GUWAHATI: The much-talked-about National Register of Citizens or NRC in Assam has virtually gone into oblivion.
Groups and organisations, which had fought for an error-free NRC, are livid that a process, which was supposed to have begun after the publication of the final list, has been put into the cold storage.
The final list of the NRC, published on August 31 last year, had seen over 19 lakh out of the over 3.3 crore applicants being left out. The rule is that the persons excluded can challenge their exclusion in the foreigners’ tribunals (FTs), each of which is headed by a single judge called “member”.
Assam had 100 FTs but some 20 of them were without members. Given the impending mammoth exercise involving the NRC-reject, the state government had decided to set up 200 additional FTs. So, in September last year, it had appointed 221 retired judges and bureaucrats with experience of discharging judicial duties and lawyers with at least seven years of experience as members of the FTs.
Persons willing to challenge their exclusion were given a window of 120 days to move an FT. A person not getting relief at an FT can move the Gauhati High Court and then the Supreme Court. However, he or she may be arrested and sent to a detention camp right after the FT declares him or her a “foreigner”.
The process was to have been preceded by the issuance of “speaking orders” or rejection slips to the excluded by NRC authorities citing the reasons behind exclusion. Initially, it did not take off due to reasons not known and then, came the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, the newly-appointed FT members had very little to do in the past year.
NRC state coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma said: “The officers are busy with Covid-19”. He is understood to have issued a notification recently directing all District Magistrates to ensure the availability of laptops and Internet for officials who are to begin the quality check of rejection slips.
An irate All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) said the Centre had no intention to complete the process.
“The Centre has done nothing in the past year. Its insincerity is out in the open for everyone to see. That it is not serious about the NRC or the future of Assam’s indigenous people is proven,” AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi told this newspaper.
Stating that the BJP’s politics revolves around votes, he said it was very unlikely that the government would do anything before Assam polls due early next year.
The Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO which had first moved the Supreme Court seeking the updation of the NRC of 1951, has stuck to its guns. It insisted on 100% re-verification of the NRC final list.
“We cannot accept this NRC that has the names of illegal Bangladeshis and even Jihadis. One year has elapsed but nothing has happened on the ground,” lamented APW chief Abhijeet Sharma.
NRC in a nutshell
- Final NRC was published on August 31, 2019
- Altogether 3,30,27,661 people had applied to the registering authority through 68,37,660 application forms
- 3,11,21,004 people had made it to the final NRC
- 19,06,657 were left out
- NRC was updated under the direct monitoring of Supreme Court and in deference to Assam Accord.
- The Accord was signed with then Rajiv Gandhi government following a six-year long bloody anti-foreigners’ agitation of early 1980s spearheaded by AASU.
- As per the Accord, the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, who entered Assam after March 24 (midnight), 1971 have to be detected and deported
- Identification of immigrants under the process of updation of NRC has the same cut-off date, i.e., the immigrants who entered Assam after March 24, 1971 will be viewed as illegal immigrants