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NRC Updation in Assam: Prospects and Challenges

National Register of Citizens, first prepared in 1951 was incomplete one as the Census of the year could not cover all the places of the state.
Peoples Voice on July 26, 2015 - 5:06 pm in Rights

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NRC Updation in Assam: Prospects and Challenges

Amidst huge controversy and long debate under the orders of the Supreme Court India, the Government of India has started the process of updating the NRC of 1951. The objective of updation of the NRC is to help identify foreign nationals living in the state illegally. There is an apprehension among civil liberty groups that the process of updating NRC may not be fair and result in non-inclusion of the Muslim minorities and Hindu Bengalis who are often suspected to be illegal citizens. Political Parties and other organisations present in the state are also playing the drums in different bits on the updation issue of NRC. In order to study the whole process of the NRC updation, the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai had formed a FACT FINDING TEAM[1] on the process of present NRC updation of Assam. The team visited different places of Guwahati, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Dhuburi, Goalpara, Morigaon, Baksa, Nagaon and Sivasagar districts from 22nd May to 26th May 2015. The team interacted with different community people, NRC Co-ordinator Prateek Hazela, officials of NRC Sewa Kendras, Gram Panchayat Presidents, BLOs (Booth Level Officers), notable citizens like Social workers, College Principals, Professors, Teachers, leaders of political parties, people living in shelter camps, and so on.

 Defining NRC:

The full form of NRC is ‘National Register of Citizens’ (NRC). It is the register containing details of all Indian citizens. On the directives of the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA), after conducting the Census of 1951, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was prepared by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during the 1951 Census. The names of most of the citizens of Assam were enlisted in the NRC of 1951[2].

Limitations of NRC 1951:

On the basis of the Census of 1951 the National Register of Citizens was first prepared.  This NRC of 1951 was incomplete one as the Census of the year could not cover all the places of the state. Many riverine, chars and remote areas could not be reached by the enumerators. Moreover, Assam also witnessed a communal violence while the process of NRC was initiated. Statistics reveals that 53000 Muslim families fled to the then East Pakistan between 1948 and 1950 due to communal violence in western Assam. If we assume five to seven persons in a family in an average and multiply it with the number of the figure of families it becomes 265,000 to 371,000 who left for East Pakistan from Assam in the wake of communal riots of 1950. Latter the Nehru-Liyaqat pact of 8t August 1950 provided them a window of two years to return to India.  In between the NRC process was completed in Assam. Thus a big number of Muslims were dropped out in the total figure of 1951 NRC and the census. But when in the next Census of 1961 those dropped out citizens’ names were enlisted the growth rate of Muslims in Assam was seen very high. Unfortunately the government did not bother to update the NRC of 1951 as it was expected.

Background of the Study:

Rise of Anti-foreigners’ Movement:

Since 1961, a doubt started growing in the minds of a section of Assamese people that Assam is under aggression of migration. It was believed that people were coming illegally from East-Pakistan and taking settlement in Assam. In 1972 a major political development took place in the continent of Asia, as it had to birth one more sovereign state in the name of Bangladesh. The region ‘Bangladesh’ had to pass with different names in different phases of modern times. Till 1905 it was a part of Bengal. Lord Curzon in 1905 partitioning Bengal named the region as East-Bengal and merged it with Assam and thus ‘Assam and East-Bengal’ formed one state. Again in 1947 when India obtained freedom from the hands of the British, the same region was curved out and incorporated with Pakistan. Thenceforward, the region was known as East-Pakistan. Finally, in 1972 the region came up as an independent state of Bangladesh.

During the British period there was considerable migration of poor peasants from Bengal and East-Bengal towards Assam that had changed the demographic pattern of the state. This process of migration though reduced continued from the East-Pakistan and it is also alleged that it has been continuing even from Bangladesh. Thus the ‘migration issue’ turned into ‘foreigners’ issue’ in Assam.

Now, foreigners’ issue became the prime agenda of the ‘Assam Movement’ (1979-1985) initiated by the ‘All Assam Students Union (AASU) and ‘All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP)’. They demanded the deportation of foreign nationals from the state. During the period of the Movement, without making any statistical data the leaders deliberately exaggerated the number of the foreign nationals in the state. According to Jogen Hazarika (1979), the Chief Minister, the number of foreign nationals in Assam was two lakhs. Two regional parties of Assam- ‘Assam Jatiyatabadi Dal(AJD)’ and the ‘Purbanchaliya Loka Parishad (PLP)’ estimated the number of the foreign nationals in the state at 40 lakhs and 13 lakhs respectively. According to an ideologue of the movement the number of foreign nationals living in the state illegally was 45 to 50 lakhs, out of Assam’s total population of 1,46,25000[3]. Another political scientist estimated the number of the foreign nationals in Assam up to 1981 at 40 lakhs. Another exponent of the movement named Bisweshwar Hazarika, counted the number of foreign nationals in the state at 77 lakhs. The All Assam Students’ Union in one of their publications fixed up the number of infiltrators at over 45 lakhs, of whom over 15 lakhs had entered their names in the electoral roles.  If one accepts such fantastic figures, the percentage of foreign nationals would range between 10 to 50 percent of the total population of the state.

A series of discussions took place with the Movement Leaders and the State Government bringing no solution. The Movement Leaders now came in direct conflict with the Government. They decided to stop the general election of 1983 by any means and created an extremely explosive situation. In February 1983 thousands of people, mostly women and children belonging to the erstwhile East Bengal origin Muslims were brutally killed at Nagabandha and Neilli of Nagaon District and other places of the state. After a strong controversy and debate a Memorandum of Understanding, popularly known as ‘Assam Accord’ was signed between AASU, AAGSP, Central and State Governments in the capital city of ‘New Delhi’ in the early hours of 15th August 1985.[4] The Accord determined 1st January 1966 as the cut-off date for the purpose of detection and deletion of foreigners and allowed for citizenship for all persons coming to Assam from “Specified Territory” before the cut-off date. It further specifies that all persons who came to Assam prior to 1st January 1966 (inclusive) and up to 24th March 1971 (midnight) shall be detected in accordance with the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1939. Names of foreigners so detected will be deleted from the Electoral Rolls in force. Such persons will be required to register themselves before the Registration Officers of the respective districts in accordance with the provisions of the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 and the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1939. On the expiry of a period of 10 years following the date of detection, the names of all such persons who have been deleted from the electoral rolls shall be restored. Foreigners who came to Assam on or after 25th March 1971 shall continue to be detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law.

AASU leaders considered Assam Accord as of their great achievement. They now formed a new political party ‘Assam Gana Parishad’ (AGP) and contested the election of 1985. Deportation of foreign nationals from the state was the main agenda of their election manifesto.

Majority of the people of the state were also convinced by the notions of the students’ leaders and unhesitatingly advanced their support to the newly formed political party. Thus ‘Assam Gana Parishad’ at its first election became victorious with absolute majority. The new Government tried its level best to find out and deport the foreign nationals from the state. But it could not identify and deport even one thousand foreigners from the state.

The ‘Assam Movement (1979-1985)’, ‘Assam Accord (15th August 1985)’ and the failure of the Assam Gana Parishad Government to identify foreign nationals in the state still could not bring any political solution of the foreigners issue. Bengal origin illiterate poor Muslims and a section of Hindu Bengalis are suspected as to be the illegal occupants of the state.[5] Many of their voting rights have been snatched away by the government on the basis of doubt on their citizenship.

‘D’ Voters Issue:

In 1997 the election commission of India identified a section of Muslims live in the Char Chapari areas of Assam, linguistic Hindu minority and even the Rajbongshi people of the state as ‘D’[6]voters. The process of identification of ‘D’ voters was unusual. It is alleged that the lower officials of Election Commission were asked to mark at least 10 to 20 people in each village of the state as ‘D’ citizens. Thus in many families wives or husbands became doubtful citizens keeping rest of the members Indians. Again in some families, sons and daughters were identified as doubtful citizens, where, their parents remained Indians. The officials of election commission did not follow any criteria in identifying doubtful citizens. They ambiguously marked the names of voters in the voters list and are denied franchisee rights. 3.7 lacs people were marked as ‘D’ voters. Thirty two (32) Foreign Tribunals had been set up throughout the state to detect these large numbers of people whether they are Indian or foreigners. Out of 32 tribunals 13 are lying defunct without judges. Thus the progress of tribunal work is very slow. During 2006-2010 in the foreigners’ tribunal of Bongaigaon against 9,222 registered cases only 1,333 got settled and four accused have been identified as Bangladeshis. That too, these four persons got such a verdict as they could not produce their documents within stipulated time given by the court.

Likewise in the Foreigners’ Tribunal of Goalpara District, against 22,000 ‘D’ voters cases only 6,00 have been settled till date and only one women called Tarabhanu has been identified as foreigner. This Tarabhanu case created a huge controversy throughout the state as it is said that Tarabhanu is an Indian citizen and she has become the victim of state conspiracy. Tarabhanu was snatched away from her three months old child and was deported from the state which was inhumane in nature.

If the running 19 foreigners’ tribunals become more active and settle 19 cases in a day and work for highest 200 days in a year these tribunals would be able to settle maximum of 3800 cases. Likewise, to settle all the cases that are lying in the Foreigners’ Tribunals of that state, it will take more than 92 years. Consequently, these 3.7 lacs ‘D’ voters as well as their children who are fighting to get back their citizenship rights from last 17/183 years will remain as 2nd class citizens and most of them will die before their cases get settled. Surprisingly enough, the names of those ‘D’ voters, who have cleared their cases in the Foreign Tribunals, have not been included in the voters’ lists till date. The Deputy Commissioners of concerned districts are also seemed to be reluctant to take any action in this regard. In an interview, one of the Deputy Commissioners says that they can’t take any action in regard to the ‘D’ voters issue until they receive any signal from higher authority.

