The second and final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), released on Monday, 30 July, didn’t include the names of around 40 lakh people of the 3.29 crore who had submitted their documents to the government of Assam.
The first draft of the NRC, which had the names of 1.9 crore people, was released in December 2017.
Registrar General Sailesh, while addressing a press conference on Monday, echoed Home Minister Rajnath Singh, saying that sufficient opportunity would be given to those whose names didn’t appear on the list. This massive exercise required even genuine citizens to produce documents proving their ancestors resided in Assam before 1971.
As many as 3.29 crore people from 68.27 lakh families had submitted over 6.5 crore documents with the government of Assam to prove their Indian citizenship.
Ostensibly, this bureaucratic nightmare is being justified with the aim to identify and segregate illegal Bangladeshi migrants. Politically, however, it offers a polarised religious and regional plank on which elections are fought, won and lost.
But what necessitated Assam’s second head-count since 1951? Why has it left countless Indian citizens who own even the holy grail of all identities – the Aadhaar –feeling insecure and vulnerable? How did the Supreme Court of India allow this? And what will happen to those who are unable to prove Assamese ancestry? With suggestions like “mass deportations” being proposed by those high up in the state BJP government, the hyperbole has left families facing the prospect of being torn apart.
Here’s how we got here.
In 1951, the first census of Independent India was conducted. The original NRC was a register prepared after the 1951 Census, which recorded the particulars of those who belonged to Assam. This list was compiled with data from each village showing the houses or holdings in a serial order and indicating against each house or holding, the number and names of persons who were staying there at the time.
These registers were kept in the offices of deputy commissioners and sub-divisional officers, but in the 1960s these registers were handed to the police.
The Centre and the State of Assam are currently in the process of updating the NRC for Assam.