What Is the National Register of Citizens in Assam?

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On August 31st 2019, alarming news hit the headlines which read, ‘Over 19 lakh excluded from the final NRC of Assam’, and since then multiple debates have taken place on this topic, with political parties targeting each other, and the effectiveness of this step has been questioned. 
What is the NRC? 
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register which contains the names of all genuine Indian citizens. It is maintained by the Government of India and it contains relevant information for the purpose of identification of all genuine citizens of India. It was first prepared after the 1951 Indian Census, and at present, only Assam has such a register. This exercise of maintaining a register might be extended to other states as well. Nagaland is already creating a similar database known as the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants. The Centre is planning to create a National Population Register (NPR), which will contain demographic and biometric details of citizens.
NRC in Assam
The NRC in Assam is a list of the genuine Indian citizens living in the state. The register has been created with a purpose to identify the foreign nationals in the state of Assam which borders Bangladesh.
In 2013, following the Supreme Court’s order, which required more than 33 million people in Assam to prove that they were Indian nationals prior to March 24, 1971, the process of updating of the NRC began.


The final updated list of the NRC was released on August 31, 2019, and more than 1.9 million applicants failed to make it to the list. But, the roots of NRC go way back to the times of Indian independence, and an apparent immigration issue in Assam. 


A Timeline of the NRC- from independence to the final NRC



- 1950: Immigrants Act comes into force as a reaction to the influx of refugees from then East Pakistan to Assam after partition

- 1951: First Census of an independent India is conducted and based on the census, the first NRC is compiled.

- 1957: Immigrants Act repealed.

- 1964-65: Influx of refugees from East Pakistan due to disturbances in their native country.

- 1971: Riots and war in East Pakistan cause more influx of refugees. Independent Bangladesh comes into existence.

- 1979-1985: A six-year-long Assam agitation, led by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Gana Sangam Parishad for the purpose of detection, disenfranchisement and deportation of foreigners.

- 1983: Nellie Massacre in Central Assam claims the lives of more than 3000 people. Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act passed.

- 1985: Assam Accord signed by the Centre, state, AASU and AAGSP in the presence of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It stated that the foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971, shall be expelled.

- 1997: The Election Commission adds ‘D’ (doubtful) against names to indicate doubtful Indian citizenship.

- 2005: Supreme Court strikes down the IMDT Act as unconstitutional.

- 2010: The Pilot project starts in Chaygaon, Barpeta to update NRC. Project shelved because of violence in Barpeta.

- 2013: Supreme Court takes up APW petition and directs Centre and state to begin the process for updating of NRC.

- 2015: NRC updating begins.

- 2017: Out of 3.29 crore applicants, 1.9 crore people’s names registered in the draft of NRC on December 31.

- July 30, 2018: The second draft of NRC is published, with 40 lakh of 2.9 crore people excluded.

- June 26, 2019: An Additional Draft Exclusion List released, and 1,02,462 people excluded.

- August 31, 2019: Final NRC released, which excluded 19,06,657 people of the total applicants.



Criteria for proof of Citizenship


In Assam, one of the basic criteria that was set was that the names of applicant's family members should either be in the first NRC prepared in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971. 

Other than that, applicants were also given the option to present documents such as refugee registration certificate, birth certificate, LIC policy, land and tenancy records, citizenship certificate,  passport,  government-issued licence or certificate, bank/post office accounts, permanent residential certificate, government employment certificate, educational certificate and court records.


Why was the NRC created?


NRC for Indian citizens in Assam was first created in 1951. Manipur and Tripura were also granted permission to create their own NRCs, but it never took place. The idea behind the move was to identify Indian citizens in Assam because of "unabated" migration from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). 

The list included those who lived in India on January 26, 1950, or were born in India or had ancestors who were born in India or had been living in India for at least five years before the January 26, 1950 cut-off. 


The road ahead- What happens to the excluded individuals?


State Home Department officials said that although the NRC has been called ‘final’, the 19 million people who were excluded would have a chance to get back on the citizens’ list if they appeal against their exclusion and establish their citizenship via courts.


Each person who has been excluded will have 120 days to file an appeal at any of the existing 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals, which will have to decide on the case within six months. If one loses the case, then the person will have the option to move the High Court and the Supreme Court. In the case of Assam, it has been clarified that a person won’t be detained till he/she is declared a foreigner by the foreigners’ tribunal. 


Conclusion


It can’t be said that whether the decision was taken was a right one or a wrong one, but one thing is for sure, the decision will surely trigger many other changes within the state and within the country which will change the entire dynamics of the nation. 


- Purav Nayak

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What Is the National Register of Citizens in Assam? What Is the National Register of Citizens in Assam? Reviewed by EMN on September 06, 2019 Rating: 5

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