• Team Blogs Within

NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS: THE STORY OF STATELESSNESS

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

“There is a thin line between nationalism and xenophobia -besides, hatred of the foreigner could later turn into a hatred of Indians different from oneself.”

INTRODUCTION


The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register which contains names & certain relevant information with regards to all genuine Indian citizens, it is being maintained by the Government of the country for the purpose of identification of lawful citizens of the nation. The register was first prepared after the 1951 Census of India and since then it has not been updated till recently. ‘Assam’, a north eastern state of the country, has become the first state in India where the National register of citizen is being updated recently to include the names of those persons whose names appeared in the NRC, 1951 & still alive and/or of their presently living descendants (having permanent residence within the state) and to exclude the rest as immigrants, who will be no longer considered as citizens of the country. However, this process of detecting and expelling immigrants suffered from teething problems for a considerable amount of time.


The National Register of Citizen, which determines the nationality and citizenship of lakhs of people, can now be acknowledged as the case of ‘Xenophobia’ against the Assam Minorities, especially Assamese Muslims, in the light of the current updation and Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016. The crucial list of citizenship was intended to bring out the illegal migrants and deport them back to the border nation, i.e., Bangladesh, however, it ended up violating the basic human rights of the even the lawful citizens by displacing them to detention camps and making them stateless. It cannot be ignored that more than 19 lakhs people stood in the midway of India and Bangladesh, and neither of the nation is ready to accept them.


The updation of NRC, in grab of protection from illegal migrations, resulted in snatching the basic legality of the existence of numerous individuals. As a result, the unavoidable question faces the biggest democracy of the world; What is the Fate of these Stateless Individuals?


UPDATION OF NRC: THE FINAL LIST 2019


1. Decision to update the NRC Six years of Assam Agitation (1979-1985) was ended on August 15, 1985 through singing of the Assam Accord by the All Assam Student Union, Government of the State of Assam and the Central Government of India. 30 years later, on May 05, 2015, the three parties met again in New Delhi to carry forward the implementation of NRC in Assam and further decided to update the NRC of 1951. The updation was to be done in pursuance to Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955, and Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National identity cards) Rules, 2003.

2. The Recommendation of the Sub- Committee On August 20, 2007, the Central government appointed a Sub-Committee to carry out the process of updating NRC and examine the modalities thereof. The Sub-Committee was created under the guidance of Dr. Bthumidhar Barmn, the then Revenue minister. The committee submitted its recommendation which were accepted by the Central Government in June 2008 and a pilot project was carried out on the notification by the Registrar General of India in June 2010. However, the project was subsequently stopped. Later in July 2011, a new sub-committee was created under the then Revenue Minister, Sri Prithvi Maji, with the view to simplify the modalities of NRC laid down by the previous committee. On July 2013, the new modalities were added in the recommendations of the committee. The Central Government in November 2014, approved the recommendations and prescribed these modalities for carrying out the process of NRC updation in the State of Assam.

3. The Documents Required to be Included in the NRC

As per the recommended modalities, the eligibility criteria to be included in the updated NRC include the following:

  1. Firstly, the person concerned are required to produced documents enumerated under List A (for example; Land and Tenancy Records, Citizenship Certificate, Employment Certificate etc.) which was being issued before the Midnight of March 24, 1971, bearing the name of person concerned or his/her ancestor.

  2. Secondly, if the person does not have a List A document enumerating his/her name but instead have the name of an ancestor of the applicant. The applicant, in such cases, will have to submit documents enumerated in List B (such as Birth certificate, land document, University certificate etc.) in order to establish the relationship of applicant with his/her ancestors.


4. The Procedure to Update the NRC

On December 17, 2014, the Hon‘ble Supreme Court has issued an order directing the authorities to complete the updation of NRC within the given timeframe in accordance with the modalities approved by the Central Government. In addition to this, the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, requested to constitute a five-judge bench and refer some of the matters pertaining to the NRC to the said bench. Accordingly, the constitutional started taking the matter from May 2017 with regards to the constitutional validity of Section 6A, Citizenship Act 1955, rule 4A, Citizenship Regulation, 2003, preparation and updation of NRC process etc.


The Supreme Court started to monitor the entire process closely at the field level as well. The standard operating procedure of updation/preparation of NRC was inclusive of the following steps:

  1. NRC Seva Kendra (NEK): Seva Kendra were established by the Central government, covering several district, in order to provide assistance to the people for acquire necessary documents and resolve their queries with regards to the preparation and updation of NRC.

  2. Publication of Document: The Authorities were under an obligation to publish the important documents such as NRC, 1951 and voter list of 1971. However, the process was hindered from the very beginning as the documents were published in digitalized format, they were not accessible to all the people. Also, the NRC 1951 was incomplete in itself and thus did not include a huge lot of people from remote places.

