New Delhi: As many as 31 lakh of the 40 lakh applicants left out of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have filed claims forms for their inclusion in the roster till December 31, the last date of filling claims and objections to the Supreme Court monitored updating process.
Media reports quoting NRC officials said that around 31 lakh claims forms were received at various NRC Seva Kendras (NSK) across the state between September 25 and the midnight of December 31.
The reports also said 2.65 lakh objection forms were submitted alongside the claims forms. “The process of filing of objections was interesting as till a couple of days back, only around 700 objections were filed and the process shot up abruptly in the last two days to reach the 2.65 lakh,” reported Assam Tribune. It said, “The actual number may go up a little higher as reports are still pouring in from remote parts of the state.”
NRC officials said majority of the objections were filed in four districts – Barpeta, Nagaon, Morigaon and Kamrup. These districts have a large number of people with East Bengal origin. Taking note of the abysmal number of objections filed at the NSKs, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) ran an “awareness campaign” in various parts of the state to help those interested in filing objection forms.
Aside from the Supreme Court’s directive to the Centre to update the NRC of 1951 to identify undocumented immigrants residing in the state, the register is being updated as per the AASU’s demand to the Centre and the state governments. A tripartite agreement was reached between the AASU and the government in 2005 to this effect. The NRC 1951 is the result of an exclusive exercise carried out in the state bordering East Pakistan/Bangladesh to keep a record of Indian citizens.
After missing many deadlines, the final draft NRC published in June 2018 excluded as many as 40 lakh of the total 3.29 crore people of the state, triggering a hue and cry. The SC gave three months’ time to those left out to file claims, along with a provision for objecting to names entered in the final draft.
Local reports quoting official sources in the first week of December said only about 5 lakh claim forms were submitted till then. However, in the next two weeks, it picked up pace.
As per the standard operating procedure (SOP) approved by the SC, between 1,500 and 2,500 officials would be involved in handling the process of issuing notices to the concerned persons from January 31 onwards. Hearing of the verification of forms is likely to begin from February 15.
Since the term for the updating the NRC was to expire on December 31, the Registrar General of India, which is conducting the process as per a SC directive, extended it till June 30, 2019. This is the sixth time since 2013 that the term has been extended by the government. The SC is, however, yet to set a date for the publication of the final NRC.
Though the Centre is yet to officially announce its policy on those who would be left out of the updated NRC, it had tabled the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in 2016 in the Lok Sabha to facilitate granting Indian citizenship on the basis of religion to Bangladeshis. The Bill triggered huge protests in Assam as it would dilute the main clause of the Assam Accord. The NRC is being updated as per the citizenship cut-off date of March 24, 1971, as mentioned in the Accord.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), formed by the Centre to look into various objections to the Bill, is likely to submit its report soon.