Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process will be carried out across the country, and made it clear there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion.
Even as Shah made a countrywide pitch for the NRC process, West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee assured people she will never allow such a citizen register in the state.
Shah told the Rajya Sabha that all citizens of India irrespective of religion will figure in the NRC list. There is no provision in the NRC that people belonging to other religions will not be included in the register, he added.
He said the Centre accepts that refugees - Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis - who left Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan due to religious atrocities should get Indian citizenship.
"The process of National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be carried out across the country. No one irrespective of their religion should be worried. It is just a process to get everyone under the NRC," he said replying to a supplementary during Question Hour.
"People from all religions who are Indian citizens will be included. There is no question of any discrimination on the basis of religion. NRC is a different process and the Citizenship Amendment Bill is different," Shah said.
In Assam, the NRC process was carried out as per Supreme Court order, he said and added that when the updating process will be implemented in the entire country Assam will also be included.
Banerjee said the NRC in Assam was part of Assam Accord signed during the tenure of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and that the exercise can never be implemented across the country.
"There are few people who are trying to create disturbances in West Bengal in the name of implementation of the NRC. I want to make it very clear, we will never allow NRC in Bengal".
"No one can take away your citizenship and turn you into a refugee. There can be no division on the basis of religion," Banerjee said while addressing a public meeting in Sagardighi in Murshidabad district.
Before talking about implementing the NRC in West Bengal, the BJP should answer why 14 lakhs Hindus and Bengalis were omitted from the final NRC list in Assam, she said.
Assam Finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, meanwhile, said the state government has requested the Centre to reject the recently published NRC.
Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, the senior BJP leader said even the party has urged the union home minster to dismiss the NRC in its current form.
"The Assam government has not accepted the NRC. The Government of Assam and the BJP have requested the Home minister to reject the NRC," he added.
Sarma said the state government favoured one national NRC with one cut-off year for the entire country.
"If the cut-off year is 1971, then it should be the same for all states... We are not asking to scrap the Assam Accord," he added.
Strongly criticising the earlier NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela, the minister alleged that the entire exercise of updation was carried out keeping aside the state government.
"But the entire nation thinks that NRC was updated by the Assam government. We are bearing the brunt because of one individual. We are concerned with the flaws in the system.
"The way Hajela ran the show under a different eco-system, it has created a multiple layer of questions. As a public representative, we are unable to answer them now," Sarma said.
In the Rajya Sabha, Shah said that in Assam, people whose name has not figured in the draft list, have the right to go to the Tribunal.
"Tribunals will be constituted across Assam. If any person doesn't have the money to approach tribunals, then the Assam government will bear the cost to hire a lawyer," he said.
The home minister said the government accepts that Hindu refugees, Buddhists, Jain, Christians and Sikhs and Parsis should get this country's citizenship and this is why the Citizenship Amendment Bill(CAB) is there.
"All refugees coming from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan on account of religious atrocities will get citizenship under the Bill," he said.
He said the Lok Sabha had passed the Bill and the Select Committee had approved it but the previous House had lapsed.
"Now it will come again. It has no connection with the NRC," he added.
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine