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Sushanta Talukdar
Date of Publish: 2018-01-04

Assam NRC updation: Many indigenous Assamese families unhappy over exclusion of names from first draft, but not panicking yet


Assam scripted history at the stroke of 31 December midnight by becoming the first state in the country to get the first draft of an updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) which was exclusively compiled for the northeastern state in 1951. However, euphoria over this historic moment fast evaporated in the state primarily for two reasons.

Firstly, partial inclusion or complete exclusion of names of family members left lakh of families including many indigenous Assamese families across the state unhappy, if not worried or panicked. Secondly, the draft does not give any indication of the number of illegal Bangladeshi migrants staying in Assam. There has been a political consensus that the updated NRC will help detect, once for all, the Bangladeshi migrants, who had entered Assam post-25 March (midnight), 1971 cut-off date stipulated in the Assam Accord and are illegally staying in the state.

The first draft, the timeframe for publication of which was set by the Supreme Court, includes 1.9 crore of the total 3.29 crore applicants. The NRC authorities have appealed to the remaining 1.39 crore applicants not to panic as the verification process was on and wait patiently till the publication of the complete draft. Registrar General of India Sailesh said that the entire process of verification of remaining applications and publication of the final draft would be completed in 2018. The Supreme Court has fixed 20 February for further orders on the matter.

Those excluded in the first draft will be able to file claims for inclusion or those having any objection to inclusion of any names in the first draft will be able to do so only after the publication of the complete draft, irrespective of whether they have been verified or not unless the apex court intervenes issues any directive in this regard.

Hours after the formal publication of the first draft, news channels, news websites, newspapers published the next morning ran or published stories of surprise exclusions of top political leaders and activists, leaders and activists of student and youth bodies, legislators or their family members in the first draft.

On New Year’s Day, people rushed to NRC Seva Kendras or scanned the NRC websites and other related links to check the first draft to ascertain if their names have been included or not. Towards noon social networking sites were flooded with mixed inputs. Some shared the image of the NRC draft displaying the names of all the family members and showering praise on the NRC authorities for the achievement after a mammoth exercise while many expressed anguish over either partial inclusion of family members in the draft or complete exclusion of all the applicants of their families.

Official Facebook page of the office of the State NRC Coordinator was flooded with queries by those whose names have not been included in the first draft or names of some of their family members are missing. People have also expressed unhappiness on the timelines of various social media network sites over partial inclusion or exclusion of their family members.

NRC authorities have requested them to wait till the release of the complete draft. "Please do not worry. Verification process is going on and once your application is verified and found admissible; your name will be added in the Complete Draft of NRC. Be patient and just wait for the release of the Complete Draft of NRC. Regards, Team NRC” was the reply given on the Facebook page of NRC Assam when a visitor drew the attention of the NRC authorities that his name has not been published even though he had submitted valid documents and asked if he would be pushed to Bangladesh.

“Please note that verification takes time and we are carrying out the process with due scrutiny. Applications whose verification is shown as pending, their verification will be completed in due time and when found eligible, will be added in the Complete Draft of NRC,” its response to a query about the partial inclusion of members of the same family.

The NRC authorities have also assured that correction of mistakes in names and other errors in the part draft would be taken up separately and necessary guidelines would be issued in due course.

Some applicants who had submitted their application online have complained on the NRC Facebook page that while NRC part draft link was showing ARN (Application Receipt Number) pending for verification no one visited their houses for verification.

In response to a query by an applicant if the physical verification team shall visit door to door to all persons, whose names have not been included the first draft the NRC authorities have clarified that “verification will be conducted only for those whose documents have discrepancies. In such cases, members will be contacted.”

However, those who could find their names posted congratulatory messages to Team NRC.

The NRC authorities claimed that documents verification process adopted is the "first of its kind wherein all documents are being verified through comparison with the original records/backend available with the issuing authorities." Clearly, the first draft includes those applicants who have been verified as citizens and claims of all others are pending verification and till verification all the remaining 1.39 crore applicants get over nobody is going to get an idea as to the actual number of illegal Bangladeshis in the state.

It is not for the first time that document-based verification of Indian citizenship by executive machinery has led to such a situation in the state of partial inclusion of names of members of a family in a comprehensive list such as electoral rolls. Assam has many migrant linguistic and religious minority families with names of some their family members tagged with the letter "D" ("D" standing for Doubtful) on electoral rolls while other members of the same family are enrolled as genuine voters. These “D” voters, (those persons who are identified during electoral roll revision as D Voters, cases of which are pending with the Foreigners Tribunals or as declared as foreigners by the Tribunal) are not allowed to vote till their cases pending before various Foreigners’ Tribunals are disposed of. The NRC modalities allowed "D" voters to apply for inclusion of their names in the updated NRC but stipulated that "D" Voter’s name will be included in NRC only after getting clearance from the Foreigners Tribunals. The NRC authorities clarified that "someone who has his/her Legacy Data record is eligible to for inclusion in the updated NRC, irrespective of the fact that his/her father or mother has been identified as D Voters."

Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju informed Lok Sabha on Tuesday that 19,612 'D' voters were declared foreigners till October 2017. As of 3 September, 2017, there were 1,25,155 "D" voters in the state, according to information furnished by the Assam government on the floor of the Assam Assembly.

However, this is perhaps for the first time that many indigenous Assamese families have gone through a similar situation of partial inclusion of some members in the first draft of the NRC when some other members have been excluded. While they may not be worried or panicked, the flood of messages on the NRC Facebook page or their own timelines show that they are certainly not happy about it.

Sushanta Talukdar

This articles was first published in FIRSTPOST ( http://www.firstpost.com/ ) on 03-01-18. The original article can be accessed at the following link: http://www.firstpost.com/india/assam-nrc-updation-many-indigenous-assamese-families-unhappy-over-exclusion-of-names-from-first-draft-but-not-panicking-yet-4285373.html

All photographs courtesy official Facebook page of the office of the State Coordinator, NRC, Assam https://www.facebook.com/nrcassam/


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