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Assam chief minister will put forth stand on citizenship bill after NRC update

The Bill essentially proposes to make minority (non-Muslim) illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries — Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan — eligible for Indian citizenship.

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati |
Updated: May 25, 2018 8:54:08 am
CM: Assam will put forth stand after NRC update Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal. (Express Photo by Vignesh Krishnamoorthy)

The Assam government will put forth its stand on the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which has led to a wave of protests in the state, only after updation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) is completed, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said on Thursday.

He was speaking at a press meet called to highlight achievements of the BJP government in the state, which completed two years on Thursday.

“Let NRC be completed, then immediately state government will express its view. And I assure you, the state government will not take any decision which will go against the interest of the people of Assam,” Sonowal said.

Assam has witnessed a series of protests over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. While the Brahmaputra Valley has seen protests opposing the Bill, the Barak Valley has witnessed demonstrations in its support. The Bill essentially proposes to make minority (non-Muslim) illegal immigrants from three neighbouring countries — Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan — eligible for Indian citizenship.

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The NRC, which is being updated to identify illegal immigrants in Assam, was first prepared in 1951. It is now being “updated to include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the 1951 NRC or in any of the Electoral Rolls or in any one of the other admissible documents issued upto midnight of March 24, 1971, which would prove their presence in Assam or in any part of India on or before March 24, 1971”.

Prateek Hajela, NRC state coordinator, told The Indian Express that the process of updating NRC is on schedule and the protests will not have any effect on it.

“We have a definite system. Whatever political statements are made, our systems are really not getting affected by it. In so far as our work is concerned, it is an objective kind of a work, carried out by officials who have clear guidelines,” said Hajela.

The deadline for preparing the final draft of the NRC has been set by the Supreme Court as June 30. The first draft – that verified 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore who applied as legal citizens of India – was published on the midnight of January 1.

“Within June 30, we are required to complete all our works for the draft and we are on time for that,” Hajela said. He, however, refused to speculate on the number of people expected to be left out of the final draft. “Figures of people left out of the register will come out only at the time of the publication. I cannot speculate before that.”

In the press meet, the CM appealed to people of the state to cooperate for the successful completion of the updation of the NRC. Sonowal emphasised that no state in India has an updated NRC — Assam will be the first and only state in the country to have so.

But, what happens to those who do not make it to the citizens’ register is a question for many in Assam.

Hajela said, “This is a draft that we will be publishing first. After that, people have a right to file claims and objections — claims will be filed by those whose names do not appear and objections will be filed against people whose names appear on the list.”

The time to file claims and objections is one month after publication of the final draft. After that, the NRC authorities will settle claims and objections, following which the final NRC will be released.

“Once all claims and objections are disposed then we will get the final list of persons who could make it and who could not make it to the NRC —that means they could not prove their citizenship in front of NRC authorities. People excluded have a right to go to the foreigners tribunals with an appeal against my system. My scope of work ends there,” Hajela said.

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