The controversies around the Final Draft of Citizenship in Assam

Why has the final NRC list not been notified yet? What are the contentions of the BJP led Government of Assam?

The story so far: In response to a Right to Information (RTI) application by The Hindu, the State Coordinator, National Register of Citizens (NRC), Assam said that 1032 doubtful cases in the final draft of NRC, Assam have been referred to the concerned district commissioners for necessary action. The Supreme Court monitored final draft of the NRC was published on August 31, 2019. The final citizens’ register is yet to be notified by the Registrar General of India (RGI) that works under the Union Home Ministry. The State coordinator is a Secretary rank officer of Assam government who assists the RGI as citizenship is a central subject.

THE GIST

  • A Right to Information application by The Hindu to the the State Coordinator, NRC, Assam specifies the number of illegal entries in the database as 1,032.
  • The State Coordinator, NRC said that the details of “illegal foreigners” had crept into the updated list while genuine citizens were left out.
  • The final NRC is yet to be notified by the Registrar General of India. Those excluded will get an opportunity to present their case before Foreigners Tribunals.

Why is it significant?

The BJP Government in Assam has rejected the NRC in its current form and demanded a reverification. It has alleged that lakhs of “illegal migrants” have been included in the register while genuine citizens have been excluded. In December 2020, the State Coordinator, NRC submitted an affidavit to the Gauhati High Court containing the details of “illegal foreigners” whose names had crept into the updated list of citizens released in 2019. The RTI response obtained by The Hindu specify the number of such illegal entries in the database- 1,032. Assam based lawyer Aman Wadud said that the 2019 register is final and not supplementary. “The Supreme Court on five occasions has called the register as final. Moreover, the RGI has repeatedly asked the State Coordinator to issue rejection slips to those excluded from the NRC, but it has refused to listen to the RGI and questioned the entire SC monitored process. This is gross injustice to 19 lakh people who are waiting to prove their citizenship for more than two years,” Mr. Wadud said.

What is the NRC?

The NRC was first created in 1951 in Assam to determine those born there, therefore Indian, and who might be a migrant from erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. The register was updated on August 31, 2019. Out of 3.29 crore applicants, 19.06 lakh were excluded from the final draft NRC. The final NRC is yet to be notified by the Registrar General of India (RGI) under Home Ministry, as those excluded will get an opportunity to present their case before Foreigners Tribunals (FT), quasi-judicial bodies unique to the State. The FTs can begin hearing only when the excluded applicants receive “rejection slips” from the authorities. This process is yet to start. The ministry had clarified that "non-inclusion of a person’s name in NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared as a foreigner" as they would be given adequate opportunity to present their case before the FTs.

What is the background to update NRC?

It was a culmination of the Assam Accord signed in 1985 after the six-year long Assam agitation, for detection, disenfranchisement and deportation of foreigners. The Assam Public Works (APW) moved the apex court in 2009, following which the process was revived. In 2013, following the court’s directive a notification to update the register was published in the official gazette. A draft list was first published in June 2018 and then June 2019, in total excluding 41 lakh people. 36 lakh people reapplied for inclusion at various NRC Seva kendras . It was updated as per the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

What did the RTI reply say?

In response to the RTI application filed by The Hindu, the Office of State Coordinator of NRC, Assam said that “1032 number of cases of DV/DF/PFT/DVD/DFD/PFTD categories have been referred to the concerned Deputy Commissioner to take necessary action” as per Clause 4(3) & 4(6) of the Schedule 4(A) 4 of Citizenship Rules, 2003. The abbreviations cited above stand for doubtful voters, declared foreigners, reference pending at Foreigners Tribunals (FT), descendants of D voters, descendants of declared foreigners, cases of declared foreigners pending in FTs. Doubtful voters are those whose cases are pending in FTs or who have been declared foreigners by the tribunals and have challenged the order. Rule 3 and 4 says that the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration may at any time before the final-publication “cause or direct to cause verification of names” and district registrar should maintain that list separately at village and ward level.

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