The final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has further polarised Indian politics. Battle lines have been drawn with the opposition and government vehemently going after each other. Both blaming the other of “vote bank politics”, a euphemism often used for communal politics in India.
But even the Bharatiya Janata Party's stand is not very clear. In principle, the BJP is against illegal migrants and talks about their removal from India. But the party seems to be confused over several aspects of the final draft. Like, if preparing the draft NRC had anything to do with the government or not? Are those forty lakh people illegal residents? And if they are, then what should be done with them? Should they be deported to Bangladesh?
On Jul 30, 2018, speaking in the Parliament, Home Minister Rajnath Singh asserted that the Centre has no role in the preparation of the draft list and it was done on the directives of the Supreme Court. He said, "In publishing NRC, the government has done nothing. Everything is being done as per Supreme Court order. The allegation of the opposition against the government is baseless". Talking about those whose names are missing Home Minister said: "People who feel their name should have been part of the NRC can file claims and objections ".
File photo Rajnath Singh. (Photo: PTI)
So the Home Minister clearly said that the government has no role in the preparation of the NRC draft and also asked those people, whose names are missing, not to worry because this can be rectified. Yet a day later, on July 31, 2018, the BJP president Amit Shah thumped his chest and said "Isko amal karne ki himmat nahin thi, hum mein himmat hai… (You did not have the courage to implement it. We have the courage....)".
The BJP chief further said. "In 2005, the Congress started the NRC (updating process). How can they raise questions now for vote bank politics? You (the Congress) didn't have the courage to drive out Bangladeshi migrants. For you, vote bank politics was important. The country's security was not the priority. The human rights of Indians were not important. You didn't have the courage, so you left it after starting it in 2005".
So Amit Shah clearly suggested that it has been done by the BJP led government. He openly said that Congress governments did not have the courage to identify illegal migrants in Assam. This is in total contrast to what Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Parliament a day earlier.
File photo of BJP President Amit Shah. (Photo: PTI)
When the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey had a public spat with Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya he was heard shouting, "All Bangladeshi infiltrators would be driven out of the country." The Congress MP accused Choubey of misleading people and giving wrong information. Minister Choubey defended himself and said, "Jo Bharatiya, Bharatiya ban kar rahega wahi desh ka nagrik hoga." He also said that whoever is Muslim or has come to India from Bangladesh, will be thrown out of the country.
Aggravating this issue a BJP MLA in Telangana Raja Singh was quoted saying, "If these Rohingyas and Bangladeshi illegal immigrants do not leave India respectfully, then they should be shot and eliminated. Then only our country will be safe". He seems to have knowledge of not only when these illegal immigrants came to India but is also convinced that every one of the 40 lakh names missing from the NRC is an illegal resident of India. He said that during the 1971 war India supported Bangladesh, and it was then that a large number of Bangladeshis "infiltrated" into Assam, where 40 lakh such people stayed on illegally.
Public statements of these BJP leaders makes it crystal clear that while they are keen to free India of illegal residents they remain confused about the role their government has to play in identifying them. As also on how to send them back to their alleged countries of origin.