Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has reminded the Sarbananda Sonowal government of the commitment to clarify its stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, “now that the updated draft of the National Register of Citizens has been published”.

The complete NRC draft, published on Monday, excluded 40,07,707 people from the total 32,991,384 applicants. Officials said these 40 lakh people would be given an opportunity to prove their citizenship through claims and objections.

“When the protests against the Citizenship Bill were getting strong, Mr. Sonowal and his party (BJP) had claimed they would not take any step that would go against the interests of Assam and her people. They also said they would make their stand clear on the Citizenship Bill after the publication of the NRC draft. Will they keep their word,” asked Mr. Gogoi on Tuesday.

Most indigenous communities in Assam, touchy about the issue of migrants, are opposed to the Citizenship Bill that seeks to ease the process of citizenship to persecuted minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The indigenous groups believe the Bill would lead to influx of Bengali Hindus, who along with Muslims have settled in the State over more than a century.

“The Citizenship Bill is a contradiction of NRC, which has, apart from Muslims, left out many Hindu Bengali people who had come to Assam before 1971. How will the BJP protect those who have come after 1971,” Mr. Gogoi said.

Other organisations such as Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chhatra Parishad have also upped the ante, asking the BJP unit in Assam to come clear on the Citizenship Bill.

“This is not the final NRC, only the complete draft. So the process has not yet ended for us to comment on any sensitive issue,” a government spokesperson said.

‘NRC defective’

A day after former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta took credit for the NRC being updated, which he said was the outcome of the agitation he headed from 1979 to 1985, Mr. Gogoi said the NRC was his baby. “I sired NRC but (former PM) Dr. Manmohan Singh had it delivered in 2010 through a pilot project. As the father, I am unhappy because flawed fostering by the BJP has made this baby unhealthy.” He said the NRC failed to do what it was designed to – identify and segregate foreigners from genuine Indian citizens.

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