Assam apprehensions about citizens’ register publication on June 30

Kolkata
17 Jun 2018

With the final draft for the National Register of Citizens (NRC) due for publication in Assam on June 30, the Assam government has stepped up internal security in an effort to prevent volatile situations.
“We are closely monitoring the situation. If the situation demands, we will seek more forces from the Centre before the release of the NRC,”Assam director general of police Kuladhar Saikia had said last week.
The first draft of the updated version of the NRC in Assam was published on December 31. Of about 33 million people in Assam who had applied for inclusion of their names in the NRC by submitting legacy documents, only about 20 million names had been included in the first list, leaving a whopping 13 million out. The publication of the first draft had not been followed by violent protests as feared. Often some names of members of a single family had appeared in the list while names of others had been left out had possibly raised hopes that the mistakes would be rectified in the final draft. But it had raised apprehensions about the rigour of the verification process.
Assam is the only state that has an NRC; the first NRC was published in 1951, soon after Independence, by recording particulars of all persons enumerated during the census. The updating of the NRC, being done under the directive of the Supreme Court, would be done by incorporating the names of all persons whose names appeared in the NRC of 1951, or in any of the electoral rolls till the midnight of March 24, 1971, or in any of the other admissible documents which would prove their presence in Assam or any other part of India before March 25, 1971, which, according to the Assam Accord, is the cut-off date for determination of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
All the names appearing in the NRC 1951, or any of the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971, together are called the ‘legacy data.’ There would be two requirements for inclusion of names in the updated NRC: the existence of a person’s name in the pre-1971 period and proving linkage with such a person. Details submitted by the applicants would be verified.
The apprehension that the names of many genuine citizens could be left out has arisen because, in the absence of a proper documentation system in the country, it had become difficult for many applicants to procure the required documents, like birth certificates and school certificates, to prove their relationship with persons whose names have appeared in the legacy document. This is true particularly of settlers who have come to Assam from other parts of the country. Other state governments and agencies to whom documents have been sent for verification have often been slow to respond. Only about 150,000 of about 550,000 documents which had been dispatched for verification have been returned by other state governments, according to a report by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis.
The objective behind updating the NRC is to compile a list of names of genuine Indian citizens living in Assam, and in the process detect foreigners who had illegally entered after March 25, 1971.
The question is, what would happen to people whose names would not figure in the final NRC and are declared illegal immigrants. Deporting them to Bangladesh is not an easy solution, as Bangladesh has consistently denied that its citizens had entered India illegally. If a large number of names are left out from the final NRC, a grave human tragedy may unfold in Assam. (EOIC & PTI)