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'BJP wants to reduce Assamese to a minority'

July 30, 2018 19:30 IST

'The central and Assamese governments want to get 35 lakh to 40 lakh Bangladeshis (Hindus) to come to Assam and make the Assamese people a minority.'
'They want to make Assam a Bengali state.'
'Bengalis by nature are BJP supporters whereas the Assamese people don't support the BJP.'

IMAGE: People wait to check their names on the final draft of the National Register of Citizens at the NRC Seva Kendra, Goroimari, Kamrup district, Assam, July 30, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

When the first National Register of Citizens list came out in December 2017, All India United Democratic Front chief Badruddin Ajmal's name was not in it.

The NRC was an exercise conducted under the Supreme Court's guidance to detect illegal Bangladeshis who had settled down in Assam.

Ajmal, a Member of Parliament from Dhubri, Assam, is also the founder of the AIUDF, which is a political force to reckon with in the north eastern state.

The AIUDF has 13 MLAs in the Assam assembly and three MPs.

On the release of the second and final NRC draft list on Monday, July 30, Ajmal, on one hand, expresses satisfaction that the process has finally concluded; and on the other, is concerned about the 4 million people whose names are not in the list.

"It is sad that the issue became political two months ago; a lot of names were cancelled from the list after that. This needs to be challenged now (in court)," Ajmal tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

 

Your first reaction on the draft NRC list.

I am thankful to the Supreme Court for putting pressure on the state government and monitoring the NRC so that they could come out with the list.

Every Muslim in Assam was considered a Bangladeshi. This was the opinion about Assamese Muslims for the last 40 years, which was not true.

Even today there are 40 lakh (4 million) people whose names have not come in the list. But at this moment we do not know how many of them are Hindu Bengalis and how many Muslims.

We wanted this list to be over soon, but that never happened.

Tarun Gogoi, chief minister for 15 years, did nothing on this issue.

If the Congress wanted, they could have solved this problem, but they did not.

Now the Congress is taking credit for this, but that is not true as the Supreme Court intervened and told them to do their job.

Despite that, the Congress kept the NRC issue alive till 2015 when they were in power in Assam.

And they did only because of vote-bank politics.

What about the 40 lakh people who have not been included in the list and declared as non-citizens?

We will study the list and look into the matter.

It is sad that the issue became political two months ago; a lot of names were cancelled from the list after that.

This needs to be challenged now (in court).

Our party (the AIUDF) is now going to keep lawyers at various centres (the NRC Sewa Kendras) who can help (such) people and guide them.

They will also see that if there is indeed an illegal immigrant, s/he needs to be caught.

Many with Aadhar and PAN cards are missing from the list.

This issue, even our lawyers are highlighting.

The Supreme Court's order was not implemented properly as there is a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government in Assam.

RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) workers worked in the field (as volunteers).

IMAGE: People wait to check their names on the NRC final draft in Nagaon, Assam, July 30, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

There is a damoclesian sword hanging over these 40 lakh people as they are not Indian citizens now.

It is not necessary.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the Assam chief minister (Sarbananda Sonowal) have said it is not necessary that if your name is not in the NRC list you become a Bangladeshi (foreigner).

This is a matter of inquiry and not the final list.

It will take at least six months for the final list (to be released) as a lot of work still needs to be done. It can take more time too.

We are consulting our lawyers on this issue.

I want to appeal to all Muslims of Assam and (the rest of) India that there should be no violence.

Has your name appeared in the second list?

Yes, my name has come in the second list.

My family (members') names have (also) come and so does that of all MLAs and MPs (of our party).

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleges that this NRC list is meant to evict Bengalis from Assam.

She is the first politician so far to comment on this issue.

Even today (July 30) in Parliament, Trinamool Congress MPs raised this issue and after their statement now, the issue has gain national political significance.

We hope the people who have not got justice will get justice.

Where will these 40 lakh people go? Bangladesh has refused to accept them.

It is not clear what will happen to these 40 lakh people.

The government has so far denied that these 40 lakh people will be sent to detention camps or they will no longer be Indian citizens.

This will be clear only after the government makes a policy on this issue.

I spoke to Harsh Mander...

(Interrupts) He was so disturbed to see the conditions in the detention camps of these illegal immigrants in Assam that he resigned from the NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) in protest.

How many illegal immigrants are in detention camps now?

We do not know the numbers as we are not allowed to enter those detention camps.

I said this in Parliament too.

Illegal immigrants are kept like animals in detention centres. They are kept with criminals.

After I told Parliament, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he would ensure that criminals do not stay in those detention centres.

When Donald J Trump packs off illegal immigrants, it leads to worldwide anger and condemnation, why is that not the case here?

The national media is not interested in Assam and, therefore, there is no knowledge about the ground situation.

This time though, I am seeing the national media is taking interest in this issue. So now the news will spread around the world.

I only want this issue to be solved peacefully.

You have been highlighting this point again and again that so many people peacefully registered themselves for the NRC and not a single incident of violence was reported.

Yes, that is the truth, but some VHP and RSS workers worked on the NRC list and then they expedited the whole process.

You have said the NRC list will end vote bank politics. Can you explain?

The BJP wants to play politics by reducing the Assamese people into a minority.

The Delhi (central) and Assam governments are hand in glove in this.

They want the Assamese people -- be it Muslims or Hindus -- to be reduced into one unit of minority.

They want to get 35 lakh to 40 lakh Bangladeshis (Hindus) to come to Assam and make the Assamese people a minority.

They want to make Assam a Bengali state.

Bengalis by nature are BJP supporters whereas the Assamese people don't support the BJP.

If that is the case, how come the BJP is ruling Assam?

It happened because of 'anti-Congressism'. It was a negative vote.

Now the BJP wants to bring a bill after which they can get Bangladeshi Hindus into Assam. This issue is leading to protests across the state.

The Assamese people are not appreciating this move.

It is said that the NRC list does not exclude Hindus.

Let us first get the list and only then can we comment on the Hindu-Muslim question.

It is not the right time to speak on this particular aspect of the NRC list.

Do you feel Muslims in Assam will no longer be branded Bangladeshis?

It all depends on what they do with these 40 lakh people.

Bangladesh is not ready to accept these 'illegal immigrants'.

Ever since Bangladesh came into existence, the rulers of both countries have met more than 18 times. The home ministers have also met several times. But our country never raised this issue.

This is what Bangladesh says -- that the NRC was never an agenda between the two countries.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com