About 30 lakh of the 40.07 lakh people left out of the final draft of the updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) published five months ago have applied again for inclusion during the claims and objections round that ended on Monday.
During the phase, 600 objections also came in from those who doubted the citizenship of others included in the draft.
The window for 40.07 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants excluded from the complete draft was opened on September 25. It was to have closed on December 15, but the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the exercise, extended the last day to December 31 after the Assam government said the panchayat election, held on December 5 and 9, had robbed the people and officials of precious time.
NRC officials said the pace of submission of claims had picked up in the last fortnight. “As of Sunday, 30 lakh of those excluded from the complete draft reapplied. With some more submitting their claims today [on Monday], the reapplication works out to 75%,” an official said.
A.B. Khandakar, a Guwahati-based activist, said the number of applications increased after a clause was removed from the standard operating procedure issued by the Centre. That clause had made documents obtained after August 31, 2015, “inadmissible” for claims.
“While this came as a relief for many, others hit the hurdle of not being allowed to use a fresh legacy. This meant applicants could not change the person from whom they had drawn their ancestry in the original application that was rejected at the time of the complete draft,” he said.
There have been cases in which illiterate people, dependent on NRC Seva Kendras or cybercafe operators, used the same legacy person as others genealogically linked to someone else. While some cases were fraudulent, many were cases of the legacy person having the same name or belonging to the same area. A legacy person is one who figures in the NRC of 1951, which is being updated, the voters lists published up to March 24, 1971, and other documents, including refugee registration certificate.
“What marked the claims round was lack of campaign or awareness drive. An overwhelming majority of the ground-level officials appeared ignorant of the court’s directives and many of those manning NRC service centres went beyond their brief to reject documents whimsically,” said Dharmananda Deb, an advocate and activist in Silchar.
The deadline for completing the exercise after processing the claims and objections is June 2019. The service centres, officials said, would be open from January 2 to 31 for correction of the names published in the complete draft.