SC asks for re-verification of 10% left off Assam’s draft NRC

By Prarthana Mitra

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the centre to re-verify 10% of the people in Assam who were stripped of their citizenship by the recently published final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R F Nariman said this was to be a “sample survey” for the satisfaction of the court alone, and its final course and schedule would be chalked out later. Noting a few contradictions in the centre’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for filing claims and objections, the top court also extended the deadline (August 30) for the same. The bench further expressed doubts over the centre’s proposal to allow a claimant to modify their legacy documents for inclusion in the draft.

Here’s what the final draft proposed

Out of 3,29,91,385 applicants, 2,89,83,677 have been found eligible for inclusion in the complete draft of NRC, announced in Guwahati on 30 July. With the declaration of the final draft, 40 lakh of them stand to face deportation if they cannot prove their citizenship before the final list is out.

According to PTI, 37,59,630 of the 40,70,707 people who do not figure on the list, have already been rejected, while the remaining 2,48,077 names are on hold.

While the centre claims to identify illegal immigrants and tackle the porous Bangladesh border with the NRC, the opposition has accused the government of perpetuating “divide and rule”. Moreover, there is gross discrepancy and confusion due to the seemingly arbitrary inclusion and exclusion of members of the same families.

According to noted critics, political scientists and lawyers, this recount is scapegoating the issue of illegal immigration to blatantly target Assam’s Muslim and Bengali population.

Course of action

In the massive outrage that followed,  the apex court soon made it clear it was merely a draft and there will be no coercive action by authorities, asking the centre to formulate modalities and the SOPs for assessing the claims and objections to the exclusions.

Assam, which had faced an influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the first state having an NRC since 1951. The NRC assessment was an exercise to maintain an official record of the names, addresses, and photographs of all Indian citizens residing in the Northeastern state before 25 March 1971. The first draft of the ongoing NRC process, released on 31 December 2017, comprised 1.9 crore names. The Registrar General of India reiterated Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s point, saying, “Till the final list is published later this year status quo remains.” The final NRC will be declared in December 2018.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius