The entire spectrum of Assam’s public narrative in past few years have evolved over the year 1951 and the BJP has made it shriller
The entire spectrum of Assam’s public narrative in past few years have evolved over the year 1951 and the BJP has made it shriller|EastMojo image
OPINION

Assam and the ‘fraud’ of 1951

In the entire public narrative of Assam, 1951 is sacrosanct. Every debate, dialogue and conversation revolves around that year; however, it is just a myth many love to play again and again

Mrinal Talukdar

Mrinal Talukdar

Are the Assamese people optimists of the highest order or the greatest idiots in human history?

I think they are both, otherwise the infiltration issue would not have remained the pivot of Assamese society for over four decades and have promised to remain so for another four decades even if everybody in the business knows it as nothing but the biggest fraud played over the Assamese people.

Today, we will open another page of the fraud and deceit in the name of infiltration and this time we will target the very foundation.

In the entire public narrative of Assam, 1951 is sacrosanct. Every debate, dialogue and conversation revolves around that year.

In the general narrative of people of Assam the year 1951 should be the base for everything. It should be the cut-off year for foreigners’ detection, definition of indigenous and of course the grand old lady of the NRC update. However there are people who believe that 1971 should be unchanged and taken as cut-off year, as per the Assam Accord.

Here, we are not arguing whether it should be 1951 or 1971 but we want to see how hollow is 1951.

The then Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela
The then Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela Twitter 

The entire spectrum of Assam's public narrative in the past few years has evolved over that particular year and the BJP has made it shriller. Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma do not miss any chance to shout from the rooftop to remind how he and his party would like 1951 as the cut-off year and not 1971.

The truth is that 35% of Assam today’s population is not covered by the existing 1951 list. In simple terms 35% population of Assam or about 1 crore people of Assam cannot find their names in the existing 1951 NRC list so the definition of indigenous or foreigners cannot be applied to them

It is assumed in the public narrative that there is list (read NRC) of 1951 exists and any segregation can be achieved by filtering that list of 1951. In simple language using that list we expect to find out the following:

1.Who are the indigenous people of Assam ?

2. Who are the foreigners living in Assam?

But there are some interesting questions that arise:

1. Does the NRC 1951 of Assam exist in full?

2. Does it cover every district and village of Assam?

The truth is that 35% of Assam today's population is not covered by the existing 1951 list. In simple terms, 35% population of Assam or about 1 crore people of Assam cannot find their names in the existing 1951 NRC list so the definition of indigenous or foreigners cannot be applied to them.

That is the biggest fraud we all are playing on the innocent people of Assam.

Now this startling piece of information was not not cooked one nor is it is some deep secret. This information is completely official one. It is not that I am exposing some top secret documents of the government of Assam. I am just picking up four pieces of papers from a 400-page-long answer given on the floor of the Assam Assembly by the previous government and holding before you.

This explosive information came out in 2012 when AIUDF MLA Abdul Rahim Khan asked a detailed question about the status of the NRC as well as earliest electoral rolls available in the districts. The question was asked on July 19, 2012.

The top bureaucrats of Assam know it. Those who made NRC knew it. But today's political establishment ensured that those who knew must either be silent or turn their head so that myth of 1951 list can be further utilised.

Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sharma does not miss any chance to shout from the rooftop to remind how he and his party would like 1951 as the cut-off year and not 1971
Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sharma does not miss any chance to shout from the rooftop to remind how he and his party would like 1951 as the cut-off year and not 1971 Twitter

Legally and technically, no definition or cut-off year can be achieved only with the 1951 NRC list which is not complete in Assam. Those who know the exact status of 1951 documents, simply turned their heads leaving Himanta Biswa Sarma and all others to drum up 1951 as the best cut-off year for everything when the fact was that one third of Assam was not touched by any list that can be used by a process of law to make 1951 some sort of a cut-off date.

The missing NRC 1951

The biggest truth is that even the great Sivasagar district has no such list of 1951. Not only that, even the districts of Cachar, Karbi Anglong, Baska and Chirang do not have any 1951 NRC. That is not the end of the story. Only 12 of the 27 districts of Assam have the complete NRC 1951.

The following data will give you a very clear picture of Assam's actual scenario of the NRC 1951.

