With just four days to go for the publication of the final updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, the State is rife with debates and predictions of the number of people likely to be excluded.
The figures have varied from a minimum of 10-12 lakh to a maximum of 20-22 lakh — roughly half of the 41,10,169 mentioned in the two exclusion lists. However, most analysts agree the NRC-exclusion list is likely to be split between migrant Muslims of Bengali origin and non-Muslims, a majority of them Bengal-origin Hindus.
Lawyers who have represented stakeholders in filing petitions at the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the updating exercise since 2013, hazard a guess “have a hunch” that the number of people to be excluded from the final NRC would be around the 20 lakh mark, “give or take a lakh or two”.
Their belief is based on the apex court’s rejection of a few petitions while upholding NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela’s suggestions from time to time.
“Two judgements — one on November 1, 2018, and the other on July 23 this year —should lead to the exclusion of about 12 lakh people. The first judgement was where the apex court agreed to the State Coordinator’s argument that legacy data were exchanged or traded. The second pertained to excluding declared foreigners, doubtful (D) voters, and people with pending cases in Foreigners Tribunals along with members of their families,” a lawyer of one of the litigant groups said.
Data provided by the State government less than a month ago said there are pending cases against 2,07,311 people while 1,13,738 people were marked D-voters by the Election Commission and 1,17,164 (of whom 29,855 were deported) declared foreigners by the Foreigners’ Tribunals.
One of the cases that Mr Hajela cited to buttress the legacy data misuse claim was that of Nilakanta Barman who had legacy data codes of three years – 1951, 1966, and 1971. “An imposter used the 1966 legacy data code and was caught when the real descendants of Nilakanta Barman refused to identify him during family tree identification verifications,” he told the court.
A set of documents such as the 1951 NRC and voters’ list up to March 1971 are together called legacy data. A legacy code is provided to each person figuring in these documents.
“Some 50,000 people inadvertently used wrong legacy codes while a few thousand more allegedly traded such code. If we take an average four members per family of people falling in the categories the two orders involve, the number comes to 12 lakh,” the lawyer said.
Another set of people expected to be out of the NRC are those who used fake birth certificates. For instance, 65,694 applicants were found to have provided fake birth certificates in central Assam’s Morigaon district alone when documents were verified in 2018.
“If we take the 3.96 lakh people who did not re-apply after being excluded from NRC in July 2018, a realistic figure that appears is about 20 lakh out of the total 3.29 crore applicants,” said an activist who helped poor and marginalised people with filing NRC applications.