The much waited the second and final draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on July 30. It includes about 2.89 crore names as opposed to 1.9 crores of the first draft out of the total 3.29 crore applicants. This also means that 40.07 lakh applicants did not find their names on the draft of this historic document. The state government of Assam has urged the people not to panic if some names don’t appear on this draft list. Even Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that those left out will get a chance to prove their Indian citizenship. He assures that no genuine Indian Citizens would be excluded from the NRC list. Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal has stated that: “Even if someone’s name doesn’t appear in the National Register of Citizens, they’ll be treated as an Indian citizen and never as a foreigner. No one will have to go to any detention camp.”
The process of the NRC started in December 2013 and applications for it were invited in May-June 2015. But the journey actually began during the Assam Movement in the early 1980s. After the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, a process was proposed to identify illegal migrations in Assam. But it took almost three decades to come into effect.
The People of Assam participated in a six-year-long movement, followed by a 32-year-long wait, which resulted in the NRC process. The NRC is not just an official work process. It is directly related with the people of Assam’s hopes, aspirations and their wait for a free and fair Assam. It is also in the long-term interest of the people for peace and stability within the state.
According to NRC officials, it is being updated as per the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. As such, eligibility for inclusion in updated NRC shall be determined based on electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971, and in their absence, the list of admissible documents issued upto midnight of March 24, 1971.
Those whose names weren’t there in the draft register will have the legal right to apply again by filing a claim between August 30 and September 28, 2018.
From August 7 onwards, these people will be able to know the reason behind the non-inclusion of their names in the NRC. They can visit the Seva Kendras or get the information from the local registrar.
Our television news channels produced more heat than light on a complex and sensitive issue that will affect the lives of millions of people. Instead of explaining the complexities, the channels played highly slanted political propaganda, misleading the public and potentially setting the stage for communal unrest. This is not to say that there has been no illegal immigration at all from Bangladesh or Assam has no migration issue, but media has conflated this by calling those left out of the NRC as “illegal migrants” with zero proof. The state, central governments and Supreme Court have not yet declared these people as illegal migrants, the final list of NRC is also yet to come and all the legal provisions are being given to the people whose names got left out. This is just the draft, not the final NRC. Please look into Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement, where he also said that NRC list is just a draft and no one is going to the detention centre.
According to a news report by Newslaundry, some regional newspapers of Assam have left no stone unturned to glorify this loss of citizenship for 4 million people. Some of the headlines of regional dailies like :
“New chapter to the life of the nation – Names of 40.07 lakhs not included”
“Government getting ready to look after foreigners with state treasury money – What measures after NRC: Government remains silent”
“Threat of Foreigners exposed”
According to Alt News, a reputed English TV News channel shared incorrect data on the religious demographic composition in Assam, which triggered misinformation and fear-mongering. Later, the channel corrected the data and apologized too.
People are hopeful by this process, but some formal mechanism should be adopted. In an ideal scenario, the National Register of Citizens should solve the issue of migrants in Assam. Frankly, there will be several hands which will create every possibility to delay the publishing of the final NRC list. Therefore, the NRC team should set a strict and specific action plan for this process. The problem with our leaders is that they just search for situations to take advantage of. Another problem that will arise is when credit needs to be given. Both Congress and BJP will fight for it. According to me, credit goes to the Supreme Court, NRC Authorities and the people of Assam.
Just before the publishing of the second draft of NRC, an online petition circulated on Avaaz went viral. The petition noted that the NRC process was a ploy to delete Muslim applicants’ names. Responding to the petition, the NRC office emphasised that its sole aim was to detect foreigners, and the process is free from religious and linguistic biases.
The process is ongoing under the observation of the honourable Supreme Court, so that all directives are followed and ensure that there is no delay. Organizations like All Assam Students’ Union and others should also monitor every process and the government should ensure that the NRC team is free from any political fear. The community should also not make any such comments which may create problems and doubts for no reason. It is also true that some illegal migrants are trying their best effort to include their names in NRC list with false identifications. So officials of the NRC should be careful while encountering the problem.
To conclude, the greatest asset of the NRC, when published in the completed version, would be its accuracy and credibility. Thus, in order to achieve all the objectives of the process, the process of stringent verification should be continued. At the same time, none of the Indian citizens living in Assam should be left out from NRC. Here, I would like to make an appeal to the government that, along with the successful NRC update, other provisitions of Assam Accords – especially the matter of providing constitutional safeguards to the indigenous people must also implemented in the time frame. Once again, I sincerely hope that the final updated NRC would solve the long-pending illegal migrants issue once and for all.