Illegal infiltration has been the most serious issue for the Indian states bordering Bangladesh but the worst victim of them have been Assam. The Government has now sought to update the NRC (National Register of Citizens) so as to identify the indigenous people of the state, which was last prepared in 1951 after the conduct in the same year.
What is NRC?
National Register of Citizens (NRC) is the register which contains the names of all Indian Citizens. The updation of NRC means the process of enlisting the names of the persons or their descendants citizens based on the data of the electoral polls of 1951 and 1971. The NRC updation is being done as per the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 (As amended by 1. G. S. R. 803(E), dated 9th November, 2009 (with effect from 9/11/2009.) 2. Ministry of Home Affairs (Office of Registrar General, India), Order No. S.O. 596(E), dated 15th March, 2010, published in the Gazette of India, Extra, Part II. No. 504 S.3(ii), dated 16th March, 2010 p.1.). As per the two statutes, the eligibility status would be ascertained based on the NRC, 1951, Electoral Rolls up to 1971 and in their absence the admissible documents up to 24th March (midnight) 1971. The updated NRC contains names of persons eligible for inclusion in updated NRC by virtue of being original inhabitants of Assam.
Why 1951 Census?
NRC was prepared in the year 1951 after the conduct of census in that particular year. NRC then included necessary details of all the citizens who are present during the census. The 1951 census was the most recent which was conducted after the independence.
The Assam Accord that was signed between AASU (All Assam Students Union), AAGSP (All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad), Central and State Governments after the Assam Movement, on the foreigner problem issue on 15th August 1985, which determined 1st January 1966 as the cut-off date for the purpose of detection and deletion of foreigners and allowed for citizenship for all persons coming to Assam from “Specified Territory” before the cut-off date. It further specifies that all persons who came to Assam prior to 1st January 1966 (inclusive) and up to 24th March 1971 (midnight) shall be detected in accordance with the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1939. Name of foreigners so detected will be deleted from the Electoral Rolls in force. Such persons will be required to register themselves before the Registration Officers of the respective districts in accordance with the provisions of the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1939. Foreigners who came to Assam on or after 25th March 1971 shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law.
What is Legacy Data?
Legacy data is the database that carries the names of large number of persons to be proven for inclusion in the NRC updated for the state. Legacy data ascertains the proof of residence in Assam prior to midnight of 24th March 1971 for inclusion in NRC. Legacy data can be easily accessed from NRC Seva Kendra’s, designated polling stations or NRC Website. With the help of legacy data, individuals who were not born before 24th March 1971 can track the data of their forefathers who were born before 24th March 1971.
What AASU and other regional organizations say?
AASU and other regional organizations are very enthusiastic regarding the updation of NRC. They believe that by defining the ‘Indigenous Assamese’ they can demand cent percent reservation of seats for the indigenous Assamese in local bodies, legislative assembly and Parliament and it is a must for providing constitutional safeguards to the Indigenous Assamese people according to the Assam Accord. According to them it becomes necessary to define the words ‘Indigenous Assamese’ for reservation of seats.
What State Government says?
The CM of Assam Tarun Gogoi has called for inclusion of all voters lists from 1985-2014. In this regard the state Government of Assam has already submitted an affidavit in Supreme Court requesting to bring in changes in the modalities of NRC exercise. They have also pressed for unconditional inclusion of all the Scheduled Tribes (ST) from both hills and plains and six other ethnic communities namely Moran, Motok, Koch, Chutia, Tai-Ahom, Koch-Rajbongshi and the tea tribes in the NRC. At the same time, many other ministers from Assam have also made their stand clear of NRC and they have repeatedly asked to avoid complexities regarding the ongoing NRC registration process. They have also made clear that inclusion of D (doubtful) voters in the NRC is impossible and if anyone does that then necessary actions shall be taken.
What AGP says?
Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has made its stand very clear on this regard and have asked that no genuine citizen should be harassed and no foreigner should be included in NRC.
