The opposition Congress on Thursday demanded that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) process be completed at the earliest to find out the genuine Indian citizens. The demand was made by Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia.
Saikia also alleged that the Assam government’s step to disseminate information on citizenship to migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan under the Citizenship Act, 1955 is just a ploy to implement the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in a “roundabout way". “The long-pending claims and objections process of the NRC be completed urgently via Foreigners Tribunals, as per rules," Saikia said in a statement here.
He demanded that since only the names of genuine citizens of the pre-1971 period will be left after a fair claims and objections process, the government should issue National Identity Cards to them in accordance with the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955. The final NRC was released on August 31, 2019 by excluding 19,06,657 persons. A total of 3,11,21,004 names were included out of 3,30,27,661 applicants.
The process of issuing the rejection slips, mentioning the reasons for omitting a person’s name, to those excluded from NRC is yet to start. The process got inordinately delayed with the state government seeking partial reverification of the NRC and as such no tentative schedule for issuing the Rejection Slips have been announced.
On the day of taking oath, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said his government wanted reverification of 20 per cent names in the border districts, while the same should be done for 10 per cent in the rest. Before publication of the final NRC in 2019, the state and central governments had appealed the Supreme Court twice for sample re-verification to find out wrongful inclusions, especially in districts bordering Bangladesh, and exclusions in the NRC.
However, the apex court in strong words had said that the entire NRC exercise could not be ordered to be re-opened on the basis of certain parameters. Saikia also said that any foreigner can apply for Indian citizenship under Sections 5 and 6 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and, consequently, there is no need to invoke the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA).
“However, just before the recent Assembly elections, the Government of Assam cited a letter from the central government and instructed…to disseminate information regarding grant of citizenship to migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan who hold Long Term Visas (LTVs)," he added. The state government had on March 19 written to all the Deputy Commissioners, Superintendents of Police and Foreigners Registration Officers enclosing a letter from the centre and asked them to furnish a copy of a note containing the provisions relating to granting of Indian citizenship.
The information were asked to be provided to all the legal migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who were given long term visas, the official letter had said. Saikia said, “Since CAA was introduced for migrants from these three specific countries, there is a reason to suspect that the latest instruction issued by the Government of Assam was nothing but a ploy to implement CAA in Assam in a roundabout way." He also averred that the result of the recent assembly elections could not be interpreted as endorsement of CAA by the people of Assam, because the “BJP secured only 33.21 per cent of the votes" and the majority of voters spurned the BJP and the controversial law.
“If a section of foreign migrants are to be granted citizenship on the basis of LTVs, then the Inner Line Permit system should be introduced in Assam as per provisions of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, to safeguard the rights of the indigenous people of Assam," the senior Congress leader said. On May 28, the Union Home Ministry had issued a notification under the 2009 rules of the Citizenship Act, 1955 asking non-Muslims belonging to Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan and residing in 13 districts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab to apply for Indian citizenship.
The fresh order was in no way connected to the CAA passed in 2019 as the rules under it are yet to be framed by the Central government. The highly contentious CAA seeks to provide Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis entering India on or before December 31, 2014 from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after five years of residence here.