tenure that Chairman Naidu suspended the Question Hour. The discussion remained incomplete as the government was not allowed to reply to the discussion.
After the day’s papers were laid on the table, the House had to be adjourned as Trinamool Congress MPs protested over the draft on NRC.
When the House resumed at noon, the House agreed to suspend the Question Hour to hold a discussion on the matter.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad was the first to speak on the issue.
The Opposition, on the whole, asked the government to adopt a humanitarian approach on the ‘sensitive’ issue of Assam’s National Register of Citizens while ensuring that no Indian was left out of it.
While the Congress demanded that the government tread cautiously on the issue, the Trinamool Congress sought complete withdrawal of the NRC, alleging that Indian citizens have also been left out of the final draft.
Initiating the discussion, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress said it was a humanitarian issue and not a matter of any particular caste, religion or region.
“We don’t want any person to be driven out of the country. This is not only about 40 lakh people, if you consider their children, families, it comes to 1-1.5 crore people,” Azad claimed, adding that the issue may have international ramifications, especially India’s relation with ‘close friend’ Bangladesh.
He observed that the onus of proving identity as a citizen of India should lie upon not just on an individual but the government as well.
Azad said the government should make legal provisions for the affected persons and there should be no harassment. The Leader of Opposition further said even if one document is there out of the 16 documents required to prove identity, it should suffice, adding no political party should make it a political or vote issue.
Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party claimed that those not included in the NRC include Hindus as well as Muslims, and even those from states like Bihar and UP.
He said there is a need to exercise a lot of caution on the issue because if the name of an Indian citizen in Assam is not included in the NRC, where will the person go.
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy of the Trinamool Congress said their leader Mamata Banerjee wants the NRC to be withdrawn. He claimed that 40 lakh people have been rendered “country-less” which is unique in the history of the world. He claimed Indian citizens as well as government officials have been left out of the draft NRC list.
Roy said a “misconception” was being spread among the people that the exercise was being conducted in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directive. He asserted that the right of the people to reside in any state as per the Constitution is being violated.
Prasanna Acharya of the BJD said the issue should not be politicised and it was very sensitive. He urged Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was present in the House at the time, to provide an assurance that all irregularities in the NRC will be taken care of.
“In the heat of the argument let us not forget that this an issue where national security is involved, humanitarian angle is also involved,” Acharya said.
Y S Chowdary of the TDP claimed that proper procedure had not been followed in the exercise of compiling the NRC and consequently, 40 lakh people have been declared refugees.
T K Rangarajan of the CPI (M) alleged that it was an “illegal” report and does not take into account several people from other parts of India who moved to Assam earlier.
Manoj Kumar Jha of the RJD said it cannot solely be a “heartless bureaucratic exercise” but should have a humanitarian approach as a person lives in a community.
Veer Singh of the BSP said an informed decision should be taken in this regard.
Majeed Memon of the NCP said it is not an issue of people from one religion alone but constitutional values with regard to rights of an Indian citizen are involved.
He claimed that India will become the laughing stock of the world if the people living in Assam since the last 50 years were dumped somewhere else.
Meanwhile, BJP’s Amit Shah hit out at the erstwhile UPA governments charging the Congress with not having the courage to identify illegal migrants in Assam, an exercise which was to be conducted as part of the accord signed by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985.
He sought to know whether the Congress wanted to protect the “illegal Bangldeshis” in the eastern state.
Participating in a discussion on the issue of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam in the Rajya Sabha, Shah said the exercise was conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
“NRC is being conducted on the SC order. There are 40 lakh people (missing in the list) … Whom do you want to save? You want to save illegal Bangaldesis,” the BJP chief asked.
He noted that the NRC was the spirit of the 1985 Assam Accord which sought to identify illegal migrants into Assam and prepare a list of Indian citizens.
Shah said former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had signed the Assam Accord on August 14, 1985 after the movement in the state went out of control leading to death of some protesters.
“This was the Congress PM’s initiative. He (Rajiv Gandhi) did not have the courage. We have courage and we are doing it,” he said.
Shah’s remarks provoked noisy protests by the Opposition members led by those from the Congress and the TMC. The House was adjourned for about 10 minutes and then for the day.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh was present in the House but could not reply to the discussion due to the noisy protests.
(With inputs from PTI)