NRC Updation/Controversy:

The NRC of 1951 was supposed to be updated from time to time. But the Government of India did not pay any attention to update the NRC of Assam in spite of heavy demands of different socio political organizations of the state. All Assam Students Union (AASU); Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, Assam (KMSS), Akhil Bhratiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Assam Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (JYCP), Assam Public Works (APW), and many other organizations placed long series of demands to the Government to update the long pending NRC of 1951. The organizations believe that the updation of NRC 1951 will segregate the foreign nationals living in the state from the Indian citizens. After a long debate and with the interference of the Supreme Court of India, the Government of India through a notice had decided to update the long pending NRC of 1951. It is said that updated NRC would be an instrument to identify Bangladeshi infiltrators in Assam. The NRC is expected to be a reference point against which an individual can check his/her citizenship status. According to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, “NRC updating will bring to end issues revolving around the state’s biggest problem of infiltration from Bangladesh. There are people who believe that infiltration (from Bangladesh) is still going on despite erection of a barbed wire fence and intensified BSF patrolling along the border.”

 Accordingly, the Government of India at the initial stage through a pilot project decided to update the NRC of Chaygaon Revenue Circle of Kamrup District and Barpeta Revenue Circle of Barpeta District in 2010.[7] The works of updating NRC in Assam as per the provision of the amended rule 4(A) had been undertaken as pilot project in Barpeta and Chaygaon Revenue Circle in the district of Barpeta and Kamrup Rural respectively. As per this amended rule all the residents where most of the people were illiterate were asked to apply before the district magistrate along with several supportive documents, appear for hearing and prove their citizenship to the satisfaction of the officer concerned for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC.

The task of Pilot Project of updating the NRC, 1951 started on 15th June 2010 in Barpeta Revenue Circle.  The copies of NRC 1951, Electoral Rolls of 1961 and 1971 were to be reprinted by the district authorities. But the district authorities failed to reprint the documents in full. Moreover, there were numerous anomalies and confusions in the documents which were made available for the public.

  1. Out of 146 revenue villages under the Barpeta Revenue Circle, NRC documents were not available for 24 villages viz. Metowakuchi Town, Metowakuchi Gaon, Joti Town, Gandhi, Goremara Gaon, Chakabausi Gaon, Vella, Veraldi, Joshihati, Aicharapara, Dewliapara, Kadamguri, Katlijar, Dhanbandha, Sonkuchi Gaon, Bar Agdia, Tatikuchi, Dokonia Beel, Rangialortari, Boriarpathar, Bontipur, Pakabetbari Pam, Pakabetbari Pathar,  Phulikipara. Again, the electoral rolls of 1966 and 1971 were not available for 11 and 12 villages respectively viz. Metowakuchi Town,  Gandhi, Dhanbandha, Bar Agdia, Rangialortari, Boriarpathar, Pakabetbari Pathar,  Phulikipara, etc. with the district authority. On the contrary, no guidelines for other documents such as, land records, school certificates, etc. had been given in the application proforma and these were not accepted as valid documents as proof of citizenship by the authority.
  2. There were wide spread discrepancies and anomalies in the re-printed NRC and electoral Rolls. Names of 1700 households have been dropped in the re-printed NRC, 1951 under Ghilazhari and Howly Mouza. Surnames of women had been used for men and vice versa. Anomalies had also been made in case ages of the inhabitants. Again, same serial No. had been used more than once to identify different households.
  3. In the reprinted NRC of 1951, many Muslim families were identified as Hindu families.
  4. In various instances names of father/mother against their siblings were printed as ‘Unknown’. In some other cases only the surnames and titles had been printed instead of full name. In some other cases siblings were mentioned as Kesua (babies) and “Amuk’ (somebody). Males were shown as wives and females were marked as husbands.
  5. In the reprinted NRC of 1951, birth places of a large number of people had been shown as to be Mymenshing, Dacca and West Pakistan though the original birth place of  those people are different villages of Assam.
  6. Though in Phulkipara and Deorikuchi villages Muslims have been residing since pre-independence period but these villages were identified as Hindu villages in reprinted NRC. (What is the intention behind it?)
  7. People who have settled themselves in Barpeta and Chaygaon Revenue Circle areas after 1971 either by marriage or livelihood were not able to procure their necessary documents of inheritance as these are not published in their home districts or original places.
  8. In the application form, in Column 12 the word successor had been printed instead of predecessor.
  9. The NRC updation process was silent about the fate of the ‘D’ Voters of Assam whose cases were/are still pending in different Foreigners’ Tribunals/Court.
  10. R B Vaghaiwala, the then Census Commissioner, 1951 stated that the names of 68415 people were not entered in the said NRC and also a large number of Muslim people specially in the districts of Kamrup and Goalpara were not covered by the said NRC. The Pilot Project was silent about the fate of those dropped out people.
  11. In order to solve the foreigners’ issue in Assam, the Assam Accord (5. (3)) signed on 15th March 1985 stated, ‘Foreigners who came to Assam after 1-1-1966 (inclusive) up to 23-3-1971 shall be detected in accordance with the provisions of Foreigners Act 1944 and the foreigners (tribunal) order 1964. Names of foreigners so detected will be deleted from the electoral rolls in force. Such person will be required to register themselves before the registration officer in respective districts in accordance with registration of Foreigners Act 1939 and registration of Foreigners Rules 1939. For this purpose the Government of India will undertake suitable strengthening of the Government machinery. On the expiry of a period of 10 years following the date of detection, the names of all such persons who have been deleted from the electoral rolls shall be restored’.

Thus, in pursuance of the Assam Accord people, who entered Assam between 1966 and 24th March, 1971 were to be franchised after ten years. The processes of franchising those people have not carried out till date. The NRC Pilot Project was also silent about the fate of those people and their descendants.

Issue of NRC Updation and Police Firing:

Noticing the anomalies in the mechanism of the NRC updation process, the ‘All Assam Minority Students Union’ (AAMSU) gheraoed the Deputy Commissioner’s Office, Barpeta, on 21st  July 2010 demanding immediate postponement of the pilot project of the ongoing updation of the NRC. The organization also demanded the settlement of the D voters’ problem before starting the process of NRC updation.

Thousands of processionists coming from different areas of District approached the DC office at around 11Am on 21st July, 2010. The leaders of the processionists wanted the Deputy Commissioner to come out of his office and take their memorandum which the later denied. The processionists were waiting in front of the DC office for about an hour under direct sunlight for the Deputy Commissioner. Meanwhile, a third party who was ready with stones and wanted to create havoc started pelting stones on the processionists. The mob now lost their nerves and became violent and in return started pelting the same stones to the DC office. Suddenly, the Superintendent of Police of the district appeared on the scene and ordered the police personals for firing on the mob. It took lives of four processionists and about hundred got injured. The died persons were Siraj Ali, 25, Majam Ali, 55, Matleb Ali and Moidul Mullah, both 30.The police could have controlled the situation by applying tear gas or lathicharge. It is alleged that the police applied tear gas and lathicharge when the mob almost dispersed the place after firing.

It was noticed that while the processionists were running away to save their lives, many of them were caught by some unidentified youths and beaten up badly. Anowar Hussain, 35, one of the injured, told The Telegraph that he was beaten up by some unidentified youths. “I requested the youths with folded hands not to beat me but they did not stop till I became unconscious. I suspect there was a third force which fuelled the incident,” he said[8].

The town also witnessed clashes between the protesters and residents, who started attacking the AAMSU supporters allegedly for shouting anti-AASU and anti-‘Tarun Gogoi’[9] slogans. The clashes continued for over half-an-hour. The situation came under control following reinforcement of security personnel.[10] The state government immediately announced the postponement of the NRC updation process in the state.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU) activists did not pay heed to the demands of the AAMSU as the former consider the latter to be the saviours of the Bangladeshi immigrants in Assam. According to the AASU, in Assam, there are still lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. AASU is of the opinion that the mechanism which had been framed out by the Government for the Pilot Project did not bear any incongruity and hence its application will detect illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the state. Thus, the organization warned the government not to delay the NRC updation process.

Though the Pilot Project failed, the process of NRC updation could not be stopped. The Barpeta incident delayed but modified the process of NRC updation. Many of the anomalies of the Pilot Project were rectified and process of NRC updation works under direct supervision of Supreme Court has started in 2015. The Government of India has made the following mechanism for the NRC updation works.

WHAT IS NRC UPDATION?

National Register of Citizens (NRC) updation basically means the process of enlisting the names of all citizens residing in Assam at the time of NRC updation.

HOW WILL THE NRC BE UPDATED?

On the basis of the Assam Accord 1985[11] the NRC will be updated as per the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. As per the two statutes, the citizenship status would be ascertained based on the NRC, 1951, Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24th March, 1971 and in their absence the list of admissible documents of Pre-1971 period. Following are the list of admissible documents-

Legacy Data:

1 1951 NRC.
2 Electoral Rolls up to 24 th March (Midnight), 1971.

