GUWAHATI: The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam will not make those excluded stateless overnight as the process will be followed by a long-winding litigation which might take years to complete.
The final draft of the NRC will be published on August 31. Over 41 lakh people were excluded following the publication of the complete draft and an additional draft of deletion.
Given the perceptions and estimates on the ground, not less than 20 lakh people will be excluded from the list but no person will be put in the detention camp immediately. There is no question of deportation as the Centre said it is an internal matter of India.
The Assam government does not have the facilities to keep so many people in detention. There are no separate detention camps. The jails are where the declared foreigners are kept and they are already crowded. There is just one detention camp which is coming up in Goalpara but it can house at the most 3,000 people. The government has taken a decision to build ten such detention camps.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said those left out would not face detention till the Foreigners’ Tribunals pass orders about their status. They will be able to challenge exclusion by filing appeals in the tribunals.
“Those who will be left out can move the Foreigners’ Tribunals to challenge their cases by filing appeals. The appeals have to be filed within 120 days since the final list is published. The cases have to be disposed of within six months from the day the appeals were filed,” Assam’s Additional Chief Secretary, Kumar Sanjay Krishna, told this newspaper.
“If someone’s case has been disposed of by the Foreigners’ Tribunal but he continues to remain excluded from the NRC, he can move the Gauhati High Court,” Krishna explained.
According to lawyers here, the Supreme Court will be the last resort.
Currently, Assam has 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals. The government will set up another 200 such tribunals. If 20 lakh people get excluded, one can imagine how much time it will take for the tribunals to dispose of the cases.
Given the long process of litigation, there is a perception that it will take years to identify the Indians in Assam. After all, the updation of the NRC is a process to identify Indians, not illegal immigrants.
By such time, there is also a possibility that the Centre will get the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 passed in the Rajya Sabha to protect the interests of the non-Muslim immigrants. The Bill has been already passed by the Lok Sabha.