18, Aug 2018 | CJP Team
After the NRC Final draft published on July 30, 2018 left out 40,07,707 people, there only remains a last sliver of hope in the form of the Claims and Objections process. However, the draft Modalities and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for conducting the process, that were submitted before the Supreme Court on August 16, this year, appear to be less than adequate in providing any real solution or hope. In fact, some provisions can be misused by vested interests if allowed to go through in their present form.
The draft SOPs submitted show little shift or change from the process under way that followed the earlier Modalities, SOP, SSOP, albeit perverted by two controversial orders of the NRC Coordinator. In their present form these SOPs, in effect, give a stamp of approval to some hasty and untested decisions rushed through by the NRC Coordinator, barely a few months before the submission of the final draft.
Over 4 million people have been left out of the NRC final draft! Most of them belong to socio-economically backward communities and live in rural areas. Many of them are women and children! Now CJP, drawing from its previous experience in providing legal aid in Gujarat, will step in with a multi-faceted team of lawyers and volunteers to ensure that these people receive a fair chance while filing claims across 15 of the worst affected districts. Your contribution can help cover the costs of a legal team, travel, documentation and technological expenses. Donate Now!
The new draft SOPs to address the exclusion of over 4 million people, were submitted before the Supreme Court of India by Union Home Ministry in Consultation with the Registrar General of India (RGI), officials from Government of India and the State Governments of Assam, and the NRC authority in Assam.
Drawbacks of the Draft Modalities and SOPs
Single Women Vulnerable
For example, in the new SOP, the condition of accepting the Village Panchayat Certificates as supportive documents (along with other subsequent documents issued on or before December 31, 2015)– that the Supreme Court had allowed through a separate legal action – would be allowed or applicable only for married women, making a whole section of single women vulnerable to exclusion. This conditionality generates confusion as the Panchayat Certificate being allowed was a condition created for those residents who have no other documents to establish linkage to their parents.
With regard to the minor members of the family aged under 14 years, it had been promised earlier that if the family tree is found error free, then the linkage certificates for such minors may be acceptable from the oral evidence of the family members. This assurance was not followed during the time of Verification leading to hundreds of thousands of such minors have been dropped from the Final Draft NRC. In the new draft SOP, again the same assurance (that was not adhered to) has been repeated. Can it be assumed, that with the same bureaucracy and institutional callousness at work that this assurance—that failed to guarantee inclusion earlier—will work now?
The Document Imbroglio
Ironically, Birth Certificates as poof of birth, were rejected on the flimsy grounds that that they had not been issued in the mandatory period. This unfair practice will stand legitimised if the SOP submitted by Union Home Ministry is accepted in its present form. The names of those excluded from the final draft of the NRC include the names of persons, who have filed their applications along with all possible documents. Minor discrepancies in the accompanying documents have resulted in large-scale, cruel exclusions. If the government were serious and fair, opportunity needed to be given to them to share, afresh all documents. But no!
The Legacy Database –that was public earlier—has been concealed and hidden two years ago. Simultaneously, all Competent Authorities were barred from issuing these documents. The SOP does not address this ground level dys-functionality within the NRC procedure. No wonder then, that the SOP submitted by the union home ministry is being seen as part of wider conspiracy to exclude hundreds of thousands of legitimate citizens from the updated NRC.
Objections modalities can be misused
Two months time has been suggested by the union home ministry for the claims and objections process from December 15, 2018 onwards for 2,500 officers. Over all it seems like the claims and objection process can take up to 1.5 years. Moreover, the modalities concerning the Objections process can prove to be problematic for several reasons.
For starters, anyone can raise an objection to the inclusion of anyone else’s name in the NRC. So even if you are among the lucky people to have made it to the NRC, it’s not over yet, because somebody can raise an objection about it. The objector also does not need to belong to the same Nagrik Seva Kendra (NSK) as you! As long as the objection is filed at your NSK, it will have to be heard and examined. You will be required to be present for this process whether you like it or not! Imagine a complete stranger having that kind of power over your citizenship, your comfort, your life?
Also, at present there is no limit to the number of objections one can raise or even a fee for raising an objection which could have acted as a minor deterrent to filing unlimited objections. Moreover, there is no penalty for the objector if the objection gets rejected. This means even if the objection against you is proved to be baseless, the objector will not suffer any consequences for harassing an innocent person or wasting the time or resources of the Claims and Objections officials!
All these provisions empower the objector and make it easy for them to harass people and bully people. Needless to say, people from socio-economically weaker backgrounds will suffer yet another form of oppression and will be forced to fight yet another uphill battle where the odds are against them.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has directed that the views of all stakeholders including the All Assam Students Union (AASU), All Assam Muslim Students Union (AAMSU) and others be sought and the case has been adjourned till August 28. The draft SOPs as well as related annexures submitted before the SC on August 16, 2018, may be read here.
*With special inputs from Zamser Ali