The above documents are collectively called Legacy Data. There is a list of other admissible documents in case someone’s name is not found in the Legacy Data, then the applicant may also produce any of the following documents listed below claiming inclusion in NRC. :

List of other documents admissible for inclusion in NRC

3 Land records including tenancy records of relevant period up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
4 Citizenship Certificate issued by competent authority up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
5

Permanent Residential Certificate issued from outside the State up to midnight of 24th March, 1971

6 Refugee registration certificate issued up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
7 Passport issued by the Government of India up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
8 Insurance policy (LICI) of relevant period up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
9 Any license/certificate issued by the Government authority of relevant period up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
10 Document showing service/employment under Government/Public sector undertaking up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
11 Bank/Post office Accounts of relevant period up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
12 Birth certificates issued by the competent authority up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
13 Educational certificate issued by Board/Universities up to midnight of 24th March, 1971
14 Records/ processes pertaining to court up to midnight of 24th March, 1971

The documents placed below are only supporting documents and shall be accepted only if accompanied by any one of the admissible documents listed above.

15.1 Certificate issued by the Secretary of the Village Panchayat countersigned by the local Revenue official in respect of females from rural areas who have migrated to other is only optional and not mandatory.
15.2 Certificate issued by Circle Officer in respect of females who have migrated from an urban area after marriage is only optional and not mandatory.
16 Ration Cards issued by competent authority with official seal and signature up to 24th March (midnight), 1971.

HOW TO OBTAIN ADMISSIBLE DOCUMENTS?

The citizen must submit the admissible documents available with them. In case the applicant had lost or misplaced the documents required, they may approach the office from which the documents were issued for obtaining duplicate/certified copies. The legacy data can be obtained from the NRC Sewa Kendra free of cost. For the purpose the government has set 2500 NRC Sewa Kendras throughout the state. The legacy data are also available on the Office of the State Coordinator of National Registration (NRC). One can download and print his or her document from there.

IS IT NECESSARY TO SUBMIT ALL OF THE ADMISSIBLE DOCUMENTS?

No. A citizen is required to submit only one of the admissible documents. It can be either NRC 1951, any one of the Electoral Rolls, or any of the 12 other admissible documents mentioned above.

TIMELINES CHART

Sl. No Activities Start date End date Remarks
1 Legacy Data Publication
a. Publication of records at 100 NSKs a. 27th February, 2015 2500 NSKs have been set up.
b. Publication of records at all remaining NSKs and online b. 27th of March, 2015
2 Distribution of Application Form 2nd week of May , 2015 May, 2015 Delayed. Distribution started in the second week of June
3 Receipt of Application 2nd week of May, 2015 31st July, 2015 Delayed. Started in the second week of June.
4 Field Verification June, 2015 Not started yet
6 Publication of Draft NRC 31st October, 2015
6 Receipt & Disposal of Claims & Objections 1st November, 2015 January, 2016
7 Publication of Final NRC 31st January, 2016

Though the government machinery has framed timelines for completing the completing the NRC updation works it has come to the notice that the machinery is failing the timelines. Starting of distribution of application form has been late by one month. Thus, it would be difficult to complete the process of NRC updation by 31st January 2016.

HOW TO OBTAIN APPLICATION FORM?

Sl. No Activities Remarks
1 House to house distribution of Application Forms by Govt Functionaries. The distribution of forms has been started by Govt Functionaries by one month late.
2 Elaborate instructions for filling up of form to be accompanied with the blank Application Form. A separate page containing Elaborate instructions for filling the form has been given.
3 Forms will also be available at the NRC Seva Kendras (NSKs) or can be downloaded from the NRC Website. Yes.
4 In all instances the Form are available free of cost Yes.
5 Photo copies of blank Application Form can also be used
6 One Application Form is given for one household that would provide for spaces up to 6 members of the family. In case of big size families more than one Form can be obtained or photocopied of the original Form could be used.
7 Forms are available in English, Assamese and Bengali and are distributed as per prominent/common language spoken in a particular Area. There is demand from Bodo community people to publish forms in Bodo languages.

Guidelines for Filling up the forms:

Sl. No Government Guidelines Remarks
1 The head of the family shall apply for all the members of the family. Though the government machinery claims that the form is made simple and it is easy to fill up. Practically it is difficult to fill up the form. A lot of information is to be provided by the applicant. Any writing mistake can create problem. Even many educated persons find it difficult to fill up the Form. In that case one can easily understand what would happen to the less educated and illiterate persons. The government should appoint trained and unbiased persons to help the people in filling up the form.
2 Ensure inclusion of admissible documents and identity & linkage documents with Application Form.
3 Only photocopies of the required documents and not the originals are to be submitted at the NSKs along with the Application Form. Originals need to be kept ready for producing during field verification carried out by government functionaries.
4 The family would require providing 2.5×2.5 size photographs (either in color or black & white) for each member of the family in the Application Form
5 In case the family head is no more, the descendants can apply
6 In case of a minor or in case of disabled person, head of the family or legal guardian shall apply.
7 In case of orphanage, homes for mentally or physically handicapped etc, head of the institution shall apply for the inmates.
8 Trainings shall be carried out in the field sensitizing willing persons and field Govt functionaries on Application Form filling up
9 D voters can apply, but their names shall finally be included in NRC only if the Foreigners Tribunals declare them to be citizens It is unfortunate that D voters can apply but their names shall not be included in the NRC until and unless their cases are cleared by the Foreigners Tribunals. It has deprived a considerable number of Assamese who are arbitrarily made D voters of the state.
10 Toll Free NRC Helpline, (Number 15107) will help the public/applicants in filling up the Application Form and in obtaining the necessary documents.

