New Delhi, 3oth June: The final draft of Assam’s updated National Register of Citizens (NRC), which was supposed to be announced on Saturday, has been postponed. The release was put off due to heavy rains in parts of the state. The new date for release of the data is expected to be clear after a Supreme Court hearing on Monday.
Speculation and tension is rife in Assam as the state awaits to know who all are cleared to be citizens of the country. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal announced that no violence will follow after the release as the government has deployed adequate security across Assam.
The government has sought about 150 companies of paramilitary forces to maintain law and order during the release.
So what is the NRC? Why is it such a big deal?
The NRC is a record of all the legal citizens of a state. The first NRC was created in 1951 following the Census of the same year. It was basically a serialised list of houses and property holdings in every Indian village with the number of people residing in them along with their names. The government then instructed the records to be stored in the offices of the Deputy Commissioners and Sub-Divisional Officers. In the 1960s, the NRC data was handed over the police. However, by the 1980s, there had been demands in Assam to update the list.
Close on the heels of the anti-illegal foreigners’ movement in Assam in 1980, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Assam Gana Parishad in 1980 submitted a memorandum to the Centre, seeking the ‘updation’ of the list. The move was aimed at protecting the indigenous culture of Assam from illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The idea was to update all the names on the electoral rolls up till 1971, or their descendants, and also those names that had been included in the initial NRC of 1951 so that the updated NRC for Assam would reflect its true population.
Why is it in the news now?
After a series of litigations, the Supreme Court, in a judgment dated December 17, 2014, fixed a timeline to update and publish the NRC and that it will monitor the process. This process is coming to a culmination now. The Supreme Court had fixed June 30 as the date to publish the final draft of the NRC. But the state wants an extension because of the floods.
What is the problem?
The first draft of the NRC, which was released in January 2018, listed only 1.9 crore people as citizens out of the 3.9 crore people who had filed the NRC application. The updated NRC will count only those as Assam citizens who can prove their residency on or before March 21, 1971. This means that all those not included in the list run the risk of being rendered, illegal immigrants.
The government has not yet announced any concrete plans about what it wishes to do with those who are not identified as indigenous citizens. The NRC updation collides with the proposed Citizenship Amendment 2016 Bill by the BJP-AGP alliance in Assam, which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus living in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
What happens to those whose names are not in NRC?
All those whose names are not there in the draft NRC will get another chance at explaining/complaining to the NRC authorities. But those who do not have their names in the final NRC will be deemed as not a citizen of the country. They will have to fight the battle in the foreigners tribunals to prove themselves as Indians.