Information regarding NRC of India and shedding light on Assam – Tripura NRC case –

What is NRC?

The National Register of Citizens is a register containing names of all genuine Indian citizens RESIDING IN ASSAM. The register was first prepared after the 1951, Census of India.

The NRC is now being updated in Assam to include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the NRC, 1951, or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24 March 1971 or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to mid-night of 24 March 1971, which would prove their presence in Assam or in any part of India on or before 24 March 1971.

What is the intention of NRC?

The purpose of NRC update is to identify illegal migrants residing in Assam, who entered Indian territories after the midnight of 24 March 1971 and to determine the citizenship of the applicants who have applied for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC.

Why 24th March 1971?

The 1971 deadline was seen as a middle ground – it accounted for the migration of people from across Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, who were fleeing prosecution during the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict, but kept out those who had come in during the 1971 war that saw the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan, the official date for which is considered March 26.

The update process of NRC started in the year 2013 under the strict monitoring of Supreme Court of India. On the midnight of 31 December 2017, Part Draft NRC was released and subsequently on 30 July 2018, the Complete Draft NRC was released.

Violation of Supreme Court Order

The Supreme Court vide its order dated 16.07.2013 in WP( C) 274/2009 (The case by which Supreme Court ordered to update NRC in a time bound manner) has directed to publish the copies of NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to midnight of 24th March 1971 and make it available in all areas of the state up to the village level.

The Supreme Court said ,  “If these modalities are to be worked  out,  the  extracts  of  National Register of Citizens of 1951 as well as the  Electoral  Rolls up to the midnight of 24th March, 1971 will have to be  published  and made available in all the areas of the State, up to the Village level.”   But surprisingly only copies of NRC 1951 and electoral rolls of 1965,1966,1970 and 1971 has been published, it is to be noted that in many areas  copies of NRC 1951 has not been made available even though people of those areas have certified copies of NRC 1951.

According 6A of the Citizenship Act, amended after Assam Accord,  those who came to Assam on or after 1st day January  1966 but before 25th day of March 1971, should get themselves registered and  will be barred from voting for ten years. There is fear  among people that if they submit electoral rolls of 1966 to 1971 they will be denied voting rights for ten years.

Although NRC updating authorities  has published advertisement not to believe in rumours but the fact that NRC application form has different column for  NRC 1951 and different column for  Electoral Roll(s) up to 24th March 1971, the advertisements has not helped in mitigating apprehension of people that their voting rights could be curtailed after updation of NRC.

People has legitimate reason to fear and apprehend that their voting rights could be curtailed. NRC is been updated to solve the problem of  illegal immigration in Assam, this issue has been bread and butter for many chauvinist organizations. They surely will not let this issue die. People apprehend that after updation is completed there could be another round of agitation to deny voting rights for ten years for those who submits electoral rolls  issued between 1st day January  1966 and 25th day of March 1971.

‘Incomplete records’

Ainuddin Ahmed, general secretary of the All Assam Minorities Students’ Union, which has objected to the petition challenging the Constitutionality of Section 6(A), said it would be unfair to push the date back to 1951. “All systems in the state are in sync with the Assam Accord so this would just lead to a lot of confusion,” said Ahmed. The National Register of Citizens of 1951, which would be the go-to document for determining citizenship case the petition is upheld by the Apex Court, Ahmed said, was not a comprehensive record of people who migrated to Assam before 1948.

Hafiz Bashir Ahmed Qasimi of the Assam State Jamiat Ulama agreed. “We have implicated ourselves as a party in the case and we will oppose the move to revise the cut-off date,” said Qasimi. “The NRC [National Register of Citizens] of 1951 is an incomplete document…It’ll deprive many genuine people, who have been living here since much before 1948.” Qasmi said the demographers who carried out the population survey in 1951 couldn’t access many remote parts of the state owing to “geographical inconvenience”.

Support towards NRC

Tripura’s royal family on Wednesday extended its support in favour of having the National Register of Citizens in the state, which has given a tremendous push to the growing demand for an Assam-like exercise in the fourth state in the region that shares its border with Bangladesh.

The state’s royal scion Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma announced that “instead of staging dharna and protest in the street” he was taking the “legal” route in the interest of the people and the nation.

In a statement released on his official Facebook page, he said, “Will be ‘OFFICIALLY’ filing my affidavit in the Supreme Court for implementation of NRC in our state of Tripura this week.”

