GUWAHATI – Home Minister Amit Shah has declared the centre will throw “every single illegal immigrant out” of the country, breaking his silence over the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) list that was released on August 31 and declared more than 19 lakh people as foreigners. Mr Shah also declared the centre had no intention of altering or scrapping Article 371 of the Indian constitution, which grants special privileges to north eastern states.
“Various people have raised all kinds of questions on the National Register of Citizens (NRC). I want to clearly say that not a single illegal migrant will be allowed to stay in the country by the Government of India. That is our commitment,” Amit Shah said at a North Eastern Council meeting in Guwahati today.
Amit Shah is in Assam for a two-day visit – his first since becoming Home Minister – that was preceded by the state government declaring Assam a “Disturbed Area” under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958.
Post the release of the final NRC list, some BJP leaders had expressed disappointment at the number of Bengali Hindus, who constitute 18 per cent of Assam’s population and a majority of the party’s vote bank, being excluded. In the run-up to the final list exclusion worries had weighed heavily on people in the state’s lower districts, which are dominated by migrant Muslims.
In national elections held this year the BJP won nine of 14 seats in Assam, backed by votes from tribals, Assamese Hindus and Bengali Hindus.
Speaking to NDTV, firebrand BJP MLA Silditya Dev alleged the NRC was part of a “conspiracy to keep Hindus out and help Muslims”. He alleged the NRC software was bugged and the process of preparing the citizen’s list was steeped in corruption.
Last month, after meeting with Mr Shah, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal appeared to suggest the BJP could use the legislative (or ordinance) route to re-examine the final NRC.
Earlier this year, Mr Shah, while campaigning in Rajasthan for the national election, described Bangladeshi migrants as “termites” and that they would be struck off electoral rolls.
During his address the Home Minister also said the centre had no intention of altering or scrapping Article 371 of the Indian Constitution, which grants special privileges to north eastern states. He said there was a vast difference between Articles 370 and 371.
“I have clarified in Parliament that this is not going to happen and I am saying it again today in the presence of eight chief ministers of North East that the Centre will not touch Article 371,” the Home Minister added, amid concerns the centre would do to the North East what it did to Jammu and Kashmir.
On August 5 Mr Shah announced the government would scrap Article 370 and bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, sparking the imposition of a state-wide security lockdown that included the detention of senior political leaders and leading to massive protests from the Opposition.