Citizenship Bill will make NRC wastepaper: Gogoi

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HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Aug 9: Stating that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 and updating of National Register of Citizens (NRC) are two contradictory steps, former Assam chief minister and senior congress leader Tarun Gogoi Thursday claimed that the Citizenship Bill will make the NRC a wastepaper. Gogoi also accused the BJP of giving importance to the Citizenship Bill, and not to the NRC.

“We have been saying that the draft NRC is full of errors and the Supreme Court’s directive to the officials that they have the responsibility to prepare a correct NRC, justified our claim,” Gogoi told reporters here on Thursday.

“The Supreme Court’s order rebuking the Registrar General of India (NRC) and NRC state coordinator and directing them to concentrate on preparing an error-free NRC has justifies our claim of a faulty NRC,” he said.

A division bench of the top court comprising justices Ranjan Gogoi and RF Nariman on Tuesday reprimanded Assam’s NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela and RGI Sailesh Singh for their statements on the NRC issue, saying it could have sent them to jail for contempt, and restrained them from speaking to media in the future without its approval.

Gogoi said the officials engaged in NRC updating process were under constant pressure from BJP-RSS which is why the top court had doubts about the integrity of the NRC authorities.

He also criticised chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal for being “silent” on the issue and claimed that Sonowal has not clarified on what action would be taken to include the names of genuine Indian citizens and detect the foreigners.

“Sonowal has also not asked for the withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 despite widespread protests. The BJP is giving importance to the Bill and not NRC,” he said.

“BJP president Amit Shah speaks about NRC being the ‘soul of Assam Accord’, but does not say anything about withdrawing the Bill. If the Bill is not withdrawn, the entire NRC list will go waste. The whole exercise will be a waste of money, energy and resources,” Gogoi said.

Accusing Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) of “double standards”, he said although the party has been demanding withdrawal of the Bill, it was continuing its alliance with the BJP to remain in power in the state.

“Both BJP and AGP are not interested in publishing the NRC as they want to keep the foreigners’ issue alive to divert attention from their failures”, he alleged.

“I thank the Supreme Court for fixing the dates for the publication of the draft NRC or else it would not have been published,” he said.

Stating that the exclusion of 40 lakh people in the draft NRC is a matter of serious concern, the former chief minister said the authorities must ensure that bonafide citizens of the country are not left out.

Gogoi claimed that it was he who had taken the initiative to begin the work of compiling the NRC and the application process was completed during the Congress rule in the state.

Asked about West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s reaction to the NRC issue, the senior Congress leader said she had no right to interfere in Assam’s matters.

“But at the same time, the Trinamool Congress delegation should not have been denied entry. The TMC delegates had the right to come and clear their doubts though they cannot create tension in the state,” he added.

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