- The final National Register of Citizens or NRC – a list intended to identify legal residents and weed out illegal immigrants from Assam has been published.
- The final NRC is a supplementary list of inclusion or exclusion of those applicants whose names were not included in earlier drafts, those who faced objections on their inclusions or those who were in the earlier drafts but called for hearings that took place since July this year.
In the final draft of NRC, out of 3.30 crore applicants, 3.11 crore names have been found to be eligible for inclusion in updated NRC and a total of 19.06 lakh persons were excluded.
What is NRC?
- National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the list of Indian citizens in Assam.
- NRC process mainly aims to address the issue of illegal migrants, specifically from Bangladesh.
- The process of NRC update in Assam differs from the rest of the country and is governed by Rule 4A and the corresponding Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
- The process of the updating NRC is being carried out by the Registrar General of India.
- It is being closely monitored by the Supreme Court.
- The process started in 2013 as per the order of the apex court.
History of Migration in Assam
- Assam was merged with Bengal Presidency for administrative purpose during British rule.
- British continuously brought migrant workers to Assam for cheap labour in tea plantations.
- There were two major waves of migration after British rule.
- The first one was from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) after Partition.
- The other was in the aftermath of the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.
- This eventually led to an agitation during 1979-85, led by the All Assam Students’ Union.
- It culminated in the 1985 Assam Accord, under which illegal migrants were to be identified and deported.
Assam Accord and the Cut-Off Date
- The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
- The Accord ended the six-year anti-foreigners’ agitation and decided March 25, 1971 as the cut-off date for NRC.
- The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord for all Indian-origin people who came from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966 to be deemed as citizens.
- Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years.
- Those who came after the cut-off date were to be deported.
What will happen to 19 lakh excluded people?
- Though the NRC was called ‘final’, the excluded people would have opportunities to be back on the citizens’ list if they appeal against their exclusion and establish their citizenship via courts.
- Each excluded person will have 120 days to file an appeal at any of the existing 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals (200 more are to be established within a month), which in turn will have to dispose of the cases within six months.
- The appellant then has the option of approaching the High Court and Supreme Court.
- Government has assured that those left out of the NRC will not be detained under any circumstances until the Foreigners Tribunals declare them as foreigners.
What is Foreigners Tribunal?
They are quasi-judicial bodies meant to “furnish opinion on the question as to whether a person is or is not a foreigner within the meaning of Foreigners Act, 1946”.
Impact of NRC
- It is likely to put an end to speculations about the actual number of illegal migrants in Assam in particular and the country in general.
- It is expected to deter future migrants from Bangladesh from entering Assam illegally.
- Inclusion of their names in the NRC will provide respite to all those Bengali speaking people in Assam who have been, hitherto, suspected as being Bangladeshis.
Issues and Challenges
- From the non-transparent “family tree verification” process, to the somewhat arbitrary rejection of the gram panchayat certificates (affecting mostly women), the process has been riddled with legal inconsistencies and errors.
- The family tree verification process has resulted in numerous instances of parents being on the draft list but children being left out.
- There is uncertainty about the future of those left out from the list.
- Expelling the excluded people to Bangladesh is not an option since Dhaka has never accepted that they are its citizens or that there is a problem of illegal immigration.
- In the absence of a formal agreement, India cannot forcibly push the illegal migrants back into Bangladesh.
- The option of large scale detention camps is not a suitable option for a civilised democracy like India.
- Central Government should clearly chart out the course of action regarding the fate of excluded people from final NRC data.
- Political parties should refrain from colouring the entire NRC process through electoral prospects that may lead to communal violence.
- The claims of those left out in the NRC must be heard carefully, humanely.
- State authorities need to be prudent in their actions so that good sense prevails and ensure that large-scale humanitarian crises do not erupt.
Deporting all illegal migrants from India is not a feasible and recommended solution. Analyse the statement with respect to National Register of Citizens (NRC) which was recently published in Assam.[Sources: The Hindu, Hindustan Times, Economic Times]