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Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019

‘Half-done exercise’: Original petitioners voice discontent over NRC

A consortium of 90 organisations representing indigenous Assamese people, had approached the Supreme Court in December, 2012 with a plea that citizenship cut-off date for Assam, March 25, 1971, be done away with.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2019 07:14 IST
Amrita Madhukalya
Amrita Madhukalya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
NRC officials seen working at a centre in Assam.
NRC officials seen working at a centre in Assam. (HT FILE)
         

It is barely 24 hours for the final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to be out. And yet, some of those who blew the earliest bugle in its demand are not sure how they feel about it.

Among them is Abhijit Sarma of the non-governmental organisation, Assam Public Works. Sarma filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in 2009, and asked for the 2006 voter list in Assam to be updated so that 4.1 million people, purportedly undocumented, could be excluded from the electoral rolls. It was in his plea that the Supreme Court took a decision in December 2013 to update the NRC for Assam.

On Friday, Sarma sounded far from happy. “This is a half-done exercise after a decade’s worth of struggle. It is now just another tool to destroy the original inhabitants of Assam,” Sarma said.

On August 24, 2018, roughly a month after the first draft of the NRC was published, he petitioned the apex court for a re-verification of a 10% sample of the list.

“We filed five pleas -- first on August 24, and then August 28, and on September 6, last year asking repeatedly for a 10% re-verification. Then, on October 23, 2018, and finally on June 19 this year, we asked for a reverification of the entire process, after the state NRC coordinator told the court that there is ‘legacy trading’. But our pleas were never heard,” he said.

He now intends to go on strike in protest, and submit memorandums to the President and prime minister of India.

Sarma is not alone. Motiur Mehman of the Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, a consortium of 90 organisations representing indigenous Assamese people, had approached the Supreme Court in December, 2012 with a plea that citizenship cut-off date for Assam, March 25, 1971, be done away with. His contention was that the cut-off date was violative of Articles 5 (citizenship), 6 (rights of citizenship), 14 (equality), 21 (personal liberty), 29 (protection of minorities) and 355 (internal disturbance) of the Constitution.

“While the cut-off for the rest of India was 1951, why was it 1971 for Assam? Are we a colony? In fact, Assam was the only state to have heeded to the Centre’s direction to have an NRC when the 1951 Census was drafted; why are we being punished,” said Rehman.

His case, and three other similar pleas filed between 2014 and 2016, were sent to a Constitution bench and remain pending.

“How can the government allow for the NRC to be updated when our cases are pending before a constitutional bench,” he asked.

Rehman submitted a strongly-worded memorandum to President Ramnath Kovind on Thursday, asking for his intervention on the matter. “This is noting but a death penalty for us,” he said.

Lawyer Aman Wadud who has been dealing with NRC cases for the last few years said that it was the apex court’s which directed and monitored the NRC process. “There is a widespread support for NRC among those who suffered the most, as they trust Supreme Court. NRC should bring a logical conclusion of the illegal migration issue as it has always politicised,” said Wadud.