Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal spoke to Shivani Gupta, Republic TV's Associate Editor, in the 'The Synergy to Surge' panel discussion during the inaugural Republic Summit. One of the topics that was discussed was the NRC in Assam and the difference of opinions over it among states, especially, with the neighbouring state West Bengal.
The NRC is being updated in Assam to check illegal immigration. The NRC features the names, addresses and photographs of all Indian citizens, who have been residing in the northeastern state before March 25, 1971. Citizens who entered the state after March 25, 1971 will be viewed as illegal immigrants.
After it was reported in the media that 40 lakh people had been excluded from the list, Mamata Banerjee who has been opposing the NRC had said that those people whose names were not present in the list could not have been illegal migrants and that the BJP government in Assam was excluding them for vote bank politics.
"Those who are citizens... Those who live in the country for many years in Assam, Bengal, Maharashtra... they live in many places for work. There are Bihari people living in Bengal. There are many Rajasthanis living in Bengal. Where will their kids go? How will they educate their kids? Those who work will be kicked out? ...These people, the BJP is excluding for vote reasons. It's not right to call Hindustanis infiltrators. We live in Bengal but we consider Assamese our brothers and sisters... Infiltrators can be 0.1%, 0.2%... but 40 lakh?"
Sarabananda Sonowal said that the threat of illegal migrants was real and that the West Bengal CM should make herself aware of the ground realities than politicising the issue.
"Mamata Banerjee never assessed ground realities in the truest sense and is simply trying to create politics out of the community. If she applied her wisdom for the interest of the nation's good she will discover the truth that where there are illegal minorities, there is a threat to the country's security and identity."
Sonowal, during the panel discussion also spoke at length about the issue of illegal immigrants and PM Modi's "bold initiative" on the NRC and Indo-Bangladesh border sealing. Here's what he said:
"The issue of Illegal migrants is a national problem, maybe it in a bigger number in Assam. It is a threat to our national security and sovereignty. It is a very important issue for all of us.
During the Congress' 2015 regime it was promised by Dr Manmohan Singh that NRC updated in a year's time and that the Indo-Bangladesh border will be sealed in two years. But it did not happen. Without land border agreement with Bangladesh sealing the Indo-Bangladesh border is impossible, without starting the updation of the NRC, how will you start the detection of the presence of illegal migrants in Assam, it is impossible.
"But all these are taken up by PM Modi and because of his bold initiatives the Indo-Bangladesh land border agreement which progressing, the Indo-Bangladesh border sealing will happen in the next couple of months. Once, the border is sealed, there won't be any influx or any illegal business like smuggling etc."
During the discussion, Sonowal also said that PM Modi has directed a Central minister to visit the northeast every 15 days.