TODAY -

A sage advice on NRC
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: February 28, 2024 -



CITING failure of the exercise conducted in Assam, which led to exclusion of around 1.9 million of the 33 million applicants from the final list published on August 31, 2019, not many experts have shown enthusiasm to the demand for implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Manipur where the issue of "illegal immigration" from across the Indo-Myanmar border has taken the centre-stage since the outbreak of an unprecedented ethnic conflict between the Meitei/Meetei and Kuki-Chin people on May 3 last year.

The Government of Manipur led by Chief Minister N Biren Singh as well as different sections of the society, with the exception of Kuki-Chin people, have been insisting on implementation of NRC in the state to identify and deport illegal immigrants, whose involvement in the current crisis in Manipur have been acknowledged not only by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union foreign affairs minister S Jaishankar themselves but also by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is currently probing into Myanmar and Bangladesh-based militant groups entering into a conspiracy with a section of militant leaders in India to indulge in incidents of violence with an intention to drive a wedge among different ethnic groups and wage war against the Government of India.

But many experts are of the view that conduct of NRC by spending huge amount of money and resources is futile when there is no guarantee that all the detected illegal immigrants would be deported to their respective countries as this process would require acceptance of these people as their own citizens by these countries, which is rather far-fetched.

So, mutual co-operation and understanding between the host country and the home country is very essential for ensuring successful deportation of the detected immigrants before going ahead with mammoth task of carrying out NRC exercise.

Given this backdrop, the call to all civil society organisations (CSOs) concerned in the state for preparing a mechanism in advance to ensure effective update and implementation of NEC in the context of Manipur makes a lot of sense.

Coming straight from the horse's mouth, as one might say, what Advocate Santanu Borthakur of Gauhati High Court, who played a major role in carrying out the exercise of updating NRC in Assam, had said during a consultative meeting organised by Taragi Cheisu in Imphal on Saturday should be taken as a sage advice.

Taking part in the consultative meeting held on the theme of "Understanding the NRC - What it means for Manipur," Advocate Santanu underlined the need for putting in place a mechanism in advance before going ahead with the NRC exercise in a holistic manner in the context of Manipur.

Even if he had stated not in so many words, we assume this is needed to avoid the pitfalls of Assam experience that left everyone fuming due to various reasons including detection of large-scale anomalies in the process of updating NRC and lack of proper planning even to the extent of "215 software utilities added in a haphazard manner to the core software," as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had found out later on.

Nonetheless, as Advocate Santanu had pointed out, the issue of NRC is not the identification of illegal immigrants but what should be done thereafter, the state government as well as all the civil society organisations (CSOs) and general public who are pressing for implementation of NRC in Manipur need to wake up to the urgency of a strategy to ensure mutual co-operation not just between the host country and the home country of the immigrants but also inter-ministerial cooperation within the government of the host country for addressing issues related to drivers of illegal immigration, the resource strain illegal immigration causes, and the internal security threats immigration poses.

Otherwise, it would turn out to be yet another Assam experience, much to the glee of critics and detractors.



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