It would now be academic ~ but not entirely irrelevant ~ to ask if sleeping dogs could not have been allowed to lie for another nine months or so.

For the eruption of a political storm after the publication of the draft NRC for Assam has served to exacerbate to perilous levels the divisions of an already deeply polarised polity in the run-up to 2019.

The apex court may have asserted that no coercive action would be taken till the revision was completed of some four million cases of people “excluded” from the draft register, but that will not serve to assuage the long-simmering emotional, religious and political tensions that have now reached boiling point.

That the BJP has fielded its president to spearhead a counter-assault on a Mamata-led warning of a “civil war” only exposes the home minister’s Biblical tendency to wash his hands off politically-loaded issues ~ lynching was a law and order matter for state governments to tackle, the NRC was conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court ~ poor North Block had nothing to do with it.

Was it purely coincidental that additional Central forces were despatched to Assam ahead of the publication of the draft register? Those who see mischief everywhere might also wonder how a question on Rohingyas came up in Parliament conveniently enough for the home ministry to fire a broadside against illegal immigrants.

And lingering doubts were confirmed when BJP loudmouths spoke of the NRC being launched in “Bangla”, and calling for illegal immigrants to be shot. The bias was re-confirmed.

The myopia of the political class was established when Amit Shah used the forum of the Rajya Sabha to turn the tables on the Congress by claiming that the BJP had exhibited the guts to do what the Congress had been too “chicken” to do ~ follow-up a key element of Rajiv Gandhi’s Assam Accord.

For while that punch confirmed the BJP looked no farther than immediate political gain, it discounted the larger interests of the nation. Not that Mamata’s parochial outburst truly articulated those interests, but the humanitarian angle was ignored by those who perceive everything from a saffron angle.

The furore in Parliament could be an omen for worse to follow. Mercifully there have been no reports of violence breaking out, but when four million people have cause to fear for their future there’s no telling what could happen.

The Supreme Court will have to do a lot more to avert a potential re-run of Assam’s history of violent uprisings, but its options are limited. It will have to rely on an administrative apparatus incapable of even getting electoral rolls in order.

Who will defuse the time-bomb that is ticking away? It is unfair to pass even that buck on to their Lordships. Alas, Rajnath Singh has already emulated Pilate.