NRC: A RAY OF HOPE OR DESPAIR

NRC: A RAY OF HOPE OR DESPAIR

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SYNOPSIS

With the growing infiltration from neighbouring countries, there needs to be a development of a structure to identify such infiltrators. Just like the Aadhar, where the biometric of every citizen of the country is stored to facilitate a common platform of information for every citizen of the country, a database needs to be developed to keep a track of the illegal migrants’ issue. 

Every Border State in India is affected by the problem of infiltrators, with Assam, being the most affected by such intruders. The infiltration not only disbalances the demographic condition in the state but also makes the state more vulnerable to communal riots. 

The NRC process was being undertaken by the Supreme Court directly under its supervision, which makes the process entirely trustworthy. But despite being under direct supervision, the Government has developed a means to bypass the main objective of NRC. The Government has amended the Citizenship Act,1955, which tends to provide citizenship to people of minority groups suffering in different countries. 

This amendment proves to be in the humanitarian ground, but still, it tends to provoke communalism. Also, it deflects the very need of NRC update procedure in the State as well as make the effort of citizens lost on vague for accomplishing a Fair NRC. 

Though, it would be justified in putting up the current scenario where India already bleeds due to the problem of overpopulation, and the country yet prepares itself for change in the citizenship act, which will further accelerate the problem faced by the country.

And, to note that the proposed act puts up the question whether or not the very objective of the NRC process gets satisfied with the proposal of the Amendment Bill. Also, whether it would be worth the pain taken by citizens of the state to establish a Fair NRC, and won’t it violate Article 14 which states equality irrespective of Gender, Caste, Creed, etc.?

Introduction

India with its ever-increasing population and also being the 2nd populous country in the world, which is to succeed China to rank 1st by 2024. The algorithm has been left to glitter, with demographic changes across the whole country, affected by either in house transition or to add to the worse the illegal migration from neighbouring countries. 

With respect to the current scenario, every state remains affected by illegal migrants, worsening the situation of unemployment and endangering the livelihood of the indigenous inhabitants of the area. With the growing threat to the indigenous people of the area, people opt for a means in order to balance the equilibrium.

The most adaptive means to balance the entire situation is to identify the illegal Migrants and deport them to their respective country. This requires both political wills as well as support from the People. As, most often in order to save the vote banks, political parties tend to support the illegal migrants by providing all the basic necessities and also providing legitimate documents to establish their citizenship. Moreover, such problems can be only solved only when people are taken into confidence. 

Assam, one of the seven sisters of North East, remains to be a major state affected by the issue of illegal migrants from East Pakistan (now, known as Bangladesh). Being situated in the border area of the country and only 360 km. away from Bangladesh. The state remains affected from the very problem of illegal migrants from ages. 

To cope up with the situation and to adhere to the local group demands, the NRC process was started based upon the 1951 Census, which didn’t turn out as expected. Later, after nearly 6 decades the NRC process again came into existence under the monitoring of the Supreme Court of India.

The process aims to solve the problem of illegal migrants and grant citizenship to those who have entered Assam before 24th March,1971. For any person whose name does not get up in the NRC, the person’s faith lies on the hand of the government, as it is yet to be decided what needs to be done to them. 

As, per reports, it is suggested that they would be provided with ample opportunities to prove their citizenship. To, the suffix of the issue, the NRC deadline has been increased consistently and the latest date to publish the final NRC was fixed on 31st August,2019. 

NRC remains to be a decider on the faith of the people of Assam. But still it suffers from many complexities and the tireless effort and struggle of both the NRC Officials and the people of Assam. 

Evolution 

National Register of Citizens (NRC), introduced in order to substantiate original citizens of Assam to those of illegal migrants from East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh. The NRC process aimed to identify the illegal migrants and deport the identified. 

The process dates back to 1951, where it was prepared based upon the census of 1951. But the formulation process was stopped, as new directives relating to Passport and Visa came into existence for travel between India & Pakistan, and also numerous amendments which made the entire process to a standstill. 

The continuous influx, led to a large-scale movement by All Assam Students Union (AASU) and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP), demanding deportation of illegal migrants based on the updation of NRC, as the medium to determine influx. The movement lasted for 6 years, led to signing of a MoS (Memorandum of Settlement), between AASU, State Government and the Central Government, which was known as the Assam Accord. The accord fixed the deadline as 1st January,1966 to be considered as a date to determine citizenship. And, persons entering Assam after the deadline to be detected as per the Foreigners Act, 1946.

Though the accord was signed and ordered as to this regard, no official process took place to determine the influx. But, in the year 2010, the process was started as a pilot project in two districts. But, within 4 days, the law and order situation in the district started to be disrupted, leading to mass violence and firing by police personnel. Citing, the disturbed law order situation, and the impossible nature of implementation of NRC, the process was again suspended.

But the relief came when the Supreme Court intervened in the year 2013, with a writ petition filed by Assam Public Works and Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha. The Supreme Court, acting on the writ petition directed the Government to initiate the NRC process, in accordance with the Citizenship Act, 1955. 

The court-appointed Mr Prateek Hajela, as the mandated coordinator of NRC. He was assigned the duty to prepare the legacy data system, and act as a coordinator to update the entire NRC drive in the state. Under the supervision of Mr Hajela, various NSK’s were opened in order to facilitate the updating process. 

The process took off from 27th March 2015 , where the distribution of application form was started. The part publication of Draft NRC was published on 31/12/2017, wherein after dispute and discrepancy in claim for inclusion, the family tree concept was introduced, wherein each family had to establish their linkage to their family members w.r.t. to the criteria of the March 1971 deadline.  After, the complete draft NRC was published on 30/07/2018, continued by claims for disposal and objections from 25/09/2018. The final publication of NRC was scheduled to be on 30/07/2019, but has been extended to 31/08/2019, by the supreme court. The complete draft excluded 40,07,707 people out of the list, who were again provided with an option to claim their inclusion in the list. 

The final list, however, managed to include 3.11 crore people in the list and consecutively excluding 19,06,657 people from the list.

Significance 

The main significance of the entire NRC Process lies in fulfilling the promise made to the people of Assam, who were affected by the illegal infiltration in the state. The people have been long demanding the implementation of the same in the state. 

The move aims to identify the illegal migrants in the state. In the entire process, there were 3.29 Crore applications claiming citizenship. Out of it till the complete draft list was published, around 40,07,707 people were excluded from the complete draft. They were provided with ample opportunities to prove their citizenship. Also, with the final list being released on 31/08/2019, wherein the persons who are not included in the list, they had to file a petition in the Foreigners’ Tribunal proving their nationality.  

Thus, NRC works under the new campaign “Our NRC, Fair NRC”, in order to solve the fear among the vulnerable group of society, fearing the non-inclusion of their name in the list.  

Overall, the NRC updation aims to identify the illegal migrants in the State of Assam. Also, it is pertinent to note that, Assam is the first Indian State to undergo the NRC, and based upon it the Central Government plans to introduce NPR by September 2020 , to detect illegal infiltrators across the country.  

Thus, the only significance lies in detecting the illegal migrants along with protecting the rights of the indigenous people of the state.

Process 

The entire process of update of NRC unfurled in various stages. The first stage is concerned with the setting up of NSK’s in every locality of the state. The NSK’s were confined to the nearby locality and only catered to the limited area, which it was assigned, in order to curb chaos in every NSK. Later, after the establishment of NSK, the legacy data was being provided by the designated NSK along with distribution of application form started on 27th March 2015. 

Later, on the field verification process was started from 1st September 2015 in order to verify the claim of the applicant. Also, based upon the analysis the First Draft of NRC was published on 31st December, 2017, wherein 1.9 Crore people from about 3.29 crore people were recognized . Later on, with criticism from the people, a new method of verification, i.e., family tree verification was also introduced in order to establish a full-proof NRC. This aimed to trace the linkage of the family through their ancestors, who were included in the first NRC drive in 1951 or those who were included in the electoral roll up to 24th March 1971.

Again, the verification drive was done and many people were sent notices to prove their citizenship. Followed by various claims and objections to the matter, and also release of a final draft list, and the current publication of Final List awaits the state. 

To establish proof for citizenship, there were various documents which were made admissible by the court. Categorized as Part A and Part B documents , based upon self-documents and ancestral documents respectively. 