 

WHERE TO SUBMIT THE APPLICATION FORM:

Sl. No Government Guidelines Remarks
1 Forms shall be received only at the NRC Seva Kendra (NSK).
2 One NSK shall receive Applications from only the villages that are marked under it.
3 The public shall be made aware of their designated NSK through publicity measures Sufficient awareness programmes are not carried out the government machineries. Still many people of rural areas are not aware of the NRC updation process. Many people of mainstream community are less interested in NRC.
4 The NSK operator shall check the Form before receiving.
5 On receipt of duly filled up Form, the NSK operator shall give the printout of submitted Application Form along with the summary of the submitted documents.
6 The Local Registrar of Citizen Registration (LRCR) who is the officer in charge of the NSK shall issue acknowledgement of receipt.
7 Only a member of the family whose name figure in the Application Form can be allowed to submit the Application Form
8 In some exceptional cases if anyone outside the family comes for submission, a photo of the bearer shall be captured at NSK for record and verification
9 Forms can also be submitted online (nrcassam.nic.in) also after registration using mobile number of the applicant.

 

Can a “D” voter apply?

Yes. “D” voters can apply for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC. However, a “D” Voter’s name will only be included in NRC only after getting clearance from the Foreigners Tribunals.

It is unfortunate that D voters can apply but their names shall not be included in the NRC until and unless their cases are cleared by the Foreigners Tribunals. It has deprived a considerable number of Assamese who are arbitrarily made D voters of the state.

Though the process and mechanism of the updation process of NRC is not error free, the way the foreigner’s issue shatters in Assam, people of the state want to have an updated NRC at any cost. People, especially the minority Muslims of Bengal origin who are more concerned leaving their daily routine works collecting data, obtaining forms and filling it up. This section of people expect that the updation of NRC bring a transparent society in Assam as it will clear the picture of Indian citizens and illegal foreign nationals (if any) living in the state. While the Fact Finding Team was visiting the Hapachara Camp[12] of Bongaigaon district where the conflict induced IDPs are from BTAD are living in pathetic condition on a leased plot of private land also showed their enthusiasm with the ongoing NRC process. They can’t manage proper food, don’t have minimum roof for shelter, no sanitation, no education, no proper drinking water, etc. In short, they don’t have the minimum basic facilities of lives. The government is also silent to rehabilitate the inmates of the camp. More often these people are suspected as to be the illegal occupants of the state. Surprisingly, though the inmates do not have proper amenities of lives all, of them have proper documents which are sufficient enough to enlist their names in the ongoing NRC updation. One of the inmates of the camp told team ‘our lives are less valuable than death dogs and we are not human beings’. Now they do not want any promise of welfare schemes from the government. They only want an atmosphere in the state where in they will not be doubted and harassed in the name of foreign nationals. They hope that the updated NRC might bring that fortune to them.

 Challenges before NRC updation process:

It seems from the entire mechanism that this time, the long pending NRC of 1951 will get updated as majority of the people have welcomed the process. Still it faces considerable challenges from different angles. The first challenge is to deal the issue of ‘D’ voters of the state. ‘D’ voters’ cases are still pending in the Foreigners’ Tribunals. But the present mechanism of NRC updating process allows the ‘D’ voters’ to apply for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC. However, it is said that those “D” Voter’s name will only be included in NRC after getting clearance from the Foreigners Tribunals. But the way the Foreigners Tribunals are functioning most of the “D” Voter’s will not be able to get their names enlisted in the present NRC. Pratik Hazela, the Co-ordinator of NRC updation works of the state says his office is unable to do any needful steps for the ‘D’ Voters as it is not under its jurisdiction. Thus the “D” Voter’s cases will be shattering Assam politics for another long term.

As the days are coming closer new twits are taking place in the state. Till recently, majority of the people of the state suspected poor Bengali speaking Muslims to be the illegal immigrants in the state and believed that the updated NRC will help in identifying those large numbers of foreign nationals. But with the progress of the works of the NRC updation works, some latent issues are surfacing. Many of the Bengali Hindus and the Tea Tribes residing in Assam do not have the documents needed for applying in the ongoing NRC. It is now suspected that many labourers of tea gardens came to Assam for settlement after 1971. Though these tea garden labours are Indian, they are not eligible to be enlisted in the NRC.  Citizenship of many of the Bengali Hindus is suspected. More often, BJP, the major political party of country declares that the Bengali Hindus should be given the status of Indian citizenship without any question which is not again accepted by other political parties and organizations. In this critical juncture, the All Assam Bengali Youth Student Federation (AABYSF) have opposed the present process of NRC updation. The Federation called for a strike in the state on 17th June 2015 that paralyzed normal life in the state. It demands inclusion of the names of all Hindu Bengalis who migrated from Bangladesh to Assam in the NRC.  They also demanded that all Hindu Bengali detainees should be released from detention camps without any condition. During the 12-hour bandh, buses and other vehicles did not ply and streets wore a deserted look. Government offices, banks, schools, colleges along with other institutions remain closed. The role of present AASU leaders is also dubious with NRC process in Assam. Initially the AASU leaders were the proponent of the NRC updation but now they are officially saying that NRC updating will not be able to detect Bangladeshi immigrants. They want constant Supreme Court monitoring.

