The National Register of Citizens (NRC) has always been an issue of debate in India and recently has gained even more spotlight with the upcoming discussions of extending it nationwide.
The National Register of Citizens is based on the principle of Citizenship by Registration under the Citizenship Act of 1955 and has been mentioned under the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The register contains the names of Indian Citizens.
The register was prepared in the year of 1951 and recorded all the persons that had been enumerated during the census of 1951.
Motive behind the creation of NRC
The motive behind the creation of the register was the vast population exchanges taking place due to partition as well as communal riots. However, it has been updated only for the state of Assam in 1971, due to the continuous flow of illegal immigrants from neighboring countries mainly Bangladesh. As a result, the main purpose behind maintaining the register is not only having a record of all the Indian citizens but also to facilitate the identification of such illegal immigrants in order to deport them out of the country.
Updation of the NRC in Assam
The NRC was updated again in 1979 when there was an agitation in the state claiming a violation of community rights. It was claimed that participation of illegal immigrants into the election process negatively affected the choice of the indigenous population in the matters of electing their political representatives. Later, in 1985 the agitation carried forward by the All Assam Students’ Union ended with the intervention of the Assam accord. As a result of this record, all the people who had entered into the state within the period of 1966 and 1971 would be deleted from the electoral rolls and consecutively lose their voting rights as well as people entering at the eve of the Bangladesh War, 1971 would be declared foreigners and deported.
This accord had its negative effects as those who could not prove that they or their ancestors entered the country before the eve of the war would be declared to be foreigners and hence deported.
However, issues continue to erupt with numerous petitions filed to the Supreme Court regarding the updation of the NRC and deportation of individuals. The latest update of the Supreme Court-monitored- NRC concluded in August 2019 with 19 lakhs of the 3.29 crore applicants ruled out as immigrants or non-citizens resulting in a wave of disappointment among the population of the state as well as the Assam State Government.
Moving towards a Nationwide NRC
Pertaining to the above on 20th November 2019, Union Home Minister suggested for the preparation of a Nationwide NRC, negating the SC monitored-NRC and redoing the entire process for the entire country including Assam.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the effect of a nationwide national register of citizens and most have been linking it to the political scenario at present. The biggest criticism behind the policy has been to favour the supposed Hindu vote bank of the ruling party. The government has been unable to assure the population otherwise as the Muslim citizens remain anxious given the larger ecosystem for minorities in India. There have always been agitations throughout the country claiming the Muslim culture to taint the rights and culture of the indigenous population especially when it comes to the political scenario. The rising vigilante crimes and mob lynchings against the Muslim citizens of the country and lack of remedies have further pushed them into the clutches of fear.
People from neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan have always been migrating into the country in search of better opportunities and acting like the cheap labour class for households as well as other service industries, generations of them settling down in India. It suffices to say that proven foreigners, these individuals will be uprooted from their homes and livelihoods. It is believed that it would allow a clearer population demographics of the country and promote fairer elections as the foreigner’s who has somehow made their way into the electoral rolls will be deleted and the government could focus its resources towards the right direction. However, we refuse to consider the total resources that will be expended in the entire process of registration and conducting trials on claims of being labeled a foreigner incorrectly. The registration process in Assam alone involved an investment of 1600 crore rupees on the infrastructure and manpower. There have been proposed various methods to achieve a speedy registration but each at a large cost, which once again makes us wonder if the resources of the nation are being allocated towards a party agenda or the overall development of the people.
A large question mark also lies upon the process of identifying a person as a citizen, for the most part of the Indian education is still illiterate and would hardly have any documentation to prove their citizenship, on the other hand merely granting citizenship on the basis of soil might be unfavourable to the other strata which is yet to stake a claim on land such as tribes, farm labourers etc.
Looking from another perspective, it can also be a proof of one’s rights if questioned by another and would surely facilitate one to enjoy access to government facilities and amenities. Under the current wave of nationalisation, it could also prove to be a shield for many and prevent unwarranted riots and agitations.
One can not exactly tell what would be the effects of NRC on the Indian demographics clearly and can only speculate, however, we just wish that the positives of this exercise overshadow it’s negatives as the government plans its application throughout the country.
Shaina is a very hard-working and diligent writer. She does her work fervently and makes sure that whatever task she takes is completed in given time and is qualitative. She is an avid reader and also has been a writer for school magazine. Besides these, her hobbies include poetry and sketching.