As the deadline is approaching for the publication of the final list of National Register of Citizens (NRC) on August 31st, 2019, the fate of over 200,000 people in Assam hinges on it.
The purpose to update the NRC is to identify Indian citizens amongst the people residing in the state and to weed out illegal migrants who entered the Indian territory after the midnight of March 24th, 1971.
The Supreme Court on August 14th, 2019 has directed the NRC authorities to publish the list of exclusions on August 31st, 2019 only online and it shall be family-wise.
As only five days are left for the final publication of NRC which will decide the fate of the people in the state, let’s look back at how it all started.
- The first NRC register was prepared after the 1951 Census of India.
- Currently, the NRC is being updated in Assam to include the names of those persons/descendants who appear in the 1951 NRC or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of March 24th, 1971 or in the admissible documents issued up to midnight of March 24th, 1971.
- Later, in the year 2013, the update process of NRC started again, when the Supreme Court of India passed orders for its update.
- After the order was passed, a court bench comprising of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton Fali Nariman has been monitoring the process closely.
- The entire updation process of NRC in the state is headed by the State Coordinator of National Registration, Assam, Prateek Hajela.
- The situation heated up in Assam when a partial draft of the NRC was released on December 31st, 2017. Many found their names excluded from the list which led to chaos in the state.
- Subsequently, on July 30th, 2018, the complete draft NRC was released. A total of 2,89,83,677 persons were found eligible out of 3,29,91,384 applicants in the final draft of the NRC. The situation in the state which was already chaotic turned worse as people took to the streets to protest against the entire process.
- Political leaders, youth organizations, students’ and local bodies started blaming each other for the exclusion of genuine citizens from the final draft list of NRC. The All Assam Students’ Union urged the government to publish illegal immigrants free NRC.
- The All India United Democratic Front alleged that the ruling BJP government is planning to drop the names of lakh of minorities from the final NRC list. The All BTC Bengali Youth Students’ Federation alleged that certain communities are making false objections to harass minority communities.
- The panic of not finding their names in the final draft of NRC allegedly triggered people to take drastic steps as many suicide cases were recorded in the year 2018. The feeling of denial of Indian citizenship made over 16 people end their lives in 2018, as per media reports.
- Eminent educationists, youth leaders and common people voiced openly about their doubts of an error-free publication of NRC as Indian citizens were declared ‘D’ voters by Foreign Tribunals. They also alleged that the process is a corrupt one as several persons, officials were arrested for demanding money in order to enlist names in the final NRC list.
- On June 26th, 2019, the authorities published an additional draft exclusion list consisting of 1,02,462 persons. With the publication of this additional draft, the Supreme Court had set the deadline of the final publication of NRC on July 31st, 2019.
- Later, the Supreme Court extended the deadline to August 31st, 2019 and it upheld its decision besides receiving several pleas by the Centre and the state governments for conducting re-verification of names to check wrongful inclusions or exclusions, especially in bordering districts of Assam. The court also mentioned that the security aspects of the data involving NRC will get the same kind as of Aadhaar.
- Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal assured the people that the BJP-led Assam government will provide all the necessary legal steps if genuine citizens are excluded from the final list of NRC.
- Former Assam Chief Minister and veteran Congress leader Tarun Gogoi has time and again stated that he has doubts over the publication of an error-free NRC. He also termed the NRC draft list as ‘waste of paper’.
- Assam Director General of Police Kuladhar Sakia said that the state police have taken adequate security measures ahead of the publication of the final NRC. Sonowal on August 23rd, 2019 reviewed the law-and-order situation of the State before and after the final publication of the NRC.
- The time limit of filing of appeals for the people of Assam excluded from the NRC in the Foreigners’ Tribunals has been increased from 60 days to 120 days.
- Union Home Minister appealed people not to panic after the publication of the NRC. The Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the Assam government will provide legal aid to the needy people amongst those excluded from the NRC. The Assam government has agreed to set up an adequate number of tribunals at convenient locations.
Photo credit: @nrcassam