Updated: August 31, 2019 7:56:57 am
The fate of lakhs of people in Assam will be decided Saturday when the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be published, four years after the exercise began. With the state on edge, the government stepped up security across all districts and sought to assure people that those excluded will not automatically be considered “illegal foreigners”.
On Twitter, the NRC State Coordinator’s office announced that the “Final NRC publication will be done through a press release from official NRC handles (NRC website, Twitter and Facebook) at 10 AM on 31 August 2019.”
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said Friday that people excluded from the NRC will get an opportunity to file appeals and be heard in Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) as per directions from the Union Home Ministry.
Sonowal said that extension of filing an appeal from 60 days to 120 days to the FT, will help “all the excluded persons to enjoy a level-playing field”. “Government of Assam will take care of the cause of the excluded people and due care will be taken so that nobody is subjected to any unnecessary harassment,” he said.
“As long as the appellant’s plea remains sub-judice with the Foreigners’ Tribunal, he or she cannot be treated as a foreigner,” he said, appealing to people to maintain peace, adding that the NRC was “an outcome of the untiring efforts of the thousands of people”.
According to an NRC official, the publication Saturday will be a “Supplementary Inclusions List” which will provide the names of those included in the NRC after they had filed “claims” against their exclusion in the final draft published July 30 last year or excluded in the additional draft exclusions list published on June 26, 2019, or those who were in the final draft but had “objections” filed against their names or those who were included in the final draft but called for hearing from July 5, 2019, onwards.
The final draft NRC included 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore applicants, and left out over 40 lakh people. Over 36 lakh of those left out, had filed “claims” against the exclusion and of the 2.89 crore included, objections were filed against around 2 lakh people.
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In the draft exclusion list of June 26 this year, 1.02 lakh of the 2.89 crore were excluded, who were all given a chance to appeal their cases.
The “Supplementary Inclusions List”, the NRC official said, will be available at the respective NRC Seva Kendra and office of circle officers and office of Deputy Commissioners. A person can put in his/her Application Receipt Number (ARN) and check the status online too.
On the NRC website, the lists titled “Supplementary Inclusions/Exclusions Lists (Final NRC) status” will reflect any change in the status of the above mentioned four categories of people will be shown. From September 7, the consolidated list will be available online.
NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela was not reachable for comment. He has been censured against talking to the press on the NRC process by the Supreme Court, which monitors the exercise.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Assam DGP Kuladhar Saikia said, “Everything is peaceful and calm, and situation is very normal. A total of 218 companies of additional security forces are being deployed and if any objectionable social media post is brought to our attention we will take strict action.”
“In any such situation, anti-social elements will try to trigger turmoil. We have taken a three-pronged strategy: first, community outreach, second, deployment of forces and third, sensitivity assessment. We do not foresee any vigilante violence – people will understand that there is a mechanism for them to appeal even if their names do not appear tomorrow.”
Former Congress Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that the state government must ensure an error-free NRC with all genuine citizens finding their names. “Thousands of people stare at an uncertain future after the publication of the final NRC. We want the government to address this uncertainty,” he said on Twitter.
He added that the Congress will take up the cases of genuine citizens whether in the Foreigners’ Tribunal or the High Court or SC.
“We are there to support every Indian citizen, irrespective of their religion. It doesn’t matter whether they are Hindu or Muslim, Assamese or Bengali,” said Gogoi.
“Some may try to politicise the NRC. If the Government deals with the situation properly, there is little scope for the politicisation of the issue. If the Government is really sincere in implementing an error-free NRC, then the scope of politicising the NRC process will be very less.”