Over 19.06 lakh people now need to prove they are Indian citizens, after the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) list in Assam published on Saturday excluded their names, but named around 3.11 crore people as citizens of India.
Here are ten vital pointers on the NRC exercise in the northeastern state:
1. The release of the citizens” registry brought to an end six years of speculation over the mammoth exercise involving 52,000 state government officials working on it for identifying illegal foreigners living in Assam.
2. The status of both inclusions and exclusions were on view on the NRC website (www.nrcassam.nic.in), which, however, crashed within a few minutes of the publication of the list apparently due to heavy traffic with an error message saying, “The site cannot be reached”. The site belonging to the Office of the State Coordinator of National Registration (NRC), Assam, however, was restored within some time.
3. On Saturday morning, hard copies of the supplementary list of inclusions were available for public viewing at NRC Seva Kendras (NSK), offices of the Deputy Commissioner and offices of the Circle Officer during office hours. The status of all NRC applicants will be available online from September 7.
4. Exclusions in the final NRC list won”t mean these people would go to jail or be declared as foreigners. All excluded people have the right to appeal to the foreigners” tribunal in Assam under Section 8 of Schedule to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
The timeframe for appeal has been increased from 60 to 120 days – that is till December 31, 2019. If a person loses a case in the tribunal, he can approach the higher judiciary like the high court and the Supreme Court. Both the union home ministry and the state government have announced that no one will be lodged in detention centers until all legal options are exhausted.
5. The BJP-led Assam government has announced it would provide free legal aid to poor people whose names are missing from the final NRC list. Both the BJP and the Congress plan to reach out to bonafide citizens not included in the final NRC. A number of non-governmental organizations have also declared they would help the litigants.
6. Ananta Kumar Malo, a sitting All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) MLA from Abhayapuri South constituency, and former AIUDF legislator Ataur Rahman Mazharbhuyan who represented the Katigora constituency in the Assembly between 2006 and 2011 figure among the 19 lakh-plus people excluded from the final NRC list.
7. Stringent security measures have been put in place to prevent any untoward incidents in the state. In the run up to Saturday, prohibitory orders were issued banning assembly of more than four people in some public places, 14 districts were declared sensitive areas, and Assam police personnel, 218 companies of additional forces, were deployed in the state to prevent any breach of peace.
8. The Assam government will establish 400 Foreigners Tribunals in the state to deal with the cases of people excluded from the final NRC list.
According to officials, the process is already on to set up 200 such tribunals and 200 more will be set up soon in convenient locations for the benefit of the excluded people and ensure that filing and hearing of appeals is smooth and efficient. The Foreigners” Tribunals are quasi-judicial courts mandated to hear appeals of those excluded from the NRC.
9. However, the BJP, which had been clamouring for the NRC for years, was far from happy. Fearing exclusion of a large number of Hindus, the saffron party”s man in the northeast Himanta Biswa Sarma said he had lost all hope in the present form of the NRC “as so many genuine Indians are out” of the document.
He pointed out that while border districts like South Salmara and Dhubri saw six-seven percent deletion of names, in tribal-dominated Karbi Anglong the exclusions were as high as 16 percent.
10. The NRC updation process, which started in the state on orders of the Supreme Court in 2013, is being carried out by the Registrar General of India and monitored by the apex court.
The process of NRC updation in Assam differs from the rest of the country and is governed by Rule 4A and the corresponding Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
The rules have been framed as per the cut-off date of March 24 (midnight), 1971 decided as per the Assam Accord of 1985 signed by the then Congress government in the presence of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the leaders of the agitation belonging to the All Assam Students Union and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad.