India’s Supreme Court has set a deadline of August 31 for publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) – the final list of Assam’s residents – being prepared to identify bonafide residents and deport illegal migrants in the northeastern state bordering Bangladesh. India’s government yesterday sought to ease concerns about the register. “DO NOT BELIEVE RUMOURS ABOUT NRC,” a spokesperson for the Indian home ministry tweeted in capital letters.
WHY AUG 31 DEADLINE IS IMPORTANT
With the four-year-long SC-monitored exercise culminating on August 31, anxiety levels are mounting. About 40.7 lakh names were excluded from the draft NRC released on July 31 last year. This increased to over 41 lakh names after an ‘additional draft exclusion list’ that dropped another one lakh names was published on June 26, 2019. Some 2.9 crore people out of a total 3.29 crore applicants were included in the NRC. For those who don’t make it to the final list, a long and tough battle lies ahead where they will have to prove they are legal Indian citizens.
WHAT GETS YOU ON THE LIST?
To make it to the current list, names of family members of the applicant should be in the first NRC prepared in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971. Other documents include birth certificate, refugee registration certificate, land and tenancy records, citizenship certificate, permanent residential certificate, passport, LIC policy, government issued licence or certificate, bank/post office accounts, government employment certificate, educational certificate and court records.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ARE EXCLUDED?
The state government has said that those left out of the NRC will not be detained “under any circumstances” until the foreigners’ tribunals declare them foreigners. Every individual, whose name does not figure in the final NRC, can represent his/her case in front of the appellate authority, i.e. Foreigners Tribunals.
WHERE TO APPEAL?
Appeals can be made under Section 8 of Schedule to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The time limit to file an appeal has been increased from 60 days to 120 days – till December 31, 2019. A total of 1,000 tribunals have been sanctioned by the home ministry. If one loses the case in the tribunal, the person can move the high court and, then, the Supreme Court.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ARE DECLARED A FOREIGNER?
The state is setting up detention centres exclusively for those declared foreigners after exhausting all legal routes. Repatriation of such people looks difficult as India and Bangladesh do not have any treaty in this regard.
First created in 1951, NRC is a list of Indian citizens in Assam. At the time, two other states in the northeast – Manipur and Tripura – were also given grants by the Centre to create their own NRCs, but it never materialised. Assam is presently the only state in India to have an NRC. The grounds then were the same as those now – “unabated” migration from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). A year before the first NRC was released, the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 was passed by the Centre, allowing the government to deport anyone whose stay was “detrimental to the interests” of the people. An exception was made only for those displaced by “civil disturbances” in what was then East Pakistan. The Act was repealed in 1957.