With less than a week to go for the publication of draft National Citizens Register (NRC) in Assam, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said there was no need to panic and all bonafide Indians will be given adequate opportunities to prove their citizenship.
In a statement, Rajnath said the NRC is being updated in accordance with the ‘Assam Accord’ signed on August 15, 1985, and is being carried out as per the directions of the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the process. “There is no reason for panic or fear. No person will be allowed to be harassed. We will ensure that every individual gets justice and is treated in a humane manner,” he said.
He assured that the exercise is being carried out in an impartial, transparent and meticulous manner and will continue to be so.
“All individuals will have sufficient opportunity for all remedies available under the law. At every stage of the process, adequate opportunity is given to all persons to be heard,” he said.
Rajnath said the Centre wants to make it clear that the NRC, to be published on July 30, is only a draft, and after publication of the draft, adequate opportunity for claims and objections will be available. “All claims and objections will be duly examined. Adequate opportunity of being heard will be given before disposal of claims and objections. Only thereafter, final NRC will be published,” he said.
He said the Citizenship Rules provide the opportunity to any person who is not satisfied with the outcome of claims and objections to appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal. Therefore, there is no question of anyone being put in a detention centre after the publication of NRC, he said.
Rajnath said the Assam government has been told to ensure that law and order is maintained.
“The central government will provide all necessary help to the state government of Assam in this regard,” he said.
The first draft of the NRC was published on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1, where names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore applicants were incorporated.
The exercise is aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in the state bordering Bangladesh, and is being carried out following a decision in 2005, after a series of meetings between the central and state governments and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
Assam is the only state with an NRC, first prepared in 1951. The current exercise, started in 2005 under the Congress government, got a major push after the BJP came to power in the state with illegal immigration one of their poll planks.
When the NRC was first prepared in 1951, the state had 80 lakh citizens. The process of identification of illegal immigrants in Assam has been debated and has become a contentious issue.
A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by AASU in 1979. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord on August 15, 1985, in the presence of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.