In the present system of NRC updation many Indian citizen residing in Assam do not have any of the listed documents to produce for enlisting names in the NRC. Even many Assamese people were living outside Assam between 1951 to1971 and thus their names are not available in any of the documents. Their descendents are now facing problems in the process of NRC updation. Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, former Education Minister of Assam has raised the question and appealed the government to rectify the process of NRC updation. According to him in the present process of NRC updation many of the indigenous people will out numbered. He thus threatened that if proper rectification is not undertaken by the government he will go the Supreme Court.

Even after knowing that the NRC of 1951 was incomplete[13] one the Assam Assembly Speaker Mr. Pranab Gogoi and some other organisations like AASU have been demanding that the people who are having their names in the NRC 1951 should only be considered as indigenous people giving them special privileges in all sectors. This has been creating confusion in the minds of the people.

Again a group of so called Assamese intellectuals and organisations who run their business in the name of ‘illegal Bangladeshi’ do not want the updation of NRC as it will close their business doors. Some of the organizations like APW have again approached the apex court demanding further amendment of the Citizenship Act and to stop the ongoing NRC updating process. At the same time, some print and electronic media in Assam have started running propaganda against the process. Editorials of leading daily newspapers have been questioning the NRC updating process. The leading English daily The Assam Tribune in one of its editorials “The migration imbroglio and NE” on 17th March directly claimed that the ongoing NRC updating will legitimize the ‘illegal Bangladeshi’ as Indian nationals! Veteran journalist and known right wing intellectual, Dhirendra Nath Chakravarty, recently said that Muslims of Bengali origin can be Indian but not Assamese. He didn’t even hesitate to suggest that certain districts where Muslims are in a majority should be allowed to secede from Assam. All these are to create a chaotic situation amidst the process of NRC updation so that the process gets stopped and politics in the name of foreigners’ go on.

In spite of all these controversies the works of NRC updation is going on. Government is seemed to be determined in completing the task.

Observations of the Fact Finding Team:

  1. Most of the People across the board enthusiastically welcome the NRC updation. They want the process to continue. People of east Bengal origin in Assam who are often suspected as illegal occupants of the state are in the forefront for updation of NRC. People are visiting NRC Sewa Kendras to collect their Legacy Data, filling up the forms and submitting those. They expect that the updation of this NRC will solve the long debated foreigners’ issues of the state.
  2. The married women were strongly condemning the discriminatory provision of requiring them to submit linkage certificates in addition to other documents. However, it has been clarified by the authority that marriage certificate is not mandatory in proving linkage with her father. She can submit any other legal document that proves father-daughter relationship.
  3. In some places it is found that the Legacy Data have not yet been uploaded against records found in village data. People complain that all voters’ lists from 1951 to 1971 have not been found available in the website.
  4. The Fact Finding Team found that Legacy Data of Ganesh Valley, Neille area inhabited by Bengali Hindu Refugees, Patgaon Mokam of Kamrup Rural, etc. have not been uploaded yet. The inhabitants of those areas are worried.
  5. Many people complained that they are given only 1971 data (Voters’ list) in some of the NSKs despite the fact that the NRC 1951 and Voters’ Lists of 1966 are available for those people. The people want to be updated in the NRC with the earliest documents which they do have with them. In some NSKs Legacy Data Codes are not generated even after uploading their valid documents.
  6. In Baksa district people complained that the number of NSKs are insufficient. Some villages of Barpeta districts are shown in Baksa districts. More NSKs should be set up in the said district.
  7. The Fact Finding Team found ‘D’ has been written against many entries in original sheets of 1951 NRC. However, in 1951 there was no ‘D’ category citizen in the country. While the question was raised, Pratik Hazela, the Co-ordinator of NRC, Assam could not clarify it in detail. He simply says that it would not create any problem in the process of NRC updation.
  8. One Booth Level Officer (BLO), Purnima, of Nellie area was agitated and showing how arbitrarily ‘D’ has been marked in the Voters’ lists though she knew that that they were citizens.
  9. Given the arbitrary manner in which some citizens have been categorised as ‘D’ voters why should they be required to approach two foras to prove their citizenship. The Fact Finding Team appeal the government that If after verification ‘D’ voters become eligible for entry in NRC, in that case their cases lying in Foreign Tribunals should stand disposed off.
  10. It has been observed that most of the BLOs are not properly trained. Many of the BLOs appointed are not properly trained. They do not know the process of NRC updation. They cannot address Common people’s quarries. The BLOs need more training to do the ground level works more efficiently.
  11. Though the government machinery claims that the form is made simple and it is easy to fill up. Practically it is difficult to fill up the form. A lot of information is to be provided by the applicant. Any writing mistake can create problem. Even many educated persons find it difficult to fill up the Form. In that case one can easily understand what would happen to the less educated and illiterate persons. Even the BLOs are not trained enough to help in filling up the forms. The government should appoint trained and unbiased persons to help the people in filling up the form
  12. In many instances it has been reported that fee has been charged illegally for filling the NRC form. Even many advocates in different parts of the state are charging money from the ignorant people for filling up the NRC form.
  13. In some areas like Alopoti NSKs fuel is not supplied to run generators of NSK centers. In those centers people are asked to bring petrol to run generators and computers for getting their documents printed.

