Huge Political Fireworks Expected As Assam NRC Update Enters The Crucial Final Phase

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jan 3, 2019 12:33 PM +05:30 IST
Huge Political Fireworks Expected As Assam NRC Update Enters The Crucial Final Phase People check their name on the final draft list of the state’s NRC list at NRC Seva Kendra at Hatigaon on 30 July 2018 in Guwahati, India. (Rajib Jyoti Sarma/Hindustan Times via GettyImages) 
Snapshot
  • The Assam NRC update has reached the final lap, as also an indefinite period of political brouhaha.

The mammoth, Supreme Court-mandated exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has entered the final phase. The last date for filing claims for inclusion of names in the final NRC, and objections against names included in the final draft NRC (released on 30 July 2018), was 31 December (Monday) and intensive scrutiny of these claims and objections will start soon.

While 31 lakh claims for inclusion have been received, more than 2.65 lakh objections against names included in the final draft NRC have been filed. This is significant. In addition, 9.8 lakh people whose names were not included in the final draft NRC did not file any claims for inclusion of their names. The hearings for claims and objections will be conducted by nearly 2,500 Class I officers of the state government over the next couple of months according to standard operating procedures (SOPs) framed by the NRC State Coordinator and approved by the Supreme Court. Though the apex court is yet to set a date for the publication of the final NRC, it is expected that the same will be ready by April-May this year.

Opposition parties, especially the Congress and the Trinamool Congress, which have nurtured and are heavily dependent on the votes of illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators (IBIs), will up the ante as the final NRC nears completion. That is because apart from the 9.8 lakh residents of Assam, whose names are already out of the NRC since they failed to file claims for inclusion, the intensive scrutiny of the names already included in the draft NRC, and the claims and objections filed by senior state government officers, will definitely lead to exclusion of more names of IBIs from the final NRC.

As it is, about 10 lakh residents of Assam did not apply for inclusion of their names in the first draft NRC at the very beginning. This, say NRC officials, is because those people did not possess any papers to prove their claims about being Indian nationals. A total of 3.29 core people had applied for inclusion of their names when the NRC updation exercise was initiated. But Assam’s estimated population at that time, taking into considered the decadal growth, was 3.39 crore. So 10 lakh people, knowing fully well that they had no chance of getting their names included in the NRC since they did not possess any or valid documents, did not bother to file for inclusion of their names in the NRC.

The first draft NRC was published on 31 December 2017 and had 1.9 crore names out of the 3.29 crore applicants. The publication of the final draft NRC (which had 2.9 crore names) in July last year sparked a huge political outcry with the Congress and the Trinamool alleging that names of nearly 40 lakh genuine Indian citizens had been left out.

However, nearly a quarter of these “genuine Indian citizens” have not filed for inclusion of their names in the final NRC for the simple reason that they do not have valid documents that will stand the intense scrutiny of senior state government officers this time. Thus, nearly 20 lakh residents of Assam (including the estimated 10 lakh who did not bother to get their names into the NRC in the first phase) have opted out of the NRC updation exercise and can be deemed to be non-Indians or foreigners.

However, it is expected that a large section of the approximately 31 lakh claims (for inclusion of names) received till Monday will be upheld. That is because a close scrutiny of the final draft NRC reveals (as has been pointed out by this author in this article last year) that districts of Assam with a large presence of suspected IBIs have seen the maximum number of acceptance of claims filed by those whose names were left out in the first draft NRC in December 2017. On the other hand, districts dominated by the indigenous tribals of the state or Assamese have seen the maximum number of rejection of claims for inclusion of names.

There are also genuine fears that lakhs of IBIs have already got their names included in the final draft NRC since they have managed to procure valid documents by fraudulent means or have simple bribed their way in. Assam Public Works (APW), the social organisation that filed the writ petition in the Supreme Court which led to the apex court ordering an update to the NRC for Assam, says that, as per their calculations, names of 41 lakh Bangladeshis had been included in the 2006 voters list of Assam. “The writ, filed on the basis of the 2006 voters’ list, prayed for deletion of their (41 lakh illegal Bangladeshi immigrants) names and the preparation of a fresh voters’ list containing the names of only Indians,” said APW head Aabhijeet Sharma.

The APW’s contention about the presence of 41 lakh non-Indians in the 2006 voters list was based on a scientific set of calculations involving the census figures of 1951 onwards and the voters lists of 1971, 1991 and 2006. “We collated all the figures and arrived at the 41 lakh figure based on scientific projections and calculations. The most important thing is that the Supreme Court accepted our contention about the presence of 41 lakh names of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in the 2006 voters’ list and thus ordered the updation of the NRC,” Sharma said.

If APW’s contention about the presence of 41 lakh IBIs in the 2006 voters list is accepted, then the total number of IBIs in Assam would have been about 70 lakh (when minors whose names do not figure in the voters list are included) that year. Considering the fact that the Muslim population in Assam (most IBIs are Muslims) grew by an average 30 per cent every decade, it can be said that the total number of IBIs in Assam in 2016 were 91 lakh. The number would be close to one crore today.

But while a little under 20 lakh suspected IBIs have opted out of the updation exercise (the 10 lakh who did not file for inclusion of their names when the exercise started, and the 9.8 lakh who did not file claims for inclusion of the their names in the final NRC), a majority of the remaining 80 lakh-odd IBIs have managed to get their names included in the final draft NRC. If these IBIs are not detected and their names not deleted from the final NRC, the whole exercise will turn out to be a futile one and will sorely disappoint the people of Assam who, thanks to unchecked illegal immigration from Bangladesh, are staring at the alarming prospect of being reduced to a minority in their own land.

On the other hand, even if the names of a large section of IBIs do not find place in the final NRC, the repercussions will be felt far beyond the boundaries of the state. Their political patrons, especially the Congress and the Trinamool, are bound to cry hoarse and demand the scrapping of the NRC.

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