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NATIONAL REGISTER FOR CITIZENS IN ASSAM: THE WAY FORWARD

In 1947, partition resulted in many tearful eyes. Since then the issue of migration and demographic change in the states have been an area of dispute. One such dispute in news recently is NRC i.e. National Register of Citizens.
WHAT IS NRC?
Formalized in 1951 based on the report of the Census 1951, it includes names of people who were then citizens of India and resident of Assam. It has been alleged by some groups that there has been large influx of illegal migrant from East Pakistan (due to forced prosecution of minorities in that country) and various other parts of the country. This has led to a crisis in the state. Additionally, workers were brought for Tea Plantation by Britishers before Independence. Taking this influx as a threat and danger to demography a largescale agitation was done by the All Assam’s Student Union which resulted in Assam Accord and under this, a cut-off date was mentioned. All those who came to Assam on or before January 1, 1966 were declared to be citizens and were granted full rights. For all those who entered after that but before March 25, 1971 were to be granted citizenship on the order of “Foreigners Tribunal Records” after cooling down period of 10 years.
Second report of NRC was commissioned in 2013 after a public interest litigation was filed in the Supreme Court for the removal of “illegal voters” for the electoral rolls of Assam. Final deadline for NRC was July 31, 2018 when the first draft has been published which has excluded 40 lakh people from the list of 3.3 crore citizens. The list was formulated based on certain documents prescribed by the authorities which was to be submitted by the applicants and tracing down their ancestral history their names were included in the list.
To prove the citizenship, applicants are required to prove that they or their parents or grandparents were citizen of India on or before March 24, 1971. Citizenship is being granted based on ‘jus sanguinis’ that is giving prominence to blood ties.
NRC is covering the issue of citizenship which comes under the Union List. Due to this, it is fully funded by central government and is being executed by the State Government as it concerns directly through them. Registrar General of India is the authority who is overlooking this whole procedure.
ISSUES
The process of certifying the citizenship through “family tree verification” and then rejection of claim based on Gram Panchayat Certificate was not welcomed by the applicants. Also, the apex court has not taken any substantial step for making things better for people holding gram panchayat certificate. This process has resulted in various inconsistencies like parent’s name is there, but name of children is missing from the list. People having valid Aadhar card are also out of list which makes them vulnerable and they face threat of exclusion.
A petition was filed in the Supreme Court challenging Section 6A of the Citizenship Act which was added in 1986 and is applicable only to Assam. This section specifically deals with people who entered in Assam before March 25, 1971.
The court has been liberal while granting citizenship to Chakmas of Arunachal Pradesh who stayed for three decades, but approach has been clearly different when it comes to Assam residents. Recent, Citizenship Amendment Bill which is currently with Joint Parliamentary Committee provides citizenship to minorities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. By reducing the residency requirement from 11 years to 6 years, provision has been eased for illegal immigrants from these countries. Assamese are against the illegal immigrants irrespective of their religion and this bill will further dilute the provision of Assam Accord.
WAY FORWARD
Once final draft of NRC is published there will be good number of people who will be out of the list. They have the choice to move to Foreigner Tribunal for claiming citizenship and they can exercise right of further appeal. On the paper of NRC, they will be non-citizens and Bangladesh has not assented for taking back these immigrants. Also, we need to understand that state cannot act on illegal immigrants unilaterally and taking neighbor country on board is part of this exercise otherwise the whole exercise can turn into a futile one. India has not approached Bangladesh on the Immigrants issue and has also assured that there will be no deportation of these people. It is also expected from the Supreme court that people who have not been included in the NRC list will get liberal relief as Chakmas received.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 

 

Saurabh Pandey is currently a 5th-year student at Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He has a strong interest in bureaucratic and diplomatic events happening around International Relations. He is currently working as Publishing Editor with IJLPP. 

1 Comment

  1. Sidharth Arora says:

    Nicely written

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