National Register of Citizens (NRC)

  • Category
    Internal Security
  • Published
    3rd Sep, 2019

Context

The Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) final list 2019 of certified Indian citizens in Assam has been released.

About

  • The NRC, which was first undertaken in Assam in 1951 and was being updated since 2015, is aimed at detecting and deleting so-called illegal immigrants from citizenship rolls.
  • The register is meant to be a list of Indian citizens living in Assam. For decades, the presence of migrants, often called “bahiragat” or outsiders, has been a loaded issue here. Assam saw waves of migration, first as a colonial province and then as a border state in independent India.
  • The first National Register of Citizens was compiled in 1951, after the Census was completed that year. The Partition of the subcontinent and communal riots had just triggered vast population exchanges at the border.
  • Since 2015, the state has been in the process of updating the 1951 register. One of the stated aims of the exercise is to identify so-called “illegal immigrants” in the state, many of whom are believed to have poured into Assam after the Bangladesh War of 1971.
  • In 1979, about eight years after the war, the state saw an anti-foreigners’ agitation. Assamese ethnic nationalists claimed illegal immigrants had entered electoral rolls and were taking away the right of communities defined as indigenous to determine their political future.
  • In 1985, the anti-foreigners’ agitation led by the All Assam Students’ Union came to an end with the signing of the Assam Accord.

Why is the NRC being updated now?

  • The mechanism for detecting so-called foreigners had previously been delineated by the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act of 1983. This was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005, on a petition which argued that the provisions of the law were so stringent; they made the “detection and deportation of illegal migrants almost impossible”.
  • The court came into the picture after a non-governmental organisation called Assam Public Works filed a petition asking that so-called illegal migrants be struck off the electoral rolls.
  • In 2013, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to finalise the modalities to update the new National Register of Citizens. The project was launched in earnest from 2015, monitored directly by the Supreme Court.

How do the authorities establish citizenship?

  • Most individuals applying for inclusion into the NRC had to prove not only that their ancestors had lived in Assam pre-1971 but also their relationship with the ancestor.
  • Then came the verification process. Documents were sent to the original issuing authorities while NRC officials conducted field verification. Once the data was submitted, the applicant’s blood relations were plotted on a family tree.

What happens to the people left out of the final list?

  • Those who do not make it to the final list will have to appear before the Foreigners’ Tribunals of Assam.
  • These quasi-judicial bodies were originally set up under the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act of 1983.
  • In anticipation of a fresh rush of cases after the final list, 1,000 more tribunals are being set up across the state.

Phases of NRC:

The entire process of NRC Updating consists of following phases:

  • Legacy Data Publication Phase
  • Application Form Distribution & Receipt Phase
  • Verification Phase
  • Publication of NRC Part Draft
  • Complete NRC Draft Publication & Receipt of Claims and Objections Phase
  • Final NRC Publication.
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