NRC
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Why in news?

The first draft of an updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam was published recently by the Assam government.

What is NRC?

It is a list of Indian citizens which is meant to decide who is a bona fide Indian citizen and those who fail to enlist in the register will be deemed, illegal migrants. 

The NRC Assam, the Register containing names of Indian Citizens in Assam, was prepared in 1951 as a non-statutory process by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during 1951 Census.

The Assam agitation (1979-85) against the illegal foreigners led to the signing of Assam Accord on 15th August 1985 between the Central Government, State Government, All India Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Gan Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), which stipulated 24th March, 1971 as the cut-off date for identification and deportation of illegal migrants from East Pakistan (Bangladesh).

The year of 1971 is chosen for conducting the survey as it was agreed in Assam accord 1985. If the applicant’s name is not on any of these lists, he can produce any of the 12 other documents dated up to March 24, 1971, like land or tenancy record, citizenship certificate or permanent residential certificate or passport or court records or refugee registration certificate.

Accordingly, the Citizenship Act, 1955 was amended by inserting section 6A as special provisions for Assam.

Why NRC?

Since the 1950s, there is a lot of controversy regarding migration and citizenship issues. Original inhabitants of Assam always fear that migrants from Bangladesh would compete them with jobs, land and eventually hamper their culture.

In the late 1970s, All Assam Students’ Union spearheaded a massive drive, popularly known as the Assam Agitation calling for the detection, deletion, and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi migrants.

To put an end to this agitation Assam accord was signed in 1985 between Rajiv Gandhi and the leader of Assam movement led by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP).

The demands put forth by them regarding migration issues were:

  • All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
  • Those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported; the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
  • Anyone who entered the state without documents after March 24, 1971, will be declared a foreigner and were to be deported.

However, the provisions in the Assam accord were not implemented for a long time. Therefore, another agreement was signed in 2005 between the Centre, the Assam government and the AASU and a decision was taken to update the NRC on the basis of NRC 1951 and electoral rolls up to 1971. The meeting also fixed a 2-year deadline to complete the exercise.

As a result, a pilot project was launched in some districts but it soon erupted violent agitations by groups opposed to such exercise and the NRC update was halted. Thereafter, in 2009 Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding identification of Bangladeshi foreigners in the State and deletion of their names from the voters’ list. Finally, the Supreme Court ordered in 2013 to complete the exercise by December 31, 2017, leading to the present updating of NRC.

What is Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955?

  • Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 states that those who came from Bangladesh between 1966 and 1971 will have to register themselves with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer, and will be included in the NRC, but will not have voting rights for 10 years from the date of registration.
  • But According to Article 6 of the Constitution, the cut off for determining citizenship in India is July 19, 1948.

What is the Assam Accord?

  • Assam witnessed a range of law and order problems and political turbulence driven by the anti-foreigners movement, in the early 1980s.
  • Responding to this, the Assam Accord (1985) was signed by the Centre and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
  • Accordingly, those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
  • The entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
  • Anyone who entered the state without documents after March 24, 1971, will be declared a foreigner and were to be deported.
  • Besides, the Accord had a package for the economic development of Assam.
  • It also had an assurance to provide safeguards to protect the cultural, social, and linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.

Who will be considered as an Indian citizen?

Those whose names were in the 1951 NRC or in any of the electoral rolls up to the midnight of March 24, 1971 and their descendants.

What is the procedure?

  • To apply for inclusion in the NRC, one’s name or one’s ancestor’s name must be in the 1951 NRC or in any voter list up to the midnight of March 24, 1971, the cut-off date agreed upon in the Assam Accord.
  • If the applicant’s name is not on any of these lists, he can produce any of the 12 other documents dated up to March 24, 1971, like land or tenancy record, citizenship certificate or permanent residential certificate or passport or court records or refugee registration certificate. March 25, 1971, is when the Bangladesh Liberation War began.
  • If the applicant’s ancestor’s name is on any of these lists, the applicant will have to prove his relationship to his ancestor by producing his board or university certificate, ration card or any other legally acceptable document.
  • An Indian citizen from another state who moved to Assam after the specified date is not eligible for inclusion in the NRC though he can continue to vote.

What Are The Possible Challenges Of National Register Of Citizens?

  1. Exclusion of people- Draft NRC could lead to exclusion and inclusion errors and consequently, large number of lawful Indian citizens could end up being denied their voting and other rights.
  2. No deportation treaty- Illegal migrants out of the list of NRC will be sent back to Bangladesh has been declared. However, India does not have any expelling treaty with Bangladesh, which will lead to other complexities.
  3. Create fault lines- Already a lot of tension in Assam is going on – between Hindus and Muslims. Exclusion of some people might raise against of exclusion of a particular community creating new fault lines leading to social unrest and general tensions.
  4. Conflict with citizenship bill- Government is considering to pass Citizenship Bill, 2016 which says to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, who entered Assam illegally after 1971. But once NRC exercise will be completed, a lot of Hindu Bangladeshi might not appear in the list, which will be declared as illegal migrants. Thus, it will lead to confusion and moreover harden the resolve of people not to assimilate Hindu Bangladeshi in Assam according to NRC.
  5. Post marriage migration– Nearly 29 lakh women, who have migrated after marriage, have claimed for residency status.

NRC and Controversies:

  • Many question the validity or the 1951 NRC since it was incomplete.
  • People complain that the government has not made available all electoral rolls up to 1971 in all districts. The government says it has provided whatever is available.
  • Doubtful voters will have to have their names cleared by the Foreigners Tribunal before their inclusion in the NRC.
  • One of the oft-repeated complaints is the discrepancy in names in different government documents, caused by misspelling of names and inclusion of nicknames instead of actual names.
  • There has been concern from indigenous tribes who may not have any pre-1971 documents to prove their identity. While all original inhabitants or Assam are to be included in Assam, the modalities tor the same have not been finalized.
  • Many of the Muslims who had fled Assam could only return later, thereby not being included in the 1951 Census and NRC.

Oppositions to NRC revision:

  • There are writ petition pending before Supreme Court to declare cut-off year as 1951 instead of 1971.
  • There are question about validity of 1951 NRC data because it was incomplete.
  • Few supports NRC be updated on the basis of 2014 electoral roll.
  • Few feel this revision exercise should be carried out in entire country instead of being selective to Assam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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