Himanta seeks 10-20% NRC re-verification

The new Assam Chief Minister appealed to ULFA-Independent chief to come forward for peace talks

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday said the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government wants 10-20% re-verification of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Soon after being sworn in as the State’s 15th Chief Minister, he said that his coalition government favoured 20% re-verification of the updated list of citizens in districts that share a border with Bangladesh and 10% in the remaining districts.

“We will go ahead with the NRC if the draft (published in August 2019) is found to be flawless during the re-verification process. But we want the Supreme Court to look into it if anomalies are detected,” he said.

The apex court had monitored the exercise of updating the NRC of 1951 in Assam. About 19.06 lakh out of 3.3 crore applicants were excluded from the updated draft.

In his first media briefing as the Chief Minister, Dr Sarma appealed to Paresh Baruah, the military chief of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) to come forward for peace talks.

“A dialogue with the ULFA-I is a two-way traffic. Paresh Baruah has to come forward. Similarly, we have to go to him. If both sides have the will, communication won’t be difficult,” he said.

The Chief Minister cited the examples of Bodoland Territorial Region and Karbi Anglong districts where various extremist groups have signed peace pacts with the Centre.

“In the past five years under the BJP-led government, people saw a process of peace and development in Assam. Our effort now will be to bring the remaining rebel groups to the talks table for the establishment of permanent peace in the State,” he said.

He made it clear to the ULFA-I that killings and abductions would not solve any problems. His appeal followed the surrender of an ULFA-I leader in Nagaland’s Mon district. He told the security forces that the abducted ONGC employee Ritul Saikia was being held captive in Myanmar.

Dr Sarma also said the priority of his government would be to contain the “alarming” COVID-19 pandemic while claiming Assam has ₹7,000 crore in the treasury for dealing with any crisis.

He said the first meeting of the State Cabinet will be held on Tuesday and the government would try to fulfil all pre-poll promises, which include making Assam flood-free.

Earlier in the day, Governor Jagdish Mukhi administered the oath of office and secretary to Dr Sarma and 13 others who were also sworn in as Cabinet Ministers.

Three of them belong to two BJP allies. They are Asom Gana Parishad president Atul Bora, its working president Keshab Mahanta and former Rajya Sabha member Urkhao Gwra Brahma of the United People’s Party Liberal.

The BJP ministers are the party’s State president Ranjeet Kumar Dass, Parimal Suklabaidya, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Ajanta Neog, Ranoj Pegu, Sanjay Kishan, Jogen Mohan, Ashok Singhal, Pijush Hazarika and Bimal Bora. Mr Brahma (UPPL), Mr Pegu, Mr Singhal and Bimal Bora are first time ministers.

Ms Neog, the only woman in the ministry, had switched over to the BJP from the Congress in December last year.

Five Chief Ministers of the northeast and BJP’s national president J.P. Nadda were among the dignitaries who attended the swearing-in ceremony. Before taking the oath, Dr Sarma had visited Kamakhya and some other temples in and around Guwahati.

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