The State Government had filed an affidavit at the Apex Court seeking permission to include the voter’s list from 1985 to 2014 as an additional document for the NRC but the Apex Court didn’t accept it. Following this the State Government now has submitted an Interim Application. Following this statement there has been severe protests from Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), AASU and KMSS. AGP has stated it to be one of the diabolic acts of Tarun Gogoi and has said it to be one of his attempts to save his vote bank.
Moreover, the State Government had also put a plea to the Registrar General of India (RGI) to include the names of those children who are born in Assam to illegal migrant parents. RGI has however rejected the plea and has made its stand on the inclusion of those persons or their descendants whose names appear in NRC 1951 and in the Electoral Polls up to 24th March 1971 or any other admissible documents. RGI has however asked to exclude those people who are Indian by birth and are born to illegal Bangladeshi parents and have migrated into Assam from other parts of the country after the midnight of 24th March. The State Government has put a second plea in front of RGI to include the names of those citizens in the updated NRC who have migrated to Assam from other parts of the country after midnight of 24th March 1971. RGI has however not passed any decision on this plea.
CM Tarun Gogoi has also pushed the two pleas to Union Home Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh when he met Mr. Rajnath Singh during his visit to Guwahati. During his meeting with the Union Home Minister Mr Rajnath Singh, CM Mr. Tarun Gogoi has put up that the main purpose of NRC is to prepare a list of genuine Indian Citizens while ensuring that no foreigners get included in the same. However after the response from RGI it has come to light that people who do not fit into NRC can neither be called as Indian nor as foreigner as because as per the clarification received from RGI, both Indian Citizens who have migrated to Assam after 24th March 1971 and foreigners should be kept aside from the updated NRC.
NRC has bought worries to lakhs of Adivasi population of the state. The Adivasis have been bought to the tea estates by British long back from the states of Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh. A large percentage of the Adivasi population say that many of their predecessors have neither been listed in the NRC of 1951 and nor been entered in any Voter’s list till 1971. Without the presence of the said documents they will not be able to establish relationship with their forefathers who have settled up in the state around two centuries back. Adivasis constitute 80 lakh of the entire population of Assam and it is the third biggest community in the state. They are one of the strong influencing factors in 26 of the 126 assembly constituencies. The Adivasis have been ensured by the Government that none of them shall be left out from the updated NRC. If traces of their predecessors are not been found in the NRC 1951 and Electoral details up to 1971 then special mechanism shall be designed to include them all in the updated NRC.
Minority bodies of the state say that 1951 NRC was not prepared under any strict rules and vigilance as the present NRC. It also claims that the NRC data of 1951 is not available at many districts. According to the data given by Barpeta District Administration, Barpeta revenue circle has around 23 villages where 1951 NRC is not available and Electoral Roll (ER) of 1966 is also not available in 9 villages of Barpeta. According to the 1951 census report, the names of 6 lakh Muslims were not included in 1951’s NRC as they were compelled to take refuge somewhere in the then East Pakistan due to the riots that occurred in Assam at that time. After the signing of the Nehru-Liaquat Agreement they returned and hence they could not get their names entered in 1951 NRC. Also they claim that many villages in the riverine areas were left out due to the poor infrastructure of the state.
At the grass root, NRC has become tiresome for many people. The people at the NRC booths are accepting only up to 80 applications every day. This has made people to stand in queue overnight to be one among the first eighty to submit their NRC application. Many people especially from the rural and tribal belts who are legitimate citizens but don’t have adequate documents are the worst sufferers. The last date of NRC application acceptance is July 31 and till now not even 30% of the household have submitted their applications. There are high chances that the Government will extend the last date of NRC form submission and the CM has not shied away from hinting this time and again.
In some places many people have tried to commit suicide because of their failure to find out legacy data. At few places thugs have taken advantage of the situation and they are luring money from the helpless people who are unable to find out their legacy data. Government has tried their best to ensure adequate facilities at the NRC booths. Generators have been put up to ensure power back-up and adequate fans have been put up to provide some relief to the people at the queue’s at the NRC booths from the summer heat.
By Sandip Kumar Talukdar & Parag Chamuah