The process led to many suicides in the state , also it added to the burden of the people in proving their citizenship. But, despite the situation, the people of the state remain positive about the outcome, and have been handling the whole situation in a very efficient manner. It is pertinent to note that there was no case of mass violence in the state, even during the day when the draft list was published or the final list was published.  

The final draft list which was published on 30/07/2018, excluded 40,07,707 people of the list . Such people are being provided with limited time to prove their citizenship to the NSK, and if they are satisfied by the proof, then their name was included on the final NRC published list on 31st August, 2019.

Analysis 

The Citizenship Act,1955 contains a clause where foreigners who came to India without travel documents, or stay in the country beyond the visa period, are considered as illegal migrants. Also, it contains a clause that for applications for citizenship to be 11 years. 

Now, the Government has brought about an amendment to the same, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act,2019. The act contains provision to change the criteria to grant citizenship by making the minimum year requirement to 6 years from the existing 11 years for specified categories. The act proposes to grant citizenship to those illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan. The government aims to protect the interest of the minority group in different countries on humanitarian grounds. But, to the critic of the proposal, it leaves behind the other minority groups in the neighbouring countries. This stand makes the proposal prone to many critics, as to its formulation and acceptance in the society. 

Ever since the government introduced the act, there has been widespread protest in the state by various student bodies and local groups Even, the coalition counterpart of BJP in the state AGP, protested the same .  Though there were protests, still the harmony in the state was maintained, and no violence report was reported for the same.

It is pertinent to note that the BJP Govt. Before coming to power he had promised granting of Citizenship Right to minority Hindu of neighbouring countries. And, based upon the promise, the Government has been trying to incorporate such an amendment in the act and fulfil its promise. 

Though in the entire NRC Process, the state remained calm with no major reports of violence, but this act boiled the political situation in the state, with opponents stating it as a danger to the society. And, even its coalition, going against the bill, exaggerated the situation. 

Overall, by analyzing the social transformation based on the act, it would be justified in stating that though the Government has amended the act on humanitarian ground, but still relying on the previous problems faced by the country, it is unjustified to further accelerate the problem, and also not equitable on the part of the country’s economy to take cognizance of the illegal migrants. 

Suggestions and Recommendations 

Going through the entire phase of NRC updation and the conflicting views on the amended Citizenship Act, 2019, it is viable to suggest that the NRC should be error-free and should be a fair process for the updation. Also, the entire process should fulfil the objective and should be made acceptable by the people of the state. It should end up inciting violence and categorically removing the entire update process. The only thing to be kept in mind is that no matter what is being proposed, it would always be in favour of the citizen, and no rights of the citizen is to be violated. 

The debate for Article 14 as Right to Equality, is just a mere issue for gaining political mileage by the political parties and other representatives, in order to garner the interest of the society. The bill, when enacted does not deprive any person of their rights, but at the same time, this is being associated with the religious groups and given a shape of discriminatory principle. 

But, as a citizen of India and particularly the state of Assam, the people should understand the relevance of both the updation process and should not get inflicted by any amendment to the act, thinking it in a humanitarian ground over and above the communal spheres. 

Thus, the only suggestion lies in that it is high time, people start thinking collectively over and above the communal thoughts, and should help create a Fair and Error Free NRC in the state as well as to accomplish the same activity to be conducted over India as a whole.

Conclusion 

NRC which was started under the supervision of S.C. w.r.t to the Writ Petition filed in the year 2013. NRC has seen a huge development ever since it started. With various means to establish citizenship and opting for various documents for facilitating the establishment of citizenship by the people of the state. 

However, during the entire update process, it encountered many problems, with voices raised against the entire process from certain sections of the society along with various political parties.

Despite allegations and problems, the NRC process was able to run smoothly and able to meet the very objective of the process. And, not to mention the fact that the entire process was completed with the final publication on 31st August 2019.


CHETAN-AGARWAL

Chetan Agarwal

Author

Chetan hails from Symbiosis Law School, Pune and he spends most of his time in Reading, Swimming and Cycling. His Interest area lies in Taxation law, IBC and Financial Frauds. For any clarifications, feedback, and advice, you can reach him at chetanagarwala.99@gmail.com

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