The Indian Civil Liberties Union: Providing Free Legal Aid To Those Left Out Of NRC Assam

The Indian Civil Liberties Union (ICLU) is a network of lawyers, activists, paralegals and students across India who are committed to the protection of civil liberties. Conceptualized in 2018, the organization has since worked tirelessly to protect constitutional values and the rights and freedoms of citizens, and others. The organization has helped in the drafting of the anti-lynching law and implementation of the Supreme Court guidelines in case of lynching. They also reported on the violation of the Model Code of Conduct during the general elections of 2019. ICLU has also prepared easily accessible documents on several legislations ranging from the Right to Information Bill, 2019 to the National Register of Citizens in Assam. Through these documents, the people of India can easily understand their rights, privileges and duties as per the law.

In our work, we not only disseminate easily accessible information but also take it upon ourselves to fight for just causes. ICLU has also built a veritable online presence on social media, and it stays abreast of any development that is likely to impact the civil liberties afforded to the citizens of our country. It is continually growing in number, collaborating with the government, Non-Government Organizations, universities, individual organizations etc., so that it may expand its scope to cover human rights and humanitarian issues all across the country.

In Assam, almost two million people have lost their citizenship, their rights and privileges. This number includes genuine citizens who have stayed in India for decades; they have now been suddenly declared non-citizens. On September 9, 2019, a People’s Tribunal on the NRC Implementation process took place in which current and former judges and chief justices comprised the jury. They severely criticised the implementation of the Government and stressed on the plight of vulnerable sections comprising of women and children.

A large number of poor and impoverished migrant labourers working at construction sites or those who earn their living through rag-picking in many cities outside Assam were required to return for the process and were subjected to its arbitrary mechanisms, and this has affected their livelihood. In a number of cases, children born to single mothers or victims of polygamy were not mentioned in the family tree. This led to the exclusion of even small children from the final NRC and making them vulnerable to detention. This is why ICLU is committed to bringing justice to those excluded, to protect those threatened, to save those attacked and restore the rights of those whose rights were arbitrarily taken away.

ICLU reaches out to
Indian Civil Liberties Union reaches out to people who need help in the appeal process.

The organization led by Anas Tanwir, has become the first advocacy organization to reach and provide free legal aid to those left out of the final list of the NRC in Assam. In Assam, they provided paralegal training to students from National Law University, and Judicial Academy, Assam and around 30 students became a part of ICLU and assured to help them in their efforts. At Udalgiri, ICLU set up a free legal aid camp where almost four hundred people were helped. The ICLU team comprised of Anas Tanwir, Agastya Sharma Sen, Vinayak Pant and students of NLU-JAA.

The organization will be expanding to Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal and Hyderabad and are in talks for collaboration with various National Law Universities (NLUs) across India, as well as other universities and colleges. We want people to know that as far as pan India NRC is concerned, there is no need to fear but to be prepared with the relevant documents and details.

ICLU plans to set up a permanent legal aid clinic in the affected districts of Assam. The Paralegal programme of ICLU will be expanded across India so that every attendee is trained under practicing Supreme Court lawyers and will have practical knowledge about court proceedings and can help others with their knowledge, training and research with respect to the NRC. People trained by ICLU will have the opportunity to help hundreds of people who have lost their rights, their privileges, who have been disenfranchised and wrongly denied their rights.

As millions face statelessness, causing helplessness on an unprecedented scale, ICLU will act as an organization that helps in litigation and provides assistance to people in filing appeals to the Foreign Tribunals. Our efforts are a mere drop in the ocean, and much more is needed to be done. We all need to come together and make every effort to ensure a fair process is followed in the determination of citizenship status.

shikwa-e-zulmat-e-shab se to kahin behtar
apne hisse ki koi shama jalate jate

– Ahmed Faraz

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