“The intrinsic value of the NRC is mutual peaceful co-existence. Progressive societies are meant to be inclusive.”

By Kunal Chatterjee

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi recently said the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was a “base document for the future” and “a vital initiative for peaceful co-existence”.

Insisting that the Assam NRC was not just a document for the moment, he said it will be helpful in determining future claims. The Chief Justice was speaking at the launch of the book “Post-Colonial Assam” by Mrinal Talukdar.

Pointing out the criticality of illegal immigration in Assam, Justice Gogoi said the guesswork that is often associated with the influx of illegal migrants has over the years infused political turmoil and instability in the state.

He said the recent NRC attempted to bring some degree of certainty on the number of illegal migrants in the state.

“Nineteen lakh or 40 lakh is not the point. But it is a base document for the future. A document on which we can refer to determine future claims. The intrinsic value of the NRC, in my view, is mutual peaceful co-existence. Progressive societies are meant to be inclusive,” he said.

He said the people of Assam displayed large-hardheartedness as they approved various cut-off dates for the NRC.

The CJI, however rued that the national discourse on the NRC saw the emergence of armchair commentators, who present a distorted picture. “The idea of NRC is neither new or novel idea. The first attempt to update the NRC was made in 1951. The current NRC is an exercise to update 1951. Nothing more, nothing less,” said the Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice slammed the people, who used the social media to cast aspersions on the NRC. “The social media and its tools have been used by many commentators to double speak on the issue. They launched a motivated tirade at a democratic institution. These commentators and their vile on the initiative (NRC) was far removed from the facts,” he said.

Justice Gogoi said the NRC has left a mark in the social history of Assam. “But callous reporting by a few media outlets worsened the situation…sinking into cynicism the working of an institution, which was severed by the media, particularly social media. There was mudslinging and personal attacks on the institution and its members, he added.

The Chief Justice headed the bench that monitored the publication of the final NRC in Assam on August 31. The final NRC excluded 1.9 million people and provoked widespread criticism on its process. Critics said the process adopted included some people who should have been left out and excluded some of those who should have been made a part of it.