Why is the National Register of Citizens (NRC) being updated?
It is said to be a way of identifying Bangladeshi infiltrators in Assam. The updated NRC is expected to be a reference point against which an individual can check his/her citizenship status. According to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, “NRC updating will bring to end issues revolving around the state’s biggest problem of infiltration from Bangladesh… There are people who believe that infiltration (from Bangladesh) is still going on despite erection of a barbed wire fence and intensified BSF patrolling along the border.”
Who is carrying out the exercise?
While policy, guidelines and funds for updating the NRC have been provided by the Centre, the process is being carried out by the state government under the guidance of the Registrar General of India. A State Coordinator, a senior IAS officer, heads the set-up. The state government has set up the timeline for the process, and over 2,500 NRC Seva Kendras where people can search for names of their ancestors in electoral rolls from 1952 to 1971 and download the record, which has been called “Legacy Data”.
How many Bangladeshis are there in Assam?
Many, including the ruling Congress and the opposition All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), do not believe that infiltration from Bangladesh is as rampant as the AASU and others claim. But the fact remains that since 1985, Foreigners’ Tribunals have declared over 38,000 persons in Assam as illegal migrants. Most of these 38,000 have gone missing, are absconding for fear of being caught, have been detained in camps, or been pushed back across the border. Over 1 lakh are pending in the Tribunals, and a sizeable number are likely to be declared foreigners.
Nearly 1.5 lakh names in Assam’s electoral rolls carry the prefix “D” — for “Doubtful” citizenship status — which was inserted by the Election Commission of India. According to the NRC coordination office, “Ds” too may apply for inclusion in the NRC, but would need a final clearance from the Foreigners’ Tribunals.
How is the updation taking place?
All those who have their names — or a family or parental link — in electoral rolls from 1952 to 1971, are believed to be genuine Indian citizens, and not infiltrators from Bangladesh. A person who wants to be included in the updated NRC must have at least one of 14 prescribed documents. These are: (1) Copy of NRC of 1951 showing one’s own name or that of an ancestor, (2) Copy of electoral roll up to midnight of March 24, 1971, (3) Land and tenancy record, (4) Citizenship certificate, (5) Permanent Residential Certificate, (6) Refugee Registration Certificate, (7) Passport, (8) LIC document, (9) any licence or certificate issued by the government, (10) government service/employment certificate, (11) bank/post office accounts, (12) birth certificate, (13) Board/University educational certificate, (14) Court records/processes. For a woman migrating after marriage, any document issued by the Circle Officer or gram panchayat secretary, and/or Ration Card is applicable.
Younger people who do not possess any of the above documents are required to produce documents (birth certificate, land document, Board/University certificate, Bank/LIC/Post Office records, Electoral Roll, ration card or any other legally acceptable document) to establish a linkage or relationship to the name of the ancestor whose name appears in any of the first list of documents.
When did the process begin?
The Assam government first announced its decision to update the NRC in 2005, and launched a pilot project covering the assembly constituencies of Barpeta and Chhaygaon in 2010. While the Chhaygaon updating was successfully completed, the one at Barpeta had to be called off following violent protests by the All Assam Minority Students’ Union, which believes there has been no Bangladeshi infiltration into Assam. While AASU and other groups pressed for a resumption of the process, the state government allegedly went slow, until the Supreme Court intervened on the basis of some petitions, and fixed a time frame for the process. Based on the SC order, the Assam government fixed October 31, 2015, as the date for publishing the draft NRC, and January 31, 2016 as the deadline for the final NRC.
Will illegal Bangladeshis be really detected?
Yes, says Chief Minister Gogoi. The NRC updation office says it is using the latest IT tools to detect fictitious claims of family linkages. But senior Supreme Court lawyer Upamanyu Hazarika says the NRC update will only legitimize thousands of Bangladeshi immigrants. The AASU does not consider the NRC updation as the ultimate way to detect Bangladeshi infiltrators, and wants constant Supreme Court monitoring.