13, Aug 2018 | Zamser Ali
The process of updating National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was started with the objective of identification of the Indian Citizens living in Assam. The process was welcomed by all sections of in the State, as it came with an assurance that all Indian Citizens, along with their descendants will be enlisted in the updated NRC. This would include all those who are have valid documents, who were living in any part of India on or before March 24, 1971 and were the present residents of Assam.
It was expected that the updated NRC will solve the long running ‘foreigner problem’ that has dominated the politics of Assam. The process, if rational and fairly conducted, was also expected to open up new avenues and methods to identify migrants, or ‘foreigners’ before discussions on their deportation from the State could be held, or implemented.
But with the passage of time, the NRC process has itself become the source of anguish and a cause for concern for all Indian Citizens of Assam. Though the process of updating NRC is meant to happen under the strict supervision of the Supreme Court of India, many things about process have not been brought to the notice of the highest