What is NRC, and how it affects us?
The NRC or National Register of Citizens is the register which contains the names of all the citizens of India. Think it like your class attendance register. Would you be a member of your class if your name is not in the register? The NRC tries to know if the names in the register are that of genuine citizens of India.
It was first prepared in 1951. But now the list has been updated for the state of Assam. Why only Assam you may ask. Well, for that we need to go back in history.
Assam is on India and Bangladesh border. Bangladesh, earlier also known as East Pakistan, waged a war against Pakistan and became a free country in 1971. India also helped her in this war and gave Pakistan a humiliating defeat.
But post the war, a lot of Bangladesh residents poured into India via Assam, and mostly they stayed in Assam. Six years after the Bangladesh War, the citizens of Assam started protesting against these illegal migrants. They said that these migrants had started taking benefits as Indian citizens and were also voting, which is not right as they’re not the citizens of India.
There was a lot of agitation in the state against this. In 1985, Assam Accord was signed, according to which those who entered on or after March 25, 1971 (the eve of the Bangladesh War) would be declared foreigners and deported.
Who are illegal immigrants in Assam
The National Register of Citizens now takes its definition of illegal immigrants from the Assam Accord – anyone who cannot prove that they or their ancestors entered the country before the midnight of March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner and face deportation.
This means you could be born in India in 1971 to parents who crossed the border in that year, and still be termed an illegal immigrant.
The 1951 NRC list has been updated for Assam, which has had a longstanding foreigner problem, to remove illegal migrants and save further inflow.
The updating process of NRC started in the year 2013 under the monitoring of the Supreme Court of India.
On August 31, 2019, more than 19 lakh people in Assam were excluded from the final list of the NRC that was released by the government.
Can you contest it?
As per the guidelines issued by the Central government, the excluded persons can approach one of the 400 foreigners’ tribunals and appeal against their exclusions. The tribunals are set up by the government to hear the appeals of those who have been excluded from the Assam NRC list.
What if you lose?
Neither the state nor the Centre has clarified what happens to those who lose their cases in the Foreigners’ Tribunals, whether they will be detained, deported or allowed to stay on without the rights and privileges of citizenship. The government has been building detention centres across the country, with one just been announced near Mumbai.
There is a lot of uncertainty on the issue and the fate of those whose name does not appear in the register. As an individual, you should think if you would like to share your benefits with the underprivileged or let people from other countries encroach upon your rights? It’s worth a debate.