Final Assam citizens list tomorrow: All you need to know about the list

The government has sought to ease fears in Assam ahead of NRC list, reiterating that those excluded will not automatically be declared foreigners and that people should not believe rumours.
National register of citizens is an exercise which was first done in 1951 to enumerate the citizens, their houses and holdings.(REUTERS/Stringer)
National register of citizens is an exercise which was first done in 1951 to enumerate the citizens, their houses and holdings.(REUTERS/Stringer)
Updated on Jun 23, 2020 08:42 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Guwahati | BySadiq Naqvi

Authorities in Assam are preparing to publish the National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Saturday that aims to identify genuine citizens amid fears millions could be excluded.

The government has sought to ease fears in Assam ahead of NRC list, reiterating that those excluded will not automatically be declared foreigners and that people should not believe rumours.

Authorities have also increased security and issued orders banning large assemblies and use of loudspeakers in some areas regarded vulnerable to violence, including parts of the state capital Guwahati.

Here’s you need to know about NRC:

What is the National Register of Citizens and why is it being updated?

National register of citizens is an exercise which was first done in 1951 to enumerate the citizens, their houses and holdings. Over the years there has been a demand from the indigenous Assamese groups to update the NRC to assess the number of illegal immigrants or those who came illegally to Assam after March 25, 1971.

The decision to update the NRC was taken by the state government in 2005. A pilot project was initiated in two places, in Chhaygaon near Guwahati and in Barpeta in 2010. In Barpeta, police action on an anti-NRC protest led to four deaths and the project was shelved. It resumed after the Supreme Court order, on a petition by Assam Public Works, an NGO. The process is being constantly monitored by the SC. In October 2014, it set March 31, 2016, as the deadline which was missed and revised by the court finally to August 31, 2019.

Watch| Security arrangements tightened ahead of final NRC list: Assam DGP


Who is a citizen in Assam?

Waves of migration led to a fear of the outsiders, especially Bengali speakers among local inhabitants. After the Assam Agitation against the ‘foreigners’ or ‘Bangladeshis’, and the subsequent Assam Accord signed in 1985 between the government of Indian and the All Assam Students Union, the students’ body at the vanguard of the movement, the Citizenship Act, 1955, was amended and Section 6A was inserted.

All Indians origin persons including from Bangladesh who entered Assam before January 1, 1966, were deemed as citizens, those who came after January 1, 1966, to March 25 1971, could get citizenship after registering themselves and living for 10 years, and those who entered after March 25, 1971, were to be deported. Thus, it fixed March 25, 1971, as the cut-off date something which is being followed by the NRC, too.

Has this cut-off date been accepted by everyone?

No, Assam Sanmalita Mahasangha has moved court with a petition which says Section 6 (A) of the Indian Citizenship Act 1955 is unconstitutional and challenges the cut-off date when it is July 19, 1948, for the rest of the country. The matter is being pending with a Constitution bench of the SC, and the bench monitoring the NRC in its August 13 order said NRC list will be updated as per orders of the Constitution bench.

How is the NRC being updated?

People had to submit a form with any of the 14 ‘List A’ documents to establish their family residence in Assam or in any other part before the cut-off date and another ‘List B’ or link document to establish their relationship with the ancestor they have traced their lineage to.

List A documents include the electoral rolls up to March 25, 1971, and the 1951 NRC which was digitized and each entry allotted a unique code and 12 other documents including land and tenancy record, citizenship certificate, permanent residential certificate, refugee registration certificate, passport, bank or LIC document, education certificate, court record et al.

Similarly, list B also contained birth certificate, land document, board/university certificate, bank/LIC/post office record, electoral roll, ration card, other legally acceptable document and a circle officer or gram panchayat secretary certificate for married women who do not have any other document to prove linkage.

Is the verification of documents enough to make your entry into NRC?

For Original Inhabitants of Assam, a contentious category, the verification was done less vigorously. However, for the rest, as Prateek Hajela, the state coordinator said earlier in an interview “mere documentary evidence is not the end of it. If there is a contradiction, which is appearing through some other means of verification, that also has to be properly explained.” Multiple rounds of hearings were held to check the veracity of documents and oral submissions.

How many people risk exclusion?

The complete draft of the NRC published on July 30, 2018, excluded 40,07,707 names. Additionally, around 2,00,000 objections were filed against inclusions in the complete draft. Out of the over 4 million left out of NRC, only 3.62 million filed claims for inclusion. In June this year, the NRC published another exclusion list with around 1.02 lakh names who were found to be ineligible after sou moto reverification of the complete draft. They, too, filed claims.

The list to be published on August 31 is likely to exclude those whose claims are found to be ineligible, against whom the objection filed is found to be valid and those whose names were included in the complete draft but were found to be ineligible after reverification which continued at least till August 28.

Does exclusion from NRC mean declaration as a illegal foreigner?

No, NRC being an administrative exercise, those who will be excluded could appeal to the foreigners’ tribunals within 120 days. Out of the 100 foreigners tribunals in Assam, spread over the state, one in each sub-division has been designated as the appeal centre according to the state government’s latest notice. To deal with the rush of NRC appeals, the number of tribunals is set to increase to 300 in the first phase and subsequently to 1100.

The state government said it will provide legal aid for filing appeals.

Those whose appeals are rejected by the foreigners’ tribunals could appeal to the higher courts. However, rejection by the tribunal would mean declaration as a foreigner.

Additionally, those who do not file appeals are likely to be referred by the state government to the tribunals for adjudication.

While there is no clarity on the fate of the NRC rejects, those declared foreigners by the tribunals risk being detained in detention centres which function out of six jails in the state. While the first exclusive detention centre is under construction, an additional 10 are proposed to come up.

As of July, there were 117,164 persons who have been declared foreigners by tribunals after they were marked as suspected illegal immigrants through a parallel process of detection done by the Election Commission of India and the Border Organisation of the Assam Police. Out of these 1145 were in detention as per a recent statement of the Government of Indian in Parliament.

The state government is also building a common database of suspected illegal immigrants and streamlining the functioning of the foreigners’ tribunals which have often faced criticism under the E-FT platform.

How does the parallel process of detection of illegal immigrants intersect with NRC?

Those who have been declared foreigners by the 100 foreigners tribunals and their descendants through whom they trace their lineage will be out of the NRC, those who have been marked as Doubtful voters or suspected illegal immigrants (either by the local election authorities or the border police enquiry) and their descendants, and those whose cases are pending in the foreigners tribunals and their descendants will be kept on hold till their cases are cleared by the foreigners tribunals.

For children born after December 3, 2004, they can only be included in NRC if none of their parents falls in the above three categories.

Is it different from citizenship laws which apply in the rest of the country?

Yes. The Citizenship Act has provisions for citizenship by birth, people born till July 1, 1987, are citizens. The 1986 amendment to the Act introduced another condition that either of the parents has to be an Indian citizen at the time of birth. This is not recognised in the NRC which considers citizenship purely by birth and not by descendance as ineligible.

Can those declared foreigners be deported?

Unlikely, as just four declared foreigners have been repatriated as the state government admitted in an affidavit to the Supreme Court earlier this year. The state government had listed reasons for problems in repatriation and said, “mostly such proposals (of repatriation) are pending in respect of declared foreigners, who are currently in detention camps that have refused to divulge their biographic details, particularly the country of their origin and the address in the country of their origin.” Most declared foreigners including those in detention claim to be Indian citizens.

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