CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s take on the NRC: Assam

CJI raps the forces who oppose the NRC in Assam, his comments show an understanding of the state’s ground situation

Ranjan Gogoi

Guwahati, 4th November, 2019: The Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, has come out strongly in support of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), this time outside his Court. Attending a book release function at New Delhi, on November 3, 2019, he said, “NRC is a not a document for the moment, it is a base document for the future. This is in my comprehension is (the) intrinsic value of the NRC.” He ‘warned’ that all forces who are opposing the NRC are “playing with fire.”

The statements from India’s chief justice who has presided over a bench overseeing the implementation of this arduous, bureaucratic task –updating of the NRC—came at an august gathering in the nation’s capital, New Delhi. Justice Ranjan Gogoi was releasing the book, “Post-colonial Assam (1947-2019)” authored by noted Journalist Mrinal Talukdar. Making a substantive speech on the occasion, the CJP who retires in about two weeks elaborated further: “The NRC is not either a new or a novel idea. It finds expression as early as in the year 1951 and in the particular context of Assam in the year 1985, when Assam Accord was signed. In fact, the current NRC is an attempt to update the 1951 NRC.”

The outgoing CJI, who also hails from Assam, further stated that, “Prior to this exercise, there was an enormous amount of guesswork on the number of illegal immigrants. There was (therefore) an urgent need to ascertain with some degree of certainty the number of illegal migrants, which is what the current exercise of NRC had attempted, nothing more, nothing less.” On the differences of opinion and rejecting of NRC by certain counterparts, the CJI said, “Unfortunately, the simple idea of acceptance, especially of people, who may be different or diverse from us, is an idea from which people are at a great distance. We seem to be in an era where our failure to accept what is different from us is no longer considered as a shortcoming. In fact, we wear such failure on our sleeves with misplaced pride and vanity.” the CJI, who is under severe attack by communal-ultra nationalist, forces counter-attacked.

Underplaying the numbers game in light of the large number of NRC exclusions, the CJI said, “Nineteen lakh or 40 lakh, the number does not matter. It is base document for the future.”  Justice Ranjan Gogoi came down heavily, against communal and ultra nationalist forces, which have been at the forefront in criticising the entire ongoing process of updating the NRC. “It needs to be told and brought on record that the people who raised objections, including on these cut-off dates, are playing with fire,” he warned. “At the crossroads, we need to keep in mind the fact that our national discourse has witnessed the emergence of armchair commentators, who are not only far from ground realities, but also seek to present a highly distorted picture.”

These remarks by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, forceful in nature, are a strong message for communal and ultra nationalist Assamese chauvinist forces, which have been continuously attacking and rejecting the entire process of updating NRC in Assam. Since the publication of final NRC on August 31, 2019, the ruling BJP and it’s leaders as also the rank and file are involved in a high voltage campaign deriding the “low” numbers of exclusion in the final NRC list especially with regards to the Muslim population in Assam. Justice Gogoi has tactfully appealed to all such forces to stop alluding to such imaginary fantasy figures.

The second aspect of Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s remarks is around the on-going debate of the cut-off date for updating NRC. Many BJP leader and their allied forces have expressed the opinion that, if the cut-off date for the present process—updating of the NRC –had been fixed at 1951 instead of 1971, as of today, the number of excluded persons would had been higher! These forces have not understood the ground realities which Ranjan Gogoi has understood. The fact is that, if the base year of updating NRC would have been fixed as 1951, then the 6(A) of the Citizenship Act, 1955 would have been applicable to Assam. In that situation the cut of date updating NRC would have been 1987 in any real sense. This would have caused a greater embarrassment to Assamese nationalist and chauvinist forces. There was an indirect warning to both communal and chauvinist forces in his speech of yesterday.

Whatever CJI Ranjan Gogoi said at the book launch ceremony, is not out of context. The book “Post colonial Assam” by noted journalist Mrinal Talukdar itself is a brain-storming of thoughts and has thrown a flood of light not only on the post-independence socio-political narratives of Assam, but also on the fundamental problems that have shaken Assam for decades. This includes the up-dation of the NRC which was meant to be a solution to the complicated nationality and foreigners’ issue in Assam. Mrinal Talukdar, once the Northeast Bureau Chief of UNI and presently holding the post of Deputy Editor, Pratidin Time has also objectively garnered information and covered news on the NRC for some years now.



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