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph on Monday in a PIL by a non-political organization, the Tripura People’s Front, and two persons from the indigenous tribal community of Tripura sought responses from the Centre and the Election Commission about undertaking an exercise to create NRC for Tripura, like the one in Assam.

Why there is a sudden need for NRC in Tripura?

In the petition, it has been claimed that while setting up of NRC goes as far back as 1951, the need forupdating the NRC in Tripura is pressing. The petition claims that the situation of influx of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh is worse in Tripura than in Assam.

“The exercise in Assam was necessitated due to the persistent illegal in_ux problem that has plagued the state for over three decades now. The petitioners respectfully submit that Tripura is worse placed. The uncontrolled influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to Tripura has caused huge demographic changes in Tripura which earlier was a predominantly tribal state but now has become a non-tribal state.” 

The petitioners have submitted that it is very necessary to update NRC in Tripura in order to identify illegal immigrants, delete them from voters lists, and subsequently deport them from India to restore the “socio-economic, socio-cultural and socio-political equilibrium of Tripura.” 

Challenges before citizens

NRC is huge process touching the lives of entire population of Assam, even new born will also be included in updated NRC. Updation of NRC is more than thirty years old demand.

One of the demands of Assam agitation leaders was to update NRC free of any illegal immigrants. Government after government kept deferring it. Even the Assam agitation leaders who formed a political party and was in power for ten years did not update NRC. Finally after Supreme Court’s order the process of updation of NRC has started in Assam.

The Centre, the State government and its institutions should have taken all necessary steps to make the entire process convenient for masses. To the contrary, the NRC updation process has been made inconvenient, cumbersome and utterly confusing.

The NRC application form  is a clumsy and complex piece of paper for general citizens. Till date two people have committed  suicide and more has attempted to end their lives failing to find name of their ancestors in Legacy Data.

Reasons why NRC is bound to fail
  • Bangladesh government

The NRC is scheduled to hear the appeals of these 40 lakh people in August and September.

It will publish the final list on December 31.

Even if the final figure is half of what it is now, it would be extremely difficult for the Centre to deport them to Bangladesh.

The neighbouring country has already made its intention clear by stating that this is an internal issue of Assam and India and it has nothing to do with it.

Bangladesh’s Information Minister Hasanul-Haque Inu is reported to have told the Indian media that his country need not respond because the 40 lakh people were not Bangladeshis. These people belonged to Assam’s neighbouring states in India, he added.

  • Discrepancies

There have been several discrepancies in the final draft of the NRC. For instance, in one case the name of one of the twins is missing, in another, the child’s name is missing while that of the mother is there or maybe the name of a spouse is not there, and the likes.

It would become almost impossible for the government to force the separation of members from one family and deport them to Bangladesh.

  • Civil war

The implementation of NRC may lead to serious law and order problem not just in Assam but also in other parts of India.

Most of those left out are Muslims. They might feel persecuted under the rightist BJP-led Modi government at the centre and Sarbananda Sonowal government in Assam.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already accused the BJP of playing divisive politics and said NRC for Assam would lead to civil war in the country.

  • Voting

While speaking in Parliament on July 30 – the day NRC final draft was published – Union Home Minister assured that the people whose names have been struck off would be given another opportunity to appeal to authorities and submit documents for proving their bona fides.

The final list will be published on December 31. Those not finding their names in the NCR would be barred from voting.

However, the government may fail to strictly implement it due to lax administration.

There have been several cases of people having made bogus official identity cards such as Aadhaar, PAN card, ration card and even voter’s identity card.

The government may fail to stop the “illegal immigrants” from voting.

  • Properties

The left out will not be entitled to buy land or a house in the country.

But the government will be hard-pressed to retrieve pieces of land and houses from people who have already got them registered in their names.

Even if the government succeeds in achieving this daunting task, it may fail to stop people from buying benami properties which are quite common in the country.

The problems for the Modi and Sonowal governments have just started. Their real test would start after the final list is published on December 31.

CONCLUSION

Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) has sparked a national debate on citizens versus aliens, alleged witch-hunt against ethnic minorities and on 40 lakh people expected to be stripped of their land and voting rights in the north-eastern state.

The entire exercise, monitored by the Supreme Court, took almost three years to complete.

The fact check team reached out to RTI activist Mahmud Pracha, official documents, and NGO Social Justice Forum (SJF), and found that a large number of applicants possibly had no access to data or information in order for them to establish their Indian roots on the 2015-18 NRC.

Remember, a 1951 NRC and electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971, collectively called the legacy data, was a key for Assam residents to prove citizenship in the latest registry drive.

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