Guwahati: Fourteen years after the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the state and central governments entered into a tripartite agreement in New Delhi to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951, as per the exclusive citizenship cut-off date of March 27, 1971 for Assam, the revised NRC was published by the office of the Registrar General of India (RGI) this August 31.
As per a press note issued by the office of the state coordinator for NRC in Guwahati on August 31, a total of 3,11,21,004 persons were included in the final NRC out of the 3,30,27,661 applicants. It said, “Taking into account all the persons already included and after disposal of all the claims and objections and proceedings under clause 4 (3) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, it has been found that a total 3,11,21,004 numbers of persons are found eligible for inclusion in the final NRC, leaving out 19,06,657 numbers of persons including those who did not submit claims.”
The status of both inclusion and exclusion can be viewed online on the NRC’s website, www.nrcassam.nic.in.
The final draft, published on July 30, 2018, left out 40,07,007 applicants. Out of them 36,26,630 filed the claims forms for inclusion in the final NRC. Also, “Objections were received against inclusion of 1, 87,633 persons whose names had appeared in the complete draft.” The NRC authorities also excluded 1,02,462 persons through an additional draft exclusion list published on June 26, 2019, thus taking the number of those excluded from the complete draft to over 41 lakh.
The additional list contained the names of those applicants who were already declared foreigners by the tribunals, or are contesting their citizenship in higher courts, or their citizenship was brought under doubt through the process of doubtful voters, instituted by the Election Commission in the state in the 1990s. The number also included the family members of such applicants.
At 10 am on August 31, the office of the state coordinator for NRC in Guwahati, which has worked in tandem with the RGI’s office to update the citizens’ register as per the instructions of the Supreme Court, uploaded the supplementary list of inclusions and exclusions. A night before, the NRC authorities uploaded on its website, the Facebook page and Twitter handle the instructions for applicants to follow in order to check the uploaded the list. The NRC press note said, “Any person who is not satisfied with the outcome of the claims and objections can file appeal before the Foreigners’ Tribunals.”
— NRC Updation Assam (@NRCupdateAssam) August 30, 2019
Though a well-attended press meet was held by the RGI and the coordinator in Guwahati to announce the final draft on July 30, 2018, they chose not to hold one today to give out the details of the final NRC to media persons or take up any question.
The 2018 list had triggered a national and international controversy, considering that those persons could lose their Indian citizenship and turn stateless as Bangladesh, their supposed country of origin, had never accepted that any of their citizens had crossed over to neighbouring Assam. Media reports of harassment faced by members of the public due to purported anomalies and haphazardness in the system further added to the storm.
Supreme Court intervention
The Supreme Court, which had decided the date for publication of the final NRC, intervened in 2009 in response to a petition by a Guwahati-based civil society group Assam Public Works (APW) which sought its intervention to sieve a large number of immigrants presumably residing in the state after having illegally crossed over from Bangladesh. It agreed to update the NRC to achieve the goal considering that the Central and the state governments had already begun the process by entering into a tripartite agreement.
Also, the state already had an exclusive citizens’ register prepared by the Census Commissioner of India in 1951. It was created at the instructions of the Central government then by collating the data collected for the 1952 Census. The exercise was carried out to ready a list of permanent residents of the state post Partition.
The two-member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R.F. Nariman approved the modalities for the NRC update, arrived at by the state government after a series of long and thorough consultations with the AASU and All India Minority Students Union (AAMSU). In October 2013, a state coordinator for the NRC, Prateek Hajela, was appointed to oversee the day to day work to be carried out by thousands of state government employees. As it was a citizens’ enumeration exercise, the office of the RGI was involved.
Since then, many a deadline has been missed. Though the SC, in 2018, had ordered publication of the final NRC on July 31, 2019, at the request of the state coordinator in mid-July citing the flood situation in the state, decided to extend the deadline by a month. It also rejected the state and the Central governments’ plea for more time citing the need to conduct 20% sample verification in the four border districts and 10% in the rest of the 29 districts of the state.
The Supreme Court is yet to decide the next date of hearing.