Status of NRC/Electoral Roll of Assam 
Status of NRC/Electoral Roll of Assam  EastMojo image
EastMojo image

The Assam Assembly answer was voluminous as unusually the home department gave a very detailed circle wise reply giving the status of the NRC of every village of Assam.

Hardly anyone cared for the answer as it is still lying in the archives of the Assam Assembly. But it thoroughly exposed how hollow our public intelligentsia is.

We are arguing over a year (read 1951) but the truth is that we do not have that list. It is like we are debating over the division a property for full forty years which we actually do not have.

The simple truth is that Assam does not have any document based on which the year 1951 can ever be used as the cut-off date for any purpose without taking the help of subsequent electoral rolls, which are also missing in most districts.

To make matters worse, only two districts of Assam have an electoral roll of 1952. The earliest electoral roll majority of the districts of Assam have is of 1966. Some have even as late as of 1971.

The following charts will clear the position:

Electoral roll
Electoral roll EastMojo image

That means even if the authority wants to use 1951 for Indigenous definition purpose in Jorhat district, it has to fall back upon on the 1966 electoral roll as 264 villages of total 848 villages, NRC 1951 was missing or damaged.

Similarly for Tinsukia district, when 1951 would be the cut-off year for foreigners’ detection, 626 villages of total 1,168 villages cannot be touched as their NRC 1951 was missing. In those districts, the next best alternative is 1966 electoral roll, which is full 15 years behind the original 1951 date.

Now is this not big fraud on the people of Assam?

Take the example of Nalbari district. If tomorrow, the government of India decides to make 1951 as the cut-off year following a favourable Supreme Court Judgment (matter is before the constitutional bench of the SC), then on ground the deputy commissioner of Nalbari will have to fall back upon 1971 electoral roll in 55% villages of the district.

This is because 251 of 456 villages of Nalbari district lost the NRC of 1951. So for the hapless DC, the only alternative is to use 1971 electoral roll as any official reference in those villages as the districts do not even have any electoral roll between 1952-1966.

Then what we are discussing for so many years?

If we do not have full NRC 1951 and no electoral roll of 1952 and have to bank upon 1966 and 1971 electoral roll for any reference, then what for we are shouting at?

• Why all of us are trying to defraud the people of Assam fool again?

• When we do not have the basic foundation, why are we trying to build castles in the air?

Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi
Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi File image

Any narrative on infiltration and cut-off year around the year 1951 is completely meaningless when we do not have the original full list to refer to.

This fact is known by the power that be, but they love to incite the ordinary people of Assam to see them dancing to their tunes.

By repeatedly raising 1951 as the cut-off dates in the last few years, that section has tried to set the fire even if they know well that one-third of Assam do not have anything to fall back upon to make that year as an effective one

That is the reason the former Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi warned everyone not to touch the base year of 1971.

He had said: "The Assamese people have displayed great magnanimity and large-heartedness in accepting various cutoff dates, for the purposes of preparation of the NRC that are at a considerable distance from the time when the first onslaught of forced migration hit them or their ancestors. This humaneness is 'acceptance', that is one of the first steps towards inclusivity. It needs to be told and brought on record that people, who raise objections, including to these cutoff dates, are playing with fire. "

By repeatedly raising 1951 as the cut-off dates in the last few years, that section has tried to set the fire even if they know well that one-third of Assam do not have anything to fall back upon to make that year as an effective one.

Yet the fraud on infiltration cut off dates and definition of indigenous people have been going on for the last four decades.

When India will realize that almost 9 million people of Assam had moved from one place to another to prove their citizenships, individually spent shocking amounts of money to procure the long lost papers needed to prove their citizenship and in the process ruining thousands of families and killing many, besides spending Rs 1,500 crores of tax payer's money to make a list of citizen which no one is interested in, they will look up to Assam and its inhabitants as optimists of the highest order or the greatest idiots in human history.

As someone who spent his entire adulthood chasing a dream of making Assam Bangladeshi-free -- first as an activist of the Assam Agitation and then as a journalist for more than three and half decades -- I think I can now say like many, our lives and energy have also been wasted chasing the mirage called ‘foreigners’.

1951 is just a myth many love to play again and again.

(The author is a senior journalist and writer. Views expressed are his own. He can be contacted at mrinal.talukdar@gmail.com)

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