A massive exercise of updating the National Register of Citizens is being carried out in Assam. It was resolved in 2005 that the list of the state’s citizens, which was first made in 1951, will be updated. The exercise started as late as 2015 under the Congress regime, but it got a significant push only after the BJP rode to power with illegal immigration as a poll plank.
While authorities are working to ensure only Indian citizens are enrolled in the NRC, many are facing a hard time proving their citizenship, fuelling fears of deportation.
Every applicant and each of his/her family member must establish a link to an ancestor/parent/grandparent whose name appears in the NRC of 1951 or any electoral roll up to 1971, or any one of 12 other documents issued before March 25, 1971.
Earlier in December, a father of seven, Anowar Hussain, allegedly committed suicide, fearing that his 9-year-old daughter would be deported to Bangladesh.
He received a notice from the NRC Sewa Kendra asking him to furnish a birth certificate for his daughter, Jahanara Khatun. Without a document showing her proof of birth, Khatun would have been ineligible for inclusion in the NRC.
Till now, at least 3.27 crore people from 68.21 lakh families have filed their applications for inclusion in the NRC. Authorities claim that since September 1, 2015, they have vetted applications of 2.13 crore people. In the next 20 days, the NRC team in Assam has to vet 2.52 crore names before the Supreme Court deadline of December 31. The Centre had asked for a seven-month extension from the apex court but the plea was rejected.
A draft NRC will be published before the deadline expires, and a complete list will be released only after settling all the disputes.
Of the 2.52 crore people left, nearly 38 lakh people fall into the verifiable category. At least 6,500 verification teams are working on the cases of applicants that raised doubts. There is a fear of violence breaking out in the state after the deadline of December 31, and, on the request of Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal, the Centre has provided 50 paramilitary companies to ensure law and order.
Despite the politics surrounding the exercise, the state government is running a ‘Our NRC, Fair NRC’ campaign to assure the citizens that “all genuine citizens as per date of March 24th, 1971 (midnight)” will be included in the list and that it will have ‘no categorisation as original inhabitant’.