Upgrade your UPSC Preparation with our Daily dose of Current Affairs. In today’s edition, we will discuss Assam NRC. Check the topic’s relevance from the UPSC CSE point of view.
Why in the News?
Recently, the State Coordinator of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has reminded members of Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) across Assam to not consider the draft NRC and its supplementary list as reliable evidence for the disposal of cases.
About NRC and when did it start?
The NRC was born out of independent India’s first census in 1951, entailing the transfer of data from the Census slips.
All States were mandated to compile an NRC but it was done only in Assam.
The intention behind such an exercise in Assam was to prepare a village-based inventory of residents in view of the resistance from the State — then undivided — to house post-Partition refugees.
The fear of the indigenous people of being outnumbered by “illegal immigrants” during and after the 1971 Bangladesh War led to the Assam Agitation from 1979 to 1985.
The demand for updating the 1951 NRC to eject foreigners from Assam was raised during the agitation.
The agitation ended with the signing of the Assam Accord in August 1985.
The accord prescribed March 24, 1971, the eve of the Bangladesh War, as the cut-off date for detecting, detaining and deporting foreigners.
This date was incorporated in the NRC updating exercise that began in 2014 under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
People listed in the 1951 NRC and their descendants had a comparatively smooth inclusion in the complete NRC draft published on August 31, 2019.
This draft excluded 19.06-lakh out of the 3.3 crore people who had applied for inclusion.
What has sparked the controversy regarding its Status?
In 2021, the State Coordinator of NRC filed an affidavit at the Gauhati High Court, referring to the August 2019 NRC exercise was just a “supplementary list” and not the final draft and asked for a re-verification.
Whereas an Assam’s Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT) member declared a doubtful migrant as Indian in Karimganj district by acknowledging that the member’s family featured in the August 2019 list referred to as the “final NRC”.
The list has also been referred to as final in several other instances.
Recently, the State Coordinator of NRC urged the FTs not to rely on the NRC to adjudicate cases of citizenship as the Final NRC is not yet released by the Registrar General of Citizens Registration.
He also claimed that the NRC was inaccurate due to wrong data entry and there were several flaws in the process used in the updating exercise.
However, the FT members instead of adjudicating the cases of individuals declared as foreigners independently of the NRC, have been taking decisions by referring to the NRC as final.
A member of FT responded saying that the NRC was drafted in accordance with relevant clauses of the Citizenship Rules of 2003 and was final.
He also reiterated that the official website of the NRC mentions it as final.
He further added that the State Coordinator should not spread his erroneous view on law, rules, notifications and orders of the Supreme Court about the finality of NRC and must not interfere in the lawful functioning of the FT which is beyond his jurisdiction and limits.
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Status of the NRC
The next stage is the issuance of a rejection slip to each of the 19.06 lakh people excluded from the draft NRC.
After receiving such a slip with an explanation of why he or she has been left out of the NRC, a person would have to approach the FT concerned within 120 days with documents to prove his or her citizenship.
The FT would then adjudge the person as a ‘citizen’ or ‘foreigner’ for inclusion or rejection in the NRC.
Stand of the Assam Government on the NRC
Assam government has stuck to its stand that the NRC was erroneous.
The government claims that a minimum of 20% of the enlisted names in districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% of names in other districts need re-verification.
The government has not accepted the list as final and has decided to approach the Supreme Court in this regard.
The government has urged for the unfreezing of the biometrics of 21 lakh individuals which were collected during the updating exercise, to help them get their Aadhaar cards which can be frozen once the individual is declared as a non-citizen.
About Foreigner Tribunals (FT)
A Foreigners’ Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body tasked with deciding the status of citizenship of people suspected to be or marked as foreigners. An FT member is like a judge.