Guwahati: At least 30 lakh of the more than 40 lakh people left out of the final draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam have filed for inclusion under the ‘claims and objection’ process till the last count on Monday evening.
In Assam, the NRC has been updated under the direct monitoring of the Supreme Court to detect illegal immigrants on the basis of the Assam Accord, which had fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for identification and expulsion of foreigners in the state.
A year ago, at the midnight stroke of December 31, 2017, the first partial draft of NRC was published with 1.9 crore names, followed by the final draft having the names of 2.89 crore out of 3.29 crore applicants.
However, despite filing their citizenship claim, the fear of becoming ‘stateless’ continues to haunt 42-year-old Subhash Barman and his family. Barman was among 3,000 others from Bamunigaon village of Kamrup district, some 61 km from the capital city, whose forefathers had migrated from erstwhile East Pakistan to undivided Assam in the 1960s due to religious persecution.
“My father Bhaktacharan Barman was only 13 when he, along with other members of his family, fled from the then East Pakistan in 1964. Later, we settled at the Bamunigaon Permanent Liability (PL) home in Kamrup. Subsequently, we were also given small plots of land and refugee registration certificates. But, none of the family members’ names were listed in the final draft NRC on the grounds that the documents given to my forefathers then were handwritten and damaged. There are around 3,000 others in the area facing the same problem,” Barman said.
With no other documents available, Barman once again submitted the same documents before the NRC. “I have just made colour copies of the same refugee registration certificates this time and resubmitted it. Hope it works this time or our destiny is uncertain,” he said.
Documents like the 1951 NRC, voters’ lists and ration cards up to March 24, 1971, citizenship certificates, and refugee registration certificates were accepted from applicants to show them as bonafide citizens.
Abhijeet Sarma, president of NGO Assam Public Works (APW) and petitioner in the NRC case, Abhijeet Sarma said, “It’s a shame that even after spending Rs 1,200 crore public money and engaging over 55,000 workers, the NRC authority failed to prepare a ‘fair’ NRC list. First, the citizens were asked to submit their documents and then, after the NRC officials made errors, the same people were once again asked to prove their identities. We moved the apex court to bring a logical end to Assam’s age-old problem of infiltration from Bangladesh, but due to the inefficiency of the NRC authority, local people suffered.”
Those who were excluded from the final draft included people belonging to several indigenous communities like Rabha, Bodo, Koch Rajbongshi and others.
Supreme Court lawyer Upamanyu Hazarika, who heads the Prabajan Virodhi Manch (PVM), said that due to the ‘troublesome’ process of claims and objections, many indigenous people of the state did not participate in the ‘claims and objections’ process.
“There are reports that only 730 objections were filed so far. It is minuscule in contrast to the findings that names of thousands of illegal infiltrators were included in the draft NRC. The sole reason behind the low turnout is that the objection was that the complainant has to furnish the 21-digit Acquirer Received Number (ARN) of the applicant against whom the objection is filed. But since the ARN numbers are classified, how does the authority expect people to file objections?” Hazarika said.
“The procedure for filing an objection has rendered the entire process a nullity. There is no alternative but to re-verify the NRC list, particularly in border and migrant-dominated districts. Located near the Indo-Bangla borders, districts like Dhubri, South Salmara, Nagaon, Goalpara, Morigaon, Karimganj, Barpeta, have registered an abnormal population growth over the years,” Hazarika demanded.
Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, however, blamed the low number of objections on lack of awareness.
“I personally feel that there should have been more objections to be filed. I believe the various organisations and public bodies who were demanding the NRC updation in Assam have failed to make people aware of the process. Since the government couldn’t interfere in the NRC updation process as per the apex court order, it was the duty of these organisations to spread awareness.”
On Monday, the NRC authority announced that online correction in the spellings of names and other particulars appearing in the draft NRC will start from January 2. This facility can be availed by visiting NRC Assam's website http://www.nrcassam.nic.in. Facility for name correction will also be available by submission of correction forms at NRC Seva Kendras across the state January 31.