National Register of Citizen (NRC)
NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS (NRC)
|Purpose of NRC : To separate “illegal” immigrants from “legitimate” residents of Assam.
Nodal Agency for NRC : Registrar General and Census Commissioner India.
Context – Recently, the Government of India has signalled its intent of not carrying out a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).
- It is a list of all bona fide Indian citizens of Assam, the only state with such a document. Other states such as Tripura are also demanding for NRC.
- The National Register of Citizens is a list of all the legal citizens of the country, with necessary documents.
- In 2014, the Supreme Court asked the state government to update the 1951 NRC in a time- bound manner. Present exercise is being conducted under the supervision of the Supreme Court.
- Earlier, following the Supreme Court’s order, the Government conducted the NRC updating exercise in Assam and as a result over 19 lakh applicants failed to make it to the NRC list.
- It will include persons whose names appear in any of the electoral rolls upto the midnight of 24th March, 1971 or National Register of Citizens, 1951 and their descendants.
- The Assam is the only exception to provisions of citizenship act 1955, where as per the 1985 Assam Accord foreigners who came to the state up to March 24, 1971 were to be regularised as Indian citizens.
- The process of verification involved house-to-house field verification, determination of authenticity of documents, family tree investigations in order to rule out bogus claims of parenthood, and linkages and separate hearings for married women.
- To implement Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019, citizens and illegal migrants have to be identified. So, a National Register Citizens (NRC) is the necessary first step.
- To prove their or their ancestors’ presence before 1971, applicants in Assam had to produce any one of 14 possible documents:
- 1951 NRC; or
- Electoral roll(s) up to March 24, 1971; or
- Anyone of 12 other kinds of papers, such as land & tenancy records; citizenship papers; passport; Board/University certificate.
|ASSAM ACCORD (1985) AND NRC IN ASSAM|
- It was a Memorandum of Settlement signed between representatives of the GoI and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
- The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord as per which –
- 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;
- Also, the entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
- NRC was updated in Assam as per Assam Accord. NRC is unique to Assam.
|WHAT NEXT FOR EXCLUDED PEOPLES?|
- Assam government has assured people that those who find their names missing from the final NRC will not immediately be termed “foreigners” or illegal immigrants.
- Such people will be allowed to register protests with the Foreigners Tribunal. They can approach the High Court or even the Supreme Court for further appeal in the matter.
- The State government will also provide legal aid to the poor who find their names missing from the list.
- Under the Foreigners Act of 1946, the burden of proving whether an individual is a citizen or not, lies upon the individual applicant and not on the state.
|IMPACT OF NRC|
- An updated NRC is likely to put an end to speculations about the actual number of illegal migrants in Assam in particular and the country in general.
- It will provide a verified dataset to carry out meaningful debates and implement calibrated policy
- Publication of an updated NRC is expected to deter future migrants from Bangladesh from entering Assam illegally.
- The publication of the draft NRC has already created a perception that staying in Assam without valid documentation will attract detention/jail term and deportation.
- More importantly, illegal migrants may find it even more difficult to procure Indian identity documents and avail all the rights and benefits due to all Indian citizens.
- Inclusion of their names in the NRC will provide respite to all those Bengali speaking people in Assam who have been, hitherto, suspected as being Bangladeshis.
- Flawed Process – People who found themselves on the first list didn’t find their names in the second. Even the family of a former President of India, ex-army men’s did not mention on the list.
- Parallel processes of NRC, the voters list of the Election Commission, and the Foreigners’ Tribunals have led to utter chaos, as none of these agencies are sharing information with each other.
- Draft provides a window for re-verification, due to large number of people being excluded from the list, it will be very difficult to physically verify all of them.
- Since such ‘non citizens’ can resort to judicial relief to claim their citizenship, it can lead to overburdening of judiciary which already reels under large number of pending cases.
- There is uncertainty about the future of those left out from the list.
- Dhaka has never accepted that they are its citizens or that there is a problem of illegal immigration. In the absence of a formal agreement, India cannot forcibly push the illegal migrants back into Bangladesh.
- Moreover, this issue has potential to jeopardise relations with Dhaka. Such an attempt would not only damage bilateral relations but also dent the country’s image internationally.
- Apart from deportation, the other option is large scale detention camps – which is an unlikely option for a civilised democracy like India.
- Another option is instituting work permits, which would give them limited legal rights to work but ensure they have no political voice. However, it is not clear what will be the fate of children of such individuals.
- With no end to uncertainty, NRC seems to be a “process without an end.”
- India, as a country which follows the ideology of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, should not be hasty in taking decisions that can disenfranchise her citizens – contradicting its centuries followed values.
- The need of the hour is that Union Government should clearly chart out the course of action regarding the fate of excluded people from final NRC data and political parties should refrain from coloring the entire NRC process through electoral prospects that may snowball in to communal violence.
- There is a need for a robust mechanism of legal support for the four million who have to prove their citizenship to India with their limited means.