The National Register of Citizens is a Supreme Court-monitored exercise which took five years and Rs1,220 crore overall. It is the biggest drive to verify citizenship in India. Under this exercise, all the residents of Assam had to produce documents proving that they or their families lived in India before March 24th, 1971. It was in 1951; the first NRC was prepared. The NRC complete draft of the list was released on July 30th, 2018.
Out of 3.29 crore, the names of over 40 lakh people were left out of the list. After more than one year, there is not much improvement in the situation as on August 31st 2019, the much-awaited NRC final list (which included 3.11 crore people), excluded over 19 lakh people. This has made the people unhappy, resulting in widespread anger which made the people criticise NRC by calling it a complete failure.
Public Views on NRC Final List
The Assam Public Works and All Assam Student’s Union are not happy at all. They felt that there were some deficiencies in the updation process and believe that it is an incomplete NRC. They said that they would appeal to the Supreme court to remove all the discrepancies.
APW President Aabhijeet Sharma commented that this NRC has wholly failed and this is not what we had fought for ten years in the Supreme court.
The three-time former Assam chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, said that Centre has failed in its duty. The way NRC was prepared casually, illegal migrants have been included in the list and genuine Indians excluded. He said that we feel helpless. It is the duty of the Indian government. The NRC has left 19 lakh people in a precarious situation. He emphasised that they are neither citizens of India, nor are they foreigners. They are neither here nor there. The NRC doesn’t come in the way of detecting foreigners. The government must do its duty.
What is next?
The option for the excluded people is that they will get 120 days to file an appeal at any of the existing 100 Foreigner’s Tribunals. The state government had informed that at least 200 additional foreigner’s tribunal would be set up. These Foreign Tribunals hold power to declare a person a foreigner or overrule the NRC findings and report him/her an Indian. Assam government has earlier said that people out of NRC cannot be detained under any circumstances until they are declared as foreigners by the Foreign Tribunal.
In case of no relief from these Foreign Tribunals, one can approach the court of Law. Before being sent to detention centres, these people will get a bracket of 10 months to prove their citizenship.
The next possibility is that these people might settle themselves in a lengthy legal fight that may cost them a fortune. The Assam government has already stated that those omitted from NRC final list would neither be labelled as ‘foreigners’ nor ‘arrested’ till the issue is in court. However, they have to take the Foreigners’ Tribunal route to verify their citizenship.
Citizens for Justice and Peace, a non-governmental organisation, which has already provided legal support to those who were left out from the draft NRC list issued last year, believed that the cost of one appellant’s legal battle to prove his /her citizenship might go up to several lakhs.
In western’s Assam Goalpara district, a separate detention centre at Agia has been constructed with a capacity to house 3000 people. Ten more such centres are under process along with six central jails that will double up as detention centres.
In a nutshell, NRC has immense significance for the people of Assam, but the final list has disappointed people, and the further steps to be taken has been laid by the government.