THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS
Context: Union Home Minister has told Parliament that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) will be implemented nationwide.
- In Assam, the updated final NRC, which validates bonafide Indian citizens, has left out over 19 lakh applicants.
- The NRCaims to identify illegal immigrants — primarily from Bangladesh — who entered Assam and settled there after March 25, 1971, and deport them to their native country.
THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS
- TheNational Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register maintained by the Government of India containing names & certain relevant information for identification of Indian
- It is a register containing names of all genuine Indian citizens. At present, only Assam has such a register.
- Nagaland is already creating a similar database known as the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants. The Centre is planning to create a National Population Register (NPR), which will contain demographic and biometric details of citizens.
NRC IN ASSAM
- The NRC in Assam is basically a list of Indian citizens living in the state.
- The citizens’ register sets out to identify foreign nationals in the state that borders Bangladesh.
- The process to update the register began following a Supreme Court order in 2013, with the state’s nearly 33 million people having to prove that they were Indian nationals prior to March 24, 1971.
- The updated final NRC was released on August 31, with over 1.9 million applicants failing to make it to the list.
HOW DOES ONE PROVE CITIZENSHIP?
- In Assam, one of the basic criteria was that the names of applicant’s family members should either be in the first NRC prepared in 1951 or in the electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971.
- Other than that, applicants also had the option to present documents such as refugee registration certificate, birth certificate, LIC policy, land and tenancy records, citizenship certificate, passport, government issued license or certificate, bank/post office accounts, permanent residential certificate, government employment certificate, educational certificate and court records.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE EXCLUDED INDIVIDUALS?
- “Non-inclusion of a person’s name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him/her being declared a foreigner,” govt has said. Such individuals will have the option to present their case before foreigners’ tribunals.
- If one loses the case in the tribunal, the person can move the high court and, then, the Supreme Court.
- In the case of Assam, the state government has clarified it will not detain any individual until he/she is declared a foreigner by the foreigners’ tribunal.
THE 1951 NRC IN ASSAM
- NRC for Indian citizens in Assam was first created in 1951. Manipur and Tripura were also granted permission to create their own NRCs, but it never materialized
- The reason behind the move was to identify Indian citizens in Assam amid “unabated” migration from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
- The list comprised of those who lived in India on January 26, 1950, or were born in India or had parents who were born in India or had been living in India for at least five years before the January 26, 1950 cut-off.
CONCERNS REGARDIND NRC
- The government, has said, it would also re-introduce the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Parliament that envisages the grant of Indian citizenship to all refugees from minority communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- In all three nations Muslims are in a majority, and therefore, the Bill denies benefit to Muslim minorities from other neighboring countries, including Myanmar where Rohingya Muslims face persecution.
- There is still no clarity on what the end results mean for the 19 lakh plus people who find themselves outside the NRC, potentially stateless and at risk of “deportation” to Bangladesh, which refuses to acknowledge, them.
- The CAB, which pointedly discriminates against Muslims, and is loaded against the right to equality and equal protection before the law as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, there are genuine fears that a nationwide NRC will also target Muslims.
- Details of how such an exercise will be carried out are, of course, not yet known.
- In the case of Assam, there was a cut-off date — March 25, 1971 — after which all foreigners as per the Assam Accord were to be “detected, deleted and expelled in accordance with law”.
- Presumably, the Centre will come out with a cut-off for the nationwide NRC, but it will be an arbitrary one.
- India, as a country which follows the ideology of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, should not be hasty in taking decisions that can disenfranchise her citizens
- Political parties should refrain from coloring the entire NRC process through electoral prospects that may turn into communal violence.
CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL 2016
- Indian Citizenship Amendment Bill was proposed in theLok Sabha on July 19, 2016, amending the Citizenship Act of 1955.
- If this Bill is passed in the Parliament, refugees from minority communities like Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikhs, Parsi or Christian coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan will be eligible for Indian citizenship, excluding people from the Muslim
- The Bill relaxes the requirement of residence in India from 11 years to 6 years for these migrants.
- The move has been justified stating protection of minority refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
- The main reasons why there has been opposition against the bill are concerns that the demography of Northeast India will change with the influx of migrants fromBangladesh.
- The bill also goes against ongoing update ofnational register of citizens and discriminates based on religious lines.
- The Assam Accord (1985) was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi on 15 August 1985.
- The accord brought an end to the Assam Agitation and paved the way for the leaders of the agitation to form a political party and form a government in the state of Assam soon after.
- As per the Accord, those Bangladeshis who came between 1966 and 1971 will be barred from voting for ten years. The Accord also mentions that the international borders will be sealed and all persons who crossed over from Bangladesh after 1971 are to be deported.
QUESTION: What is NRC and what are benefits and concerns regarding having an NRC for the entire country? (15marks)
What is the Assam accord? How is it relevant to the ongoing issue of NRC going on in Assam? (10 marks)