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Over 1.9m people excluded from NRC in Assam: 'Still Indian internal issue but it is likely to be bilateral in future'

  • Published at 12:34 am September 1st, 2019
People stand in a queue to check their names on the final list of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam on Saturday AFP
People stand in a queue to check their names on the final list of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam on Saturday AFP

“We have not yet started thinking about it. Any decision will be taken by the whole government,” foreign minister tells the Dhaka Tribune

As of now, the issue related to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is an internal matter of India, but in future, it is likely to be a bilateral one between Dhaka and Delhi, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, and another senior minister told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

Their remarks came on the heels of the publication of the final NRC yesterday, excluding over 1.9 million people. Although the Indian government is saying that none of the excluded will be declared foreigners or detained until all the remaining procedures – appeals at Foreigners’ Tribunals, High Court and Supreme Court – are exhausted.

But, people, in general, have already starting to treat the excluded as ‘illegal Bangladeshis’.

“As you know, Indian external affairs minister has told us that the NRC issue is an internal issue of his country and that it will not affect Bangladesh,” Foreign Minister Dr Momen told this correspondent over the telephone from Sylhet.

“We have faith in his words,” he said.

To a question, the foreign minister replied, “Given the nature of the issue, it is likely to be a bilateral matter between Bangladesh and India.”

Regarding Bangladesh’s plan of action, if it does become a bilateral issue, Dr Momen said, “We have not yet started thinking about it. I am not the only one who will take the decision. Rather, any decision will be taken by the whole government.”

“When the time comes, we will take an  appropriate decision in this regard,” he said.

When his attention was drawn to the fact that those who were excluded from the NRC, have already been called ‘illegal Bangladeshis’ by many people and political activists, the minister posed the question, “What can we do in this regard?”

When suggested that the government could tell its Indian counterpart to take measures to stop branding people as ‘illegal Bangladeshis’, he said, “You (media) start first by writing about it. Then we will raise this with the Indian government.”

Another senior minister, who wished to remain anonymous because the issue was out of his jurisdiction, concurred with his colleague at the foreign ministry and suggested that Dhaka should be prepared to face any adverse effect of the happenings in the state of Assam, that shares the border with Bangladesh.

When contacted, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan described it as an internal issue of India, saying that the government would look into it if it involved Bangladesh in any manner.

“Look, it’s an Indian internal matter. We have nothing to say here. But, if the issue affects us ,then we’ll see,” he said.

No comments were available from the Indian High Commission in Dhaka this regard.

The NRC authority, headed by State Coordinator Prateek Hajela, released the final NRC on its official website and through its social medi,a excluding more than 1.9 million people out of 32.9 million applicants, according to the Indian media.

The NRC process of receiving application forms started in May 2015, and ended on August 31, 2015.

The process is being executed under the Assam Accord signed in 1985, and under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court of India.   

The final draft NRC, that excluded more than 4 million people, was published on July 30, 2018. Over 100,000 people, who were on the final draft, were excluded following complaints made by others.

Each excluded person will have 120 days to file an appeal at any of the existing 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals and 200 more to be set up within a month.

The appellants will then have the option to go to the High Court and the Supreme Court, the last resort.

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