GUWAHATI, JUNE 24: At a time when the UN Special Rapporteurs raised questions on the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in a letter to the External Affairs Minister, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has said that the Government of India should give a strong reply to the letter refuting their claims.
The letter of the UN Special Rapporteurs said: “The National Register of Citizens is the register containing the names of Indian citizens in the Northeastern State of Assam. The NRC was originally prepared based on data collected in the 1951 census and has not been updated since. In 2015, the process of updating the NRC was initiated in accordance with the Citizenship Act of 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules of 2003 (as amended in 2009 and 2010). The ongoing exercise of updating the NRC is monitored by the Supreme Court. In an order dated March 27, 2018, the Supreme Court directed the Office of the State Coordinator of National Registration to complete the verification process by May 31, 2018 and to publish the complete draft of the updated NRC by June 30, 2018. Following the publication of the complete draft NRC, individuals who are not listed may file a claim requesting their inclusion. The final updated NRC will be published once all claims have been processed. A deadline for the publication of the final NRC has not yet been announced. There is no official policy outlining the implications for those who will be excluded from the final NRC. It is reported that they will be treated as foreigners and that their citizenship rights may be revoked in the absence of a prior trial. They may subsequently be asked to prove their citizenship before so-called Foreigners Tribunals. In December 2017, a local Government Minister in Assam was quoted as stating that ‘the NRC is being done to identify illegal Bangladeshis residing in Assam’ and that ‘all those whose names do not figure in the NRC will have to be deported.’ In this context, the NRC update has generated increased anxiety and concerns among the Bengali Muslim minority in Assam, who have long been discriminated against due to their perceived status as foreigners, despite possessing the necessary documents to prove their citizenship. While it is acknowledged that the updating process is generally committed to retaining Indian citizens on the NRC, concerns have been raised that local authorities in Assam, which are deemed to be particularly hostile towards Muslims and people of Bengali descent, may manipulate the verification system in an attempt to exclude many genuine Indian citizens from the updated NRC.”
The letter also raised several other questions about the NRC updating process and sought clarification from the External Affairs Minister.
Meanwhile, the AASU has strongly reacted to the letter and said that the Government should reject the letter and give a strong reply. The AASU also demanded that all foreigners, who entered Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1071, should be detected and deported irrespective of their religion.
AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya wondered how Special Rapporteurs of an organisation like the UN can write such a letter without verifying facts. It also questioned whether any Special Rapporteur of the UN had visited the State to assess the situation on the ground before writing such a ‘baseless’ letter. He invited the UN Special Rapporteurs to visit the State to see how the indigenous people are on the verge of getting reduced to minorities in their own land due to unabated influx of foreign nationals.
Bhattacharya alleged that a conspiracy has been hatched against the indigenous people of Assam by an international lobby and those supporting the cause of Bangladeshi nationals. He said the Government should thwart such a move and give a befitting reply to the letter.
Bhattacharya also pointed out that the NRC is being updated under the provisions of the Citizenship Act and the whole process is being monitored by the Supreme Court. Under the circumstances, if anyone has any doubt on the process, they should approach the court, he said. (Courtesy: AT)