Hours before the midnight release of the first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal assured on Sunday that this was only a “part draft”, and “genuine citizens” who had been left out need not panic as they could still get their names included in the final list.
“This is going to be a historic moment, not just for Assam but for the entire country. While Assam was the only state which prepared an NRC way back in 1951 in the wake of post-Partition migrations, Assam will again be the only state to have a Register which will contain the names of all genuine Indian citizens residing in the state,” said Sonowal.
While the authorities have not divulged details, the first draft is not likely to contain more than two crore names, as compared to over 3.29 crore people who had applied for inclusion in it. The authorities had targeted verification of about 2.38 crore names till December 31, the deadline fixed by the Supreme Court to publish the draft NRC, but a sizeable number of names are yet to be verified.
While the first draft is being released Sunday midnight, copies will be on display at all the 25,000-odd NRC Sewa Kendras (NSK) across the state from 8 am on Monday. The NRC will also be available online on four specific websites.
“People can check their names in the printed copies, which will be on display at all the NSKs from 8 am to 4 pm on January 1, and from 10 am to 4 pm till January 31. We have also started an SMS service, and there are two toll-free helpline numbers too,” said NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela said. The toll-free number for people from Assam is 15107, while that for people from outside the state is 18003453762, he said.
“This is only a part draft of the NRC being published on December 31 midnight, as per directions of the Supreme Court. If the names of genuine Indian citizens are left out, there is enough provision to submit claims and objections to get their names included in the final NRC,” said Sonowal, who held a review meeting with top officials here.
“The government is keeping a close watch on the use of social media like Facebook, Twitter etc. Strict action will be taken against anyone who is found spreading misinformation and trying to foment trouble,” said Sonowal.
The government has deployed 50 additional companies of central forces, besides the Assam Police and existing central forces, to keep a check on the situation. Sailesh, the Registrar-General of India, is also in Guwahati to oversee the release of the NRC.
The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which has been pressing for detection and deportation of Bangladeshi migrants since 1979, said the NRC would be the first step towards freeing Assam from the clutches of Bangladeshis.
“Since 1979, we have been demanding that an NRC be prepared by updating the one dating back to 1951, in order to segregate the names of genuine Indian citizens and those of infiltrators. While successive governments refused to understand the importance of the NRC, others kept dilly-dallying, until we got it cleared during a tripartite meeting with the Centre and the state government on May 5, 2005,” said AASU chief advisor Samujjal Bhattacharyya.
Bhattacharyya described the NRC as a “major safeguard” for the indigenous people of Assam. “A correct NRC containing names of all genuine Indians and devoid of names of Bangladeshis will also be the first real step towards finding a lasting solution to the influx issue,” he said.
The Opposition Congress party, which claimed credit for having initiated the NRC process when Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister, hoped that the NRC would help solve a major problem of Assam. “The NRC is a long-pending demand of the people of Assam and we hope it will help find permanent solution to the influx issue,” said APCC president Ripun Bora.