In spite of all these shortcomings the task of NRC updation should go on and complete it. Hopefully, this NRC updation shall minimise and foreigners issue of the state.

[1] The Fact Finding Team comprised of Advocate Irfan Engineer, Director CSSS, Mumbai, Prof. Monirul Hussain, Gauhati University, Professor Dilip Borah, Gauhati University and Convener AISF Assam State, Dr. Shahiuz Zaman Ahmed, Assistant Professor, SPP College, Sivasagar, Dr. Hafiz Ahmed, President Char Chapori Sahitya Parishad,Assam, and Susanda Madhab Baruah, Guwahati

[2] After the conduct of the Census of 1951, a National Register of Citizens (NRC) was prepared in respect of each village showing the houses or holdings in a serial order and indicating against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein, and in respect of each individual, the father’s name/mother’s name or husband’s name, nationality, sex, age, marital status, educational qualification, means of livelihood or occupation and visible identification mark. This was done by copying out in registers the particulars recorded during the Census done in 1951. This NRC was prepared under a directive from the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA). These registers covered each and every person enumerated during the Census of 1951 and were kept in the offices of Deputy Commissioners and Sub Divisional Officers according to instructions issued by the Government of India in 1951. Later these registers were transferred to the Police in the early 1960s.

[3] Census Report of Indian, 1971.

[4] Assam Accord (Memorandum of Understanding), 1985.

[5] Poor peasants of riverine areas and internally displaced persons for livelihood go to cities and other places of upper Assam in search of works. These labour class people are often insulted on suspicion as Bangladeshis and ‘Miyas’. Though miya means respectable, here in Assam it is used as a derogatory word. While discussing with the poor people of at Tetelital, Barpeta a group of daily labours told the Fact Finding Team that they do not carry any documents while go out in search of works. They are also not issued any documents by the government. Many of the labours do not have the idea of the importance of documents of citizenship. If they are asked for such documents it becomes problematic for them.

[6] Doubtful citizen of the state

[7] The Ministry of Home Affairs in the Gazette of India Extraordinary, Part II, Section 3 subsection II.

[8] The Telegraph, 22nd July

[9] Chief Minister of Assam

[10] The Telegraph, 22nd July

[11] Rastriya Nagarikpanjir Adyabadhikaran: Assam Gana Parishad Dalor Dristibhangi aaru Daybadhata, Assam Ganaparishad, Guwahati, 2015, P-1.

[12] 1118 families of around 10000 are living in the Hapachara IDP camp set up on a piece of private land measuring 10 bighas against an annual rent of Rs. 7000. In October, 1993, the Bodo militants started targeted violence against the Muslim minority of Sidli subdivision, Kokrajhar district, Assam. The violence spread to other Muslim villages in Bijni subdivision, Bongaigoan district and it continued till October 11. The victims left their villages and could not go back for resettlement. For some two years they lived in a government relief camp at Patabari under Sidli police station. Paramilitary forces were deployed to provide security to camp inmates from the attack of Bodo militants, still within a couple of months two camp inmates were killed by the Bodo militants just outside the camp. To avoid further attacks the camp was shifted to Anandabazar where also insecurity continued and one Baser Ali was killed near the river by smashing his head by stone. Thus, it became almost impossible for the inmates to go outside the camp even at the time of emergencies. The security personnel strictly prohibited the camp inmates not to go outside without permission. The victims got trapped and were literally confined in the camp. But one day, the security forces suddenly disappeared from the camp, and the government food and other essential relief supplies were stopped. The inmates then had no option but to leave the camp.

[13] R B Vaghaiwala, the then Census Commissioner, 1951 stated that the names of 68415 people were not entered in the said NRC and also a large number of Muslim people specially in the districts of Kamrup and Goalpara were not covered by the said NRC.

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Centre for Study of Society and Secularism

Mumbai.

E-mail: csss2work@gmail.com

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