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WHAT IS NRC?

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list of Indian citizens of Assam. The NRC was introduced to identify illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and recognise the Indian citizens in Assam. It was prepared in 1951, following the census of 1951. Assam has become the first State to get the first draft of its own updated NRC.

For a person’s name to be included in the updated NRC list of 2018, he/ she will have to furnish:

  • Existence of name in the legacy data: The legacy data is the collective list of the NRC data of 1951 and the electoral rolls up to midnight of 24 March 1971.
  • In case of the applicants born after 1971, by Proving linkage with the person whose name appears in the legacy data.

WHY THE NRC IS BEING UPDATED IN ASSAM?

The NRC is now being updated to detect Bangladeshi migrants who may have illegally entered Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1971.

HOW NRC IS UPDATED?

The process of updation has undertaken as per provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 & the Citizenship (Registration of citizens and Issues of National identity) Rules 2003.

HOW IS VERIFICATION CARRIED OUT?

The updating process started in May 2015 and ended on 31 August 2015. A total of 3.29 crore people applied through 68.31 lakh applications. The process of verification involved house-to-house field verification, determination of authenticity of documents, family tree investigations in order to rule out bogus claims of parenthood and linkages and separate hearings for married women.

CONCERNS

  • There is a renewed conviction that the exercise of counting Assam’s citizens is a political one, and the new register will be a document of exclusion, not inclusion.
  • There are important humanitarian concerns, concerns that go beyond identification and numbers.
  • Nearly five decades have elapsed since the cut-off date of March 25, 1971, and individuals who have sneaked in illegally have children and grandchildren by now.
  • Discrimination against Muslims and Bengalis.
  • In at least 10 districts the records are incomplete or unavailable.
  • A number of people may be deprived of citizenship through this process.
  • Forged documents.
  • Delay in process.
  • Security situation in entire neighbouring states would be affected.
  • Communal violence and potential to sow seeds of violence in the state
  • Housing the ones who are declared illegal immigrants is a concern as the existing detention centers have poor infrastructure.
  • Proposed citizenship amendment that grants citizenship to illegal immigrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Christian faiths is severely opposed in Assam.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE CHALLENGES?

  • CONFLICT WITH CITIZENSHIP BILL

Government is mulling to pass Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, who have entered Assam illegally post-1971. But once NRC exercise will be completed, a lot of Hindu Bangladeshi might not appear in the list, thus, will be designated as illegal migrants. Thus, it will lead to confusion and moreover harden the resolve of people not to assimilate Hindu Bangladeshi in Assam according to NRC.

  • EXCLUSION OF PEOPLE

Draft NRC could lead to exclusion and inclusion errors and consequently large number of legitimate Indian citizens could end up being denied their voting and other rights.

  • CREATE FAULT LINES

There is already lot of tension in Assam between Hindus and Muslims. Exclusion of some people might raise apprehensions of exclusion of a particular community creating new fault lines leading to social unrest and further communal tensions.

  • NO DEPORTATION TREATY

It is been declared that illegal migrants out of the list of NRC will be sent back to Bangladesh however India does not have any deportation treaty with Bangladeshwhich will lead to further complexities.

  • Proper Redressal mechanism with sufficient time for the 40 Lakhs left out.
  • Making Redressal easier.

Example: the task of putting a family tree together was infinitely more difficult for women in rural areas.

  • Ensuring illegal migrants do not move into other states.
  • Maintaining peace in the neighbourhood.

WHAT NEXT?

The process of filing claims and objections will start on 30 August, during which people whose names have been left out of the NRC Assam, can once again appeal to have their case reconsidered. Those left out are not yet being labelled as “foreigners” or being sent to detention centres. However, only those applicants who had submitted their applications in 2015 will be considered.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in a statement, said that people, whose names had been omitted from the draft, would be given ample opportunity to file their claims. Even those whose names do not figure in the Final NRC will get an opportunity to approach the Tribunal. There is no question of any coercive action against anyone.

CONCLUSION

The best case scenario, at this moment, would be for the Court to let the draft NRC come out in public. It should create an orderly mechanism for those aggrieved by exclusion to exhaust judicial remedies in accordance with law, without prejudicing their rights by prejudging any matter. There still remains the question as to what happens to those who are declared “illegal migrants” in accordance with the law after all judicial remedies are exhausted. There is, however, a grave risk that the Supreme Court, far from ensuring a fair and just process of preparing the NRC.

Is there a similar situation for migrants in any other state?

In Arunachal Pradesh, a demand for citizenship to Chakmas has been pending for decades. While the Centre is keen to grant them citizenship, it is being opposed by the state government. In Kashmir, West Pakistan refugees are allowed to vote in national elections but not in Assembly elections