On July 30, the much-anticipated first draft of Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published resulting in a political slugfest across the country. More than 40 lakh people were excluded from the list. According to The Times Of India, the due draft that was to be published in 2015 was published on Monday. The draft which was announced by the Registrar General of India (RGI) said that out of the 3.329 crore citizens, 2.89 crores are citizens of India.
The NRC is the register of all the legal citizen of the state of Assam. The list has been published to identify the legal citizens of Assam excluding immigrants from Bangladesh, formerly East Bengal and then East Pakistan. Assam already has NRC, the first draft of which was made in 1951 on the basis of that year’s census.
Ex-serviceman not in NRC
Samsul Haque, an ex-serviceman and his family has been excluded from the NRC list. The 57-year-old has served in the Indian Air Force for 35 years and is now a retired sergeant.
“My grandfather and his father have all lived in Assam, I had submitted land documents of my late grandfather from 1931 yet, my family name is not there,” said Samsul while speaking to The Logical Indian.
54-year-old Nurjahan, his wife says that “Because my husband was in the army, we were asked to move from one place to another in every few years. In 2014, when he retired from his service we came back to our land, in the hope of ending our life peacefully here.”
Samsul told us that in the 2014’s voter list his name was the “D” voter. The “D” voter is referred to as the doubtful voters by the Election Commission since 1997.
“My name was in the “D” list, but no notice was sent to me, so I went to the foreigners’ tribunal office to ask them to issue a notice against me so that I can go to the court. After the notice, I submitted all my documents to the tribunal to prove my Indian citizenship,” said the father of two.
In August 2016, the tribunal gave its verdict in favour of Samsul and his wife Nurjahan. “The verdict said that we are not foreigners and we are the citizens of Assam,” he said. Samsul further told us that his father’s name was there in the 1951 NRC. In fact, his extended family have made it to the list but not his family. “I have served the country for so long still I have to go from pillar to post to prove my nationality now,” Samsul laments.
He is hopeful that he will make it to the final list, but still, the fear of being stateless has gripped his family. “This is the government’s fault. Their negligence can spoil someone’s life,” says Nurjahan.
Nurjahan told us that they are not the only people in there “Mohalla” whose name has been excluded from the list. She says, “In my neighbourhood, there are many families whose names are there on the list, but one or two members are just randomly excluded.
For the past many years, some people from Assam were demanding the NRC to be updated. From 1970, the people of Assam have protested against the ‘illegal immigrants’ from Bangladesh. They claimed that the migrants have taken up their jobs as well as their space. In 2016, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal came to power promising the people of Assam that all the illegal immigrants would be removed from the state.
According to the News18, Sonowal said “Our government came to power on two promises – corruption-free Assam and illegal foreigner-free Assam. We are committed to fulfilling the promises.”
After many agitations and protests in the state, the Supreme Court in December said that the NRC will be updated for the state of Assam. The court asked the state to use 1971 electoral roll and treat it as a cut off for the draft, which means anybody who came to Assam after 1971, will be considered a foreigner.
The NRC that was published on Monday was the updated second draft, that came nearly after seven decades. Since the time the second draft of the NRC has been published, there has been an uproar from the locals whose names were not on the list and even from many human rights activist.
What will happen to these people?
Union minister Rajnath Singh has said that this is not the final list. He further said that people whose names are excluded will have the opportunity to apply again.
On Sunday, Assam Chief minister tweeted that no “genuine” Indian citizen would be denied their citizenship rights.
I reiterate that no genuine Indian citizen will be devoid of their citizenship rights. So no one should panic after publication of the final draft of NRC. I also urge people not to make any communal statements and remain watchful against falling prey to rumours.
— Sarbananda Sonowal (@sarbanandsonwal) July 29, 2018
According to The Times of India, a bench comprising of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice R F Nariman asked the Centre to place the standard operating procedure to deal with claims of those excluded from NRC before Supreme Court on August 16.
For the people whose names are not on the list, they can go to various NRC Seva Kendras, between August 30 and September 28 to get the application. Forms for correction will be available from August 7, said Prateek Hajela, NRC state coordinator, reports The Indian Express. After that, the final NRC will be published by December 31, the Home Ministry announced.