Assam NRC: The Citizenship Chaos That Has the State on Edge

Assam NRC: The Citizenship Chaos That Has the State on Edge

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(This video has been reposted from The Quint’s archives in the wake of Assam publishing an additional list to exclude the names of 1 lakh people who were earlier included in the NRC. The video was first published on 30 July 2018.)

Cameraperson: Abhay Sharma

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

N-R-C

These three letters are playing on everyone’s mind who has any connection with the Indian state of Assam. It stands for National Register of Citizens. It is a massive administrative exercise aimed at identifying illegal foreigners – illegal Bangladeshi migrants to be specific.

The ultimate goal of the NRC is to identify Indians living in Assam. And for that there’s a critical cutoff date – 24 March 1971. If one can prove that they or their ancestors were living in Assam or were citizens of India on this particular day, they become eligible to be enrolled in the NRC.

People queue outside NRC Seva Kendra to check names of themselves and family members in a draft for National Register of Citizens (NRC). 
People queue outside NRC Seva Kendra to check names of themselves and family members in a draft for National Register of Citizens (NRC). 
(Photo: PTI)
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Why 24 March 1971?

The cut-off date of 24 March 1971 was agreed upon by the Assam Accord piloted by the Rajiv Gandhi government. A day later, on 25 March 1971, the Bangladesh war of liberation had begun. It is estimated that during the war of liberation almost half a million Bangladeshi refugees entered the states of Assam and Meghalaya by crossing the porous border.

By 1979, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad were out on the streets to protect the interests of the indigenous Assamese people. They alleged that the Bangladeshis were taking over their culture, land and jobs. Through a series of protests and demonstrations they demanded the deportation of all illegal Bangladeshi migrants from Assam. The six years from 1979 to 1985 saw frequent strikes, ethnic violence and unstable governments.

The Assam Accord

Finally, on 15 August 1985, the Assam Accord was signed between the government of India, the All Assam Students Union and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad. The accord stipulated that all immigrants who have entered Assam after 24 March 1971 were to be identified and deported.

An NRC Seva Kendra in Assam. 
An NRC Seva Kendra in Assam. 
(Photo: PTI)

How to Get Enrolled in the NRC

Well the most critical piece of document is the legacy data. If anyone’s name features in the NRC of 1951 or in electoral rolls till 1971, they and their subsequent generations become eligible for the latest NRC. But it is easier said than done. There’s still a maze of documents which primarily traces relationships and family trees. Here are some mind-boggling numbers.

3.29 crore people from 68.27 lakh families have submitted over 6.5 crore documents with the government of Assam to prove their Indian citizenship.

The documents include mark sheets, birth certificates, land records and passports. And this is where the real problem lies. Every single document needs to be verified for its authenticity from its original issuing source.

Is it Possible to Deport the Illegal Migrants?

People whose names do not figure in the complete draft list of the NRC can submit their claims for inclusion of their names in the final NRC list. After the process of claims and objection is over, the final NRC will be published. Even after that how many people will be actually deported? It is estimated around 4 lakh names will be on hold. Till now in Assam out of the 90,000 declared foreigners only about 900 are in detention camps while the police can’t trace the rest.

The other question that remains is what happens to those are found to be foreigners?

Will they be deported to other countries?

Would the other countries accept these people?

Or will they remain citizens of nowhere?

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