  3. Receipt of Applications: The application forms were distributed to the people of the state, door to door. Around 3.29 crore application (68 lakh families) were received for inclusion in NRC.

  4. Verification: After receiving the applications, the authorities carries out verification process, which was carried out in two ways i.e., official verification and field verification, wherein official verification is carried out on the basis of the documents submitted by the applicant and field verification

  5. Publication of Complete Draft: On July 30, 2018, the complete draft of the NRC has been published by the State Coordinator, National Register of Citizens, Assam. The final draft excluded 4.07 million applications out of 32.9 millions of applicants who have applied for registration in the NRC. Around 3.8 million applications out of 4.07 million were out-rightly rejected and 0.248 million applications were put on hold.

  6. Claims and Objections: After the completion of publication of final list, the applicants were given an option to file for objections, if any. The submission of claims and objections were closed on 31st December 2018.


5. Errors in the Updating Process:

In accordance with the procedure mentioned above, it can be understood and concluded that the authorities have failed at multiple levels while implementing the procedure laid down for the updating the NRC, for instance:

  1. Non-Accessibility and Errors in Documents: The authority has failed to publicize the proper documentation which was the initial step of the procedure. The documents including NRC 1951 and the required voters’ list were not available to the citizen in full and simplified format. The documents were published in digital format which was not available to the large number of poor and illiterate population in the state and thus, people belonging to minority community doesn’t have the proper access to such documents. In addition to the non-accessibility of the necessary documents, the documents which were available to the public were full of errors in the spelling of applicants’ name, age, names of the ancestor etc. thus affecting the applicant negatively.

  2. Arbitrary Verification Process: The process of verification was hit by arbitrariness by the authorities, for example, in the verification of the Panchayat Link Certificate, the exclusion of married women was very high.

  3. Non-availability of Document: There are large number of poor and illiterate people who doesn’t have any legal document to prove their citizenship in the country. the authorities failed to take these cases into consideration and doesn’t provide with alternative measures to prove citizenship of such people.

  4. Notices to the applicant: The authority failed to serve notices to the applicant for attending the verification process, which resulted in huge exclusion of the population from the final draft of the NRC. Also, the errors created by the authorities such as the mismatch of names of the applicant and their ancestors, assigned ARN etc. resulted in high exclusion rates.

  5. Inadequate awareness: Around 4 lakh people failed to submit their claims and objections at the completion of the NRC because of the inadequate awareness with regards to freezing of legacy data. The people, while acquiring their legacy data from the government websites, mistaken their and their ancestors’ names with the person having similar names and since there was no hard copy available for cross-checking, the freezing of the legacy date resulted in huge trouble for them in filing claims.

  6. Doubtful voters: Large number of population were marked as doubtful voter in year 1997. The marking was done arbitrarily as the voter were not given the opportunity to produce proper documentation in support of their citizenship and as a result, when these doubtful voters applied for the inclusion in the updated NRC, even with the valid documents, they have been excluded and their application were put on hold.

  7. Reference by police Authorities: The Border police have referred a lot of applications to the Foreigners’ Tribunal, without conducting proper investigation on the people, in order to keep them out of the registration process. The reference to the foreigner tribunals before the completion of NRC process, resulted in holding the application of the persons referred and most of them were excluded in the final list.

The authorities failed to make the updating process Error-free and hence resulted in exclusion of 4 million people, who doesn’t belong to any nationality now and the authorities have failed to provide any policy with regards to these dropouts resulting in mass displacement and statelessness in the country. In the interest of solving the issue of foreigners in the State of Assam, the need of the hour to facilitate the harmony and remove the growing issues of violating human rights.


CONCLUSION

In the present scenario, the main issue attached to the implementation and updating of the NRC revolves around the imminent statelessness and displacement of the four million people, which constitutes majorly of the poorest people of the population, who are now in the middle of the national consciousness and in the complete limbo as to where to go. The release of the final draft of the National Register of Citizenship for the Indian state of Assam has created anxiety among people whose names are not in the final draft. It is not clear what will happen to those whose names may not appear in the final list? Where will they go? As the Bangladeshi government has repeatedly maintained that there are no “illegal” Bangladeshi citizens living in India. After the release of the final draft, to allay the fears of those whose names are not in the draft list that they may be stripped of Indian citizenship status. The current situation in Assam has pushed millions of people in a very difficult position, wherein the communities and individuals have deep worries with regards to their legitimate future. They will no longer be a part of a ‘social identity’ or an community and will have no place to call ‘home’.



 

28 views0 comments