The updated final National Register of Citizens (NRC), which validates legal Indian citizens of Assam, was out on Saturday, with over 1.9 million applicants who failed to make it to the list staring at an uncertain future. Equally uncertain was the course of future politics in the state, as neither the NRC’s advocates nor its critics were happy with the outcome.
There were several cases of retired defence personnel, paramilitary personnel, legislators and their families not finding their names in the updated list.
A total of 33,027,661 people had applied to be included in the NRC, of which 31,121,004 have been included in the document and 1,906,657 excluded, a statement from the NRC state coordinator's office said. Those excluded from the NRC have 120 days to appeal against it at foreigners’ tribunals.
The Assam government has ruled out detention of people who do not figure in the list “in any circumstances”, until the tribunals declare them foreigners.
If the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders said they were unhappy because many “Bangladeshi Muslims” had made it to the list and demanded a reverification in border areas, the Congress leaders said they were not satisfied since many genuine citizens had been excluded. The All Assam Students Union, which had led a six-year movement in the 1980s against illegal immigration, which culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord of 1985, disapproved of the updated list, saying it contained fewer names and that it would appeal in the Supreme Court.
The NRC has been a key political plank of the BJP in recent years, with party chief Amit Shah repeatedly saying in the Lok Sabha election campaign that illegal immigrants, or “termites” as he called them, will be thrown out of the country. BJP’s Bengal unit chief Dilip Ghosh reiterated his demand for an NRC for West Bengal as well. BJP state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said names of many Indian citizens who migrated from East Pakistan as refugees prior to 1971 had not been included in the NRC because authorities refused to accept refugee certificates.
“Many names got included because of manipulation of legacy data as alleged by many,” he said. Sarma said the Supreme Court should allow at least 20 per cent reverification in border districts of the state, and 10 per cent reverification in the rest of the state “for a correct and fair NRC”.
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BJP state unit chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass asked the Centre to prepare a national-level NRC and said his party would keep a close watch on the process of appeal in foreigners’ tribunals by the excluded persons and the judgments of the cases. “If we see that foreigners’ tribunals are delivering adverse judgments on the appeals by genuine Indian citizens, we will not wait for the entire 19 lakh cases to be disposed of. We will bring in legislation and make an act to protect them,” he said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the “NRC fiasco” had exposed all those who tried to take political mileage out of it. “They have a lot to answer to the nation. This is what happens when an act is guided by an ulterior motive rather than the good of the society and the lager interest of the nation.”
“My heart goes out to all those, especially the large number of Bengali- speaking brothers and sisters, who are made to suffer because of this botched up process,” she added.
The final list was published at 10 am and the hard copies of the supplementary list of inclusions are available for public viewing at the NRC Seva Kendras (NSK), offices of the deputy commissioner, and offices of the circle officer during office hours, a statement by the NRC authority said.
Hundreds of people began thronging these offices soon after the list was released, with some returning home happy and some disappointed.
Ramen Deka, a former BJP MP from Mangaldoi, said a large number of illegal Muslim migrants from Bangladesh had made the cut, while many indigenous people did not. Abdul Khaleque, the Congress lawmaker from Barpeta, said he was “not fully satisfied”. “A lot of genuine names have been excluded,” he said.
One of the clauses of the accord was “detection, deletion and deportation” of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. “We are not happy at all. It seems there were some deficiencies in the updatation process. We believe that it is an incomplete NRC. We will appeal to the Supreme Court to remove all the faults and descrepancies in this NRC,” AASU General Secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said. Addressing a press conference, Gogoi said the final figure of exclusion did not even come close to the figures officially announced by authorities on various occasions.
The Assam Public Works (APW), the original petitioner in the Supreme Court which led to the NRC updation, called the final NRC a “flawed document”. It said the citizenship roll could not become error-free because the apex court had turned down its demand for a reverification. “The final NRC has made it obvious that the problem of illegal immigration will never be resolved in Assam. If this NRC had been completed flawlessly, it would have gone down as a golden chapter in Assam’s history,” APW President Aabhijeet Sharma said.
On July 30 last year, the NRC’s complete draft was released that excluded over 4 million people. An additional 102,462 people were left out in June this year, taking the total number of ineligible persons to 4,110,169.