More than 19 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants in Assam were left out of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) that was published on Saturday to conclude a Supreme Court-monitored exercise that took five years and ₹1,220 crore.
According to rights groups, the exercise also made people in Assam — mostly Hindus and Muslims of Bengal origin under suspicion of being illegal immigrants — spend more than ₹7,800 crore on hearings, besides claiming the lives of around 60 people.
Four of them were killed in police firing during a pilot project in western Assam’s Barpeta in July 2010, a few died in accidents during trips to the NRC service centres for hearings, while the rest allegedly died of shock and anxiety because of the fear of becoming stateless.
At the stroke of 10 a.m., the NRC authority headed by the apex court-appointed State Coordinator Prateek Hajela released the final NRC on its official website and through its social media handles. The event, thus, was more low-key than the release of the draft NRC on July 30, 2018 , by Registrar General of India Shailesh and Joint Director (Northeast) in the Ministry of Home Affairs Satyendra Garg.
State Home Department officials said though the NRC was called ‘final’, the 19,06,657 people excluded would have opportunities to be back on the citizens’ list if they appeal against their exclusion and establish their citizenship via courts.
Each excluded person will have 120 days to file an appeal at any of the existing 100 Foreigners’ Tribunals — 200 more are to be established within a month — which in turn will have to dispose of the cases within six months. The appellant then has the option of approaching the High Court and Supreme Court.
The total number of people in the final exclusion list is close to the 20 lakh that The Hindu had predicted through the impact of certain judgments and analysis of data by lawyers involved in NRC-related litigations in the Supreme Court over the years. The final figure works out to 46.39% of the 41,10,169 people who were put on two exclusion lists within 12 months.
Releasing the final data, Mr. Hajela said the updating exercise started in 2013 under the apex court’s watch. “The process of NRC update in Assam differs from the rest of the country and is governed by Rule 4A and the corresponding Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. These rules were framed as per the cut-off date of the midnight of March 24, 1971, enshrined in the Assam Accord of 1985,” he said.
The process of receipt of NRC application forms started in May 2015 and ended on August 31, 2015. A total of 3,30,27,661 members applied through 68,37,660 applications. The particulars submitted by the applicants were taken up for scrutiny to determine the eligibility of their inclusion in the NRC.
Updating the NRC was a mammoth exercise involving about 52,000 Assam government officials working for a prolonged period. All decisions of inclusion and exclusion were taken by these statutory officers in an objective and transparent manner, Mr. Hajela said.
The applicants were provided adequate opportunities of being heard at every stage of the process conducted as per statutory provisions and due procedure followed at every State, he added.
The complete NRC draft was published on July 30, 2018 , wherein 2,89,83,677 people were found eligible for inclusion while 40,007,707 were excluded. Thereafter, claims were received from 36,26,630 people against exclusions. Verification was also carried out of persons included in the draft NRC under Clause 4(3) of the Schedule of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
Objections were received against the inclusion of 1,87,633 people whose names had appeared in the complete draft. Another additional draft exclusions list containing 1,02,462 names was published on June 26.
“Taking into account all the persons already included and after disposal of all claims and objections and proceedings under Clause 4(3), a total of 3,11,21,004 were found eligible for inclusion in the final NRC leaving out 19,06,657 people, including those who did not submit claims,” Mr. Hajela said.
The following is the timeline of the immigration issue in Assam since Independence to the publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) on Saturday, August 31,2019.
1950: Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act comes into force following influx of refugees from then East Pakistan to Assam after partition.
1951: First Census of Independent India conducted.
Based on Census, first NRC compiled.
1957: Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act repealed.
1964-1965: Influx of refugees from East Pakistan due to disturbances in that country.
1971: Fresh influx due to riot and war in East Pakistan. Independence Bangladesh comes into existence.
1979-1985: Six-year-long Assam agitation, spearheaded by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) for detection, disenfranchisement and deportation of foreigners.
1983: Massacre at Nellie in Central Assam which claimed the lives of over 3,000 people. Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act passed.
1985: Assam Accord signed by the Centre, the state, AASU and AAGSP in the presence of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It stated, among other clauses, that foreigners who came to Assam on or after March 25, 1971 shall be expelled.
1997: Election Commission decides to add ‘D’ (doubtful) against names of voters whose claim to Indian citizenship is doubtful.
2005: Supreme Court strikes down IMDT Act as unconstitutional. Tripartite meeting among Centre, state government and AASU decides to update 1951 NRC. But no major development takes place.
2009: Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO, files case in Supreme Court praying for deletion of foreigners’s name in electoral rolls and updation of NRC.
2010: Pilot project starts in Chaygaon, Barpeta to update NRC. Project successful in Chaygaon. Four killed in violence in Barpeta. Project shelved.
2013: Supreme Court takes up APW petition, directs Centre, state to begin the process for updating NRC. NRC State Coordinator’s office set up.
2015: Updation of NRC process begins.
2017: On December 31 midnight, Draft NRC published with names of 1.9 crore of total 3.29 crore applicants.
July 30, 2018: Another Draft NRC published, 40 lakh of 2.9 crore people excluded.
June 26, 2019: Publication of Additional Draft Exclusion List of 1,02,462 released.
August 31, 2019: Final NRC released.