No detention for those left out of NRC till declared foreigner by FT Assam Gov't issues public notice

27, Aug 2019 | CJP Team

Determined to stem the panic being generated at the grassroots with the possibility of the exclusions of hundreds of thousands of persons from the NRC final list, post August 31, the state government has issued notice on August 27 through the additional chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna (IAS) categorically stating that “Persons left out of the NRC will not be declared under any circumstances till the Foreigners Tribunals declare their decisions.” 

Additional chief secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna has, in a public notice issued on August 27, made this categorical assurance while also clearly stating that being excluded from the NRC (for whatever reason) does not mean the person is a ‘foreigner’. Only a Foreigner Tribunal is authorised to make this declaration after a judicious scrutiny of the cases.

Over four million people have been left out of the NRC draft, most of them from socio-economically backward communities. Now CJP, drawing from its previous experience in providing legal aid in Gujarat, has stepped in with a multi-faceted team of lawyers and volunteers to ensure that these people receive a fair chance while defending their citizenship across 19 of the worst affected districts. Your contribution can help cover the costs of a legal team, travel, documentation and technological expenses. Please donate generously here.

The detailed notice that has been prominently published today in Assam also declares that

Under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners Tribunal Order, 1964, only Foreigners Tribunals are legally empowered to declare a person a foreigner. Thus non-inclusion of a persons name in the NRC does not by itself amount to him/her or being declared a foreigner.”

The entire notice may be read here:

This notice of the state government, just days before the publication of the draft, reflects the anxiety now being felt in politically powerful circles over the possible social and humanitarian impact of exclusion from the final NRC. The process, initially apolitical, and one that has emerged out of a hard-earned consensus following the Assam accord, has particularly since 2015 seen political breaches of a serious kind. For the first time, an NRC that was seen to be moving a normal bureaucratic pace, began to get influenced and perverted leading to not just disillusionment but even deaths (many of whom were suicides).

In Assam, nearly 60 people have lost their lives and their deaths are connected to citizenship related issues. While some have allegedly committed suicide due to frustration, anxiety and helplessness related to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), some allegedly took their own lives fearing incarceration in detention camps. There are also some people who died under rather mysterious circumstances in detention camps. The CJP team has painstakingly compiled and verified these deaths.

The latest move of the state government of Assam follows last week end’s announcement that ‘legal aid would be provided to all those excluded from the NRC! Only the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU) has so far opposed this move. In today’s ‘Public Notice’ the state government through its additional chief secretary also states that:

  1. Another 200 Foreigners Tribunals will be set up soon and endeavour is being made to set them up convenient places so that filing and hearing of appeals is done smoothly and efficiently.
  2. State Government will also make necessary arrangements to provide legal aid to the needy people amongst those excluded from NRC by providing all assistance through the District Legal Services Authorities (DLSA).”

What has led the state and central governments to backtrack? Especially when in just May this year, less than a week after the new government was sworn in, the MHA in fact granted multiple authorities the right to make references to Foreigners Tribunals!

On May 30, 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an ‘Extraordinary Order’ via a Gazette which in effect appears not only grant powers to multiple authorities to make a reference to Foreigners’ Tribunals (FT), but also grants rather nebulous powers to FTs themselves.

The MHA order dated May 30, 2019 MHA issued by Anil Malik, joint secretary (Foreigners) has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964 and created a new Foreigners (Tribunals) Amendment Order, 2019 that comes into effect with the publication of the Gazette.

The amendment is made by the Central Government by exercising its powers conferred by section 3 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946), which states, “The Central Government may by order make provision, either generally or with respect to all foreigners or with respect to any particular foreigner or any prescribed class or description of foreigner, for prohibiting, regulating or restricting the entry of foreigners into 1 [India] or their departure therefrom or their presence or continued presence therein.”

This latest amendment says: for the words “the Central Government may,”, the words “the Central Government or the State Government or the Union territory administration or the District Collector or the District Magistrate may,” shall be substituted.

What this means is: Thus, the new amendment grants the power to refer people to multiple regional and local government, bureaucratic and judicial authorities. This widens the base of people who have the power to refer cases to FTs.

The NRC, hailed as a means to settle the ‘foreigners issue’ once and for all has gotten mired in difficulties of its own making. Perversions and dilutions into the carefully set out modalities (from 2016 onwards) have adversely affected hundreds of thousands of persons.

There is no section of the population in Assam that has been left unaffected by this overpowering, State-created tragedy. Bengali-speaking Hindus, Muslims, the Gorkhas, Hindi-speaking people of north and west India have all been caught up in this, equally. Words cannot describe what this festering trauma has meant, for women and men to attend hearings scheduled in places far away from home, spending significant amounts of money filling in applications. Worse, they are often summoned to appear not once, but repeatedly, along with ‘legacy persons’. The people of a state and their economies (which must also mean the economy of the state) have been left tattered through this ill-handled process.

Also read:

How a government and bureaucracy betrayed its people

Gov’t bats for Legal Aid for those excluded from NRC, AASU objects

Citizenship proof documents a sign of Conspiracy of Exclusion in Assam?


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