Assam NRC complete list excludes 4 million ineligible applicants, govt says no need to panic
Those whose names are missing include 248,000 doubtful voters whose cases are pending in foreigners tribunals, their siblings and their descendants.Updated: Jul 30, 2018 23:39 IST
A little over 4 million people in Assam, out of the 32.9 million in the state who applied to be included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC), have been left out of the complete draft of the contentious document released on Monday, although both the central and the state government were at pains to point out that the register is still a draft and that there is adequate recourse available to those not included.
The NRC, which was first prepared for Assam in 1951, is being updated at the insistence of the Supreme Court, although it has been a longstanding demand of most political organisations in the state. The register is aimed at distinguishing the state’s citizens from illegal immigrants, mostly from Bangladesh. The first draft of the updated NRC, released on December 31 last year, listed 19 million people.
Registrar General of India Sailesh (one name) and NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela announced in a press conference that out of a total of 32,991,384 applicants, only 28,983,677 were found eligible for inclusion.
“The complete draft has been published under supervision, monitoring and directions of the Supreme Court. It is a legal process and has been conducted in a transparent, fair, objective and meticulous manner,” Sailesh said.
Those whose names are missing include 248,000 doubtful voters whose cases are pending in foreigners tribunals, their siblings and their descendants.
“Adequate opportunity will be provided to the 4,007,707 whose names are not part of the complete draft. I would like to reassure every person that no genuine Indian citizen should have any fear of being left out,” Sailesh said.
“It is a draft and anything which is a draft has to attain finality. Till then status quo will be maintained,” he added.
In Delhi, the central government said there is no need to panic and that those excluded from the draft will not be declared foreigners immediately, as such powers are vested only with tribunals.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh said: “No coercive action will be taken against anyone. Hence, there is no need for anyone to panic. This is a draft and not the final list. Even someone whose name is not in the final list can approach the foreigners tribunal.”
He added that some people are unnecessarily trying to create an atmosphere of fear.
“I want to assure all that there is no need for any apprehension or fear. Some misinformation is also being spread. The NRC process has been done impartially,” Singh said.
Political opponents of the BJP government in the state and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre were quick to find fault with the exercise.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the BJP government’s execution of NRC was tardy. The government should move swiftly to resolve the crisis in Assam after reports that the names of many Indian citizens are missing in the draft National Register of Citizens, Gandhi said. In a Facebook post, Gandhi said the NRC was initiated by the UPA under Manmohan Singh to fulfil the commitment made in the Assam Accord of 1985. “However, the manner in which this exercise has been undertaken by the BJP Governments at the centre and in the State of Assam leaves much to be desired,” he said.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee hit out at the Centre, accusing it of resorting to “vote bank politics”. “This divide and rule policy will finish the country,” she said at a press conference in Kolkata, alleging it was a “game plan” to isolate and “throw out of the state” Bengali speaking people and Biharis.
Proceedings of the Rajya Sabha were disputed by the Opposition, including the Trinamool Congress and the Congress, over the issue, forcing the Chair to adjourn the House for the day. “It is not a political issue. It is a question of human rights... We need to look after Indian citizens. Please allow me to raise this issue sir,” TMC member Derek O’Brien said.
Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said: “Home minister came all the way to the House. Neither the members were willing to say anything nor did they allow the House to function.”
Minister (independent charge) for development of north-eastern region Dr Jitendra Singh alleged that Congress and TMC are trying to make an issue where there is none as the whole exercise was monitored by the Supreme Court and it started during the United Progressive Alliance regime.
“The NDA government is just taking it forward. There is an effort to create political instability in the region as Congress has been politically wiped out from the North-east and the TMC is facing challenge from the BJP in West Bengal,” he added.
Interestingly, the Congress’s local unit struck a more conciliatory note.
It welcomed publication of the list, but expressed surprise at the large number of applicants excluded. State Congress chief Ripun Bora said names of many may have been kept out due to minor discrepancies in the documents submitted to provide citizenship.
“The fact that names of 4 million applicants are missing from the complete draft is not a small thing. But they can file claims to get names enlisted. We all want an error-free NRC that keeps foreigners out,” said Badruddin Ajmal, a Lok Sabha MP and president of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
Ajmal’s own named was missing from the first draft of NRC released on December 31 but finds mention in the list released on Monday.
“Release of the complete draft is the outcome of a 38-year-long struggle that started with the Assam Agitation in 1979. The updated NRC is a big step towards solving the issue of illegal immigration to Assam,” said Samujjal Bhattacharya, advisor to All Assam Students Union (AASU).
Abhijeet Sharma of Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO, whose writ petition to the Supreme Court in 2009 led to the start of the NRC updating process in 2013, cautiously welcome publication of the complete draft
“I would say we have achieved only 40% success. Only when all claims and objections of those 40 lakh whose names are missing are settled, the complete NRC list published and names of foreigners removed can we claim complete success,” he told journalists.
Ahead of the publication of the list, there were fears that most of those excluded would be from the minority community.
A senior home ministry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the move to update the NRC is a “secular exercise” and no particular community was targeted.
There were fears that the exclusions would result in some violence in the state but these proved unfounded.
“It is a historic moment for Assam. There’s no need for those whose names are missing to worry as they can file claims. I appeal to all citizens to maintain peace and tranquillity,” chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said.
“No single incident of violence or unrest related to NRC has been reported from anywhere in the state. We thank the people for cooperating and are monitoring the situation,” Assam Police DGP Kuladhar Saikia said.
Perhaps in a move aimed at keeping the peace the district-wise numbers weren’t released.
“We are not disclosing the district wise percentages of applicants whose names are missing as yet. It might lead to tension,” Hajela said.
Under the claims and objections exercise, three types of forms—claims, objections, corrections—can be availed after August 7. People can submit these forms from August 30 to September 28.
On the ground, though, it was a day of disappointment for some and joy for many.
Mohd. Azmal Hoque, a retired junior commissioned officer (JCO) of the Indian Army, was among the 4 million applicants who found his name missing. The 50-year-old, who retired after 30 years of service to the country, hit the headlines last year when he was summoned by a foreigners tribunal to prove that he was an Indian citizen.
Haque managed to get relief from the tribunal after submitting his documents and was declared an Indian. But he was surprised on Monday to find his name and many of his family members missing from the complete draft.
“I was surprised that my name, my son and daughter’s names were missing from the list. My wife and mother’s names were in the list. My elder brother’s family is in the list, while all members of the younger brother’s family have been left out,” he said.
BJP MLA from Borkhola, Kishore Nath, was a relieved man as his name and the names of his family members were in the complete draft. The legislator and six of his family members were summoned by a foreigners tribunal in May to prove citizenship.
“My name as well as those of my family members are in the complete draft. Our names were in the first draft as well, but since we had been summoned by the foreigners tribunal, there was apprehension of being left out,” Nath said.
Among those who are included in the list is Paresh Baruah, commander-in-chief of United Libertaion Front of Assam (Independent), the anti-talk faction of the banned outfit. Names of his wife and two sons were, however, missing.
(HT Correspondents from Delhi contributed to this story)