The Assam government on Thursday released the district-wise figures of people excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published in July last year. It used the data to argue that the process is flawed.
The NRC is an exercise to identify Indian citizens living in Assam, a state marked by illegal migration from Bangladesh. The final draft was published in July last year and included 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore applicants— excluding around 40 lakh people. The release of district-wise data comes weeks ahead of the scheduled publication of the final NRC on August 31.
What are these district-wise figures?
These figures show how many people in each district were included and excluded in the draft NRC. “According to the data, 12.15 per cent applicants’ names were excluded from the final draft. In districts adjacent to the Bangladesh border, like South Salmara, 7.22 per cent applicants were excluded from the draft NRC. This figure in Dhubri is 8.26 per cent and in Karimganj is 7.67 per cent. But districts where indigenous people live like Karbi Anglong, the figure is 14.31 per cent and in upper Assam’s Tinsukia, this figure is 13.25 per cent where sons of the soil have been living for ages,” said the state government’s response in the Assam Assembly, presented by Parliamentary Affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary.
Why do district figures matter?
The government has argued that the inclusion rate is higher in districts associated with migration and lower in other districts. The argument is based on the assumption that districts close to the border with Bangladesh are bound to have a high percentage of undocumented or illegal migrants.
The data presented also show that Muslim-majority districts (not border districts) like Morigaon (52.56 per cent Muslims according to 2011 Census), Nagaon (55.36 per cent Muslims according to 2011 Census) and Barpeta (70.74 per cent Muslims according to 2011 Census) garnered high exclusion rates 15.04 per cent, 14.12 per cent and 13.4 per cent exclusions respectively.
Why has BJP tabled these now?
Last month, the government and the state BJP had demanded a sample revivification of a sample of names in the draft, an appeal dismissed by the Supreme Court. The government has now cited these data to justify that demand.
The Centre and the state had both moved the SC demanding re-verification of 20 per cent names included in the draft in border districts and of 10% of the names in other districts.
Inconvenient data, pressure tactic by Govt
After the Supreme Court insisted that the NRC be ready by the end of this month, the Assam government’s release of this data ratchets up political pressure for re-verification. The data that shows low exclusion in Muslim-dominated areas doesn’t fit with the BJP’s narrative. All eyes are on the court now.
NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela, however, told the court that the re-verification had already happened. After the draft NRC was published, lakhs among those left out had filed claims for inclusion. In the course of consideration/adjudication of these claims, re-verification of 27 per cent of the names was done, Hajela told the court, which dismissed the government appeal based on Hajela’s submission. In renewing the demand based on the data it presented, the government said it did not think this “incidental verification” was enough to ensure an error-free NRC. It questioned the NRC process and Hajela’s role.