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‘If In Assam, Why Not Throughout India?’: Experts on Assam’s NRC

Experts from the northeast open up on the Assam National Register of Citizens completed draft.

2 min read

Camera: Indira Basu
Editor: Md Ibrahim
Indira Basu

Even as 4 million people now face the daunting task of proving their Indian citizenship after being excluded from the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, released on 30 July, political parties continue to evaluate the issue ahead of the 2019 general election.

Even eminent personalities like former IAS officers, and even the family of a former President of India, namely, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, have been left out of the final draft of the NRC. This raises questions as to the very design of this exercise, and its efficacy. What do northeast experts and commentators have to say about this?

The Quint spoke to Patricia Mukhim, Editor, The Shillong Times; Arijit Sen, Researcher, Amnesty International, India; and senior journalist and author Samrat Choudhary, at the Talk Journalism 2018 media festival, organised by the Vox Media Foundation from 10-12 August, in Jaipur.

I don’t know why only one state should have an NRC exercise. If it’s been done, it should have been done for the whole country, because the whole country suffers from illegal migration, one way or the other.
Patricia Mukhim, Editor, The Shillong Times

“There are problems in the design of the exercise itself, which militates against people from poorer sections of society, who may not have birth certificates or land records, for instance. So those people perhaps are disproportionately affected by this exercise. So, when we start thinking about throwing out illegal migrants, we have to ensure we don’t end up throwing out maybe 10-15 lakh Indians,” said author and senior journalist, Samrat Choudhary.

The government of Meghalaya seems to be falling in line with this demand. I don’t know if it’s because the chief minister is yet to be elected and therefore, the government is still not strong and able to assert its own authority. But to have this kind of exercise in Meghalaya would be futile because you won’t find (many) people with documents. The tribals are bad at maintaining any records of anything.
Patricia Mukhim, Editor, The Shillong Times

Samrat Choudhary pointed out further loopholes in the completed draft NRC: “There have also been reports about actual illegal migrants who have been declared so previously by Foreigners' Tribunals, whose names are in the NRC. So we actually don't know how many illegal migrants are included in NRC. We also have to be careful that the percentage of error could be high in terms of inclusion and exclusion.”


Representing Amnesty International, India, Arijit Sen told The Quint:

The fate of those people who might be without citizenship is unclear. Also, the Indian Government doesn’t have a deportation treaty with Bangladesh. So it’s best that the government actually makes clear the future line of action with these people.
Arijit Sen, Researcher, Amnesty International, India

Sen went on to make an appeal, “We (Amnesty International, India) urge the Assam government to extend the time period for appeals and do it in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner. Care should be taken so that families are not torn apart and appropriate legal aid should be provided to these people when required.”

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