While seeking time until July 2018 to update Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in its affidavit before the Supreme Court has classified three categories of applications that are yet to be verified and belong to 1.28 crore Assamese people.
The apex court, which is monitoring updating of NRC-1951, is likely to hear the Centre’s plea on Wednesday, officials said.
According to the MHA’s affidavit, out of a total 3.21 crore applications, around 2 crore have been verified so far, and it will take another seven months to complete the process.
Among applications yet to be verified, around 47 lakh are related to verification of family tree, around 42 lakh to verification of documents, and the remaining relate to certificates issued by gram panchayat, which the Gauhati High Court has rejected for NRC update.
A senior government official said, “We have filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court and hope the court will grant an extension, since a hurriedly prepared NRC may cause law and order problem in the state.”
The apex court had earlier set a deadline of March 2018 for publication of the draft NRC. However, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal announced that the NRC updates will be available by December 31, 2017.
The Supreme Court has since expressed its displeasure at the tardy progress in the exercise.
The Registrar General of India, which reports to the MHA, has stated before the court that if updating is attempted to be completed in a hurry it may create complications and result in errors in the list, causing dissatisfaction among the Assamese people.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba had recently held a security review meeting and discussed the issue with Sonowal, who urged the Centre to provide central paramilitary forces anticipating trouble in the state ahead of the December 31 deadline. “Intelligence reports also indicated chances of trouble in the state. After discussion with the state government and NRC authorities, we decided to seek time until July 2018,” an MHA official said.
Assam has been on the boil over the issue of NRC updates for some time now. While the government claims it is an exercise to weed out illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, opposition parties and other sections argue that the NRC would end up denying voting rights to many legitimate Indian citizens, especially women, and rob their children of education opportunities. Various political parties and citizens’ groups are pointing at different figures for the number of people who risk losing Indian citizenship.