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National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam

  May 28, 2020

National Register of Citizens (NRC) of Assam

The final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam was published in August 2019 after completion of all the statutory works as per various standard operating procedures. The Assam NRC identifies the bonafide citizens of the state. 

3,11,21,004 numbers of persons are found eligible for inclusion in the final NRC, leaving out 19,06,657 numbers of persons including those who did not submit claims.

What is the NRC?

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list of genuine Indian citizens. 

When was it published?

The only time the NRC was published was in 1951. That NRC was based on the Census of 1951. 

Why is it being updated now in Assam only?

The 1951 National Register of Citizens is now being updated in Assam to identify the illegal foreigners who may be residing in the state. Updating the NRC was one of the promises made under the Assam Accord signed in 1985. However, the process to update the NRC stagnated for years, until the Supreme Court took up the matter in 2013 and a set a deadline for published an updated National Register of Citizens for Assam. 

Who is eligible to be in the NRC?

What is the controversy?

Will those who are not in the NRC be expelled from state?

The Assam government has assured people that those who find their names missing from the final National Register of Citizens for Assam will not immediately be termed "foreigners" or illegal immigrants.

Those who find their names missing from the NRC list will be allowed to appeal with the Foreigners Tribunal. The people can even approach the Assam High Court or even the Supreme Court in case in case they are not satisfied with the response of the Foreigners Tribunal.

The Assam government has also said it will provide legal aid to the poor who find their names missing from the list.

What is the Foreigners' (Tribunals) Amendment Order 2019?

On May 30, 2019, the Government of India passed a Foreigners' (Tribunals) Amendment Order 2019, which allows all states & UTs within the union of India to constitute their own Foreigners' Tribunals, earlier unique to the state of Assam only, to address the question of citizenship of a person. The amendment empowers district magistrates in all states and union territories to set up Foreigners' Tribunals to detect foreigners. Following the Amendment, the provincial Government of Assam has initiated the process of establishing 400 additional Foreigners' Tribunals out of which 200 are made functional since beginning of September, 2019. The Government of the state is also set to construct ten more detention camps besides six already in place in anticipation of the possible requirement to house large number of illegal foreigners who may be declared as such by the Foreigners' Tribunals.

What was the role of the Supreme Court of India?

The process of detecting and expelling immigrants suffered from teething problems for a considerable amount of time. For a long time, NRC update was considered almost an impossible task by the government agencies.

However, the task was finally taken up at the behest of the Supreme Court of India’s order in the year 2013 wherein the Supreme Court mandated the Union Government and the State Government to complete the updation of NRC following which the Registrar General of India notified commencing of NRC updation. Since then, the Supreme Court of India is closely monitoring the process and has been holding regular hearings on representations made to it by various interested parties & stake holders.

In reference to Article 144 of the Constitution of India, all authorities, civil and judicial, in the territory of India shall act in aid of the Supreme Court. Article 142 of the Constitution of India further stipulates that the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.

What was the Assam Accord?

The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979. It culminated with the signing of the Assam Accord.

The accord brought an end to the Assam Movement.

What is Clause 6 of Assam Accord?

Clause 6 reads: “Constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards, as may be appropriate, shall be provided to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people.”

Why was the high level committee set up?

Government in 2019 notified a high-level committee that is expected to look into the implementation of a clause of Assam Accord that seeks to provide safeguards to preserve and promote social, cultural and linguistic identity of Assamese people.

The committee, headed by retired Gauhati High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma, will also make recommendations on reservation for Assamese people in the Assembly, and other local bodies.

It will also look into the need for reservation in government jobs for Assamese people, besides recommending measures required to preserve culture and identity of the local people.

Intended as part of Clause 6 of Assam Accord, the committee was notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). 

Are there two categories of people in Assam?

Yes.

Some say that NRC of 1951 should be taken as the cutoff for defining “Assamese people” eligible for the proposed safeguards. 

Those who migrated between 1951 and 1971 would be Indian citizens, but would not be eligible for safeguards meant for “Assamese people”.

What safeguards can be provided to Assamese people?

Safeguards for the Assamese people to be defined by the committee could be

  1. Reservation of electoral seats, and land and political rights and 
  2. Protection of culture of the indigenous people.