No lives were lost during the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) of 1951 in Assam, the State government has said.
Replying to a question from Congress MLA Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told the 126-member Assembly on Wednesday that 31 people died in the transit camps for declared foreigners since 2009 in Assam. “But there is no evidence of death due to the NRC updating exercise,” he said.
A transit camp is the new official term for a detention centre. Assam has six such camps, all within central jails.
Data collated by NGOs, including the Citizens for Justice and Peace, said more than 60 people died due to citizenship-related issues in Assam by July 2019, a month before the complete draft NRC was published, leaving out 19.06 lakh names from the 3.3 crore applicants.
Apart from those who died in the detention centres, a majority of the others allegedly committed suicide for “fear of statelessness and incarceration”. A few died in accidents during travel for the verification process, the NGOs said.
Mr. Purkayastha also asked if 262 junior assistants engaged in the NRC updating exercise had lost their jobs. The Chief Minister declined to comment as the matter is pending before the Gauhati High Court.
To another question, Mr. Sarma said issuing rejection slips to those excluded from the complete draft NRC and unlocking the biometrics of 27 lakh people were now under the purview of the Centre.
Each of the 19.06 people was to have been issued rejection slips with a speaking order attached. According to the standard operating procedures, a person would have to approach a Foreigners’ Tribunal within 120 days of receiving such a slip with documents to argue why he or she merits inclusion in the NRC.
Plea on biometrics
The Assam Public Works, the NGO whose 2009 petition in the Supreme Court led to the NRC exercise, has filed an interlocutory application in the apex court seeking a directive to the Centre for unlocking the biometric data collected from people during the claims and objections phase of the NRC process.
The application signed by the NGO’s Aabhijeet Sharma said the authorities concerned should be directed in the interest of justice to issue Aadhaar numbers to the people whose biometrics were frozen.