Siliguri, August 4: The final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam that has excluded about one lakh Gorkhas from the list has evoked mixed reactions from the community in the country’s east and northeast.
In Assam, a few Gorkha organisations welcomed the NRC draft.
Bhaskar Dahal, the senior most general secretary of Assam Gorkha Sammelan (AGS) and Prem Tamang, the president of All Assam Gorkha Students’ Union (AAGSU) said that the exclusion of about 0.1 million Gorkhas from the final draft of the NRC was due to some minor errors in the titles of the applicants.
AGS and AAGSU are the two most influential bodies of the Gorkhas in Assam.
“There is ample time to submit one’s claims and objections in Assam,” Dahal said.
Prem Tamang the AAGSU president said, “We are confident that most of the Gorkhas whose names were omitted will finally make it in the NRC.”
But Binay Tamang, chairman of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), the semi-autonomous body that runs the affairs of north Bengal hills, described the exercise as the BJP government’s design to oust Gorkhas from Assam.
There are about 2.5 million Gorkhas in Assam.
“The NRC is a move to drive away Gorkhas. It is time to be on the alert. The BJP is now trying to conduct a similar exercise in Assam,” said Tamang, who is also the president of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (Binay Tamang faction).
“The BJP government is actually trying to backstab the Gorkhas while it preaches to be their saviour,” said Tamang in a press release.
Tamang is close to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who has criticised the NRC exercise as a move “to evict Bengalis and Biharis” from Assam.
Significantly, the BJP won the Darjeeling seat in 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the support of the GJM which was then led by Bimal Gurung. Gurung along with a few of his close associates have been on the run for almost a year after the Bengal government slapped them with charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act following his unsuccessful struggle for a separate state of Gorkhaland.
However, a few political parties in Darjeeling and Sikkim, where the Gorkhas constitute a majority, think there is no reason for bonafide Gorkhas in Assam to panic.
Neeraj Zimba, a senior Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) leader said, “No genuine Gorkhas would be affected by the NRC.” GNLF is the second most influential party in the Darjeeling hills that spearheaded the first phase of struggle for Gorkhaland in 1986-88 in which about 1,200 people died.
Bhim Dahal, spokesperson of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) in Sikkim said, “The NRC exercise is continuing. It won’t be proper to react right now,” said Dahal.
Kalimpong Krishak Kalyan Sangathan (KKKS) a non-governmental organisation welcomed the NRC. Its general secretary Bishnu Chettri said “We also demand similar NRC in West Bengal to identity foreigners.”
Fugitive former GJM president Bimal Gurung alleged that the Trinamool Congress government in Bengal has a secret plan to settle “illegal Bangladeshis who have been removed from Assam.”
In a press statement circulated on Whatsapp on Saturday, Gurung said, “The Bengal government is secretly measuring land in Darjeeling hills. If this is being done to settle illegal Bangladeshis who have been removed from Assam, it creates a national security threat…. If they attempt anything like this, then all the Rajbangshis, Kamtapuris, Adivasis, Meche and Gorkhas from Dooars and all the Gorkhas from the hills will speak with one voice against this.”
“I shall soon write a letter to the Union home minister Rajnath Singh opposing the NRC,” said Tamang. (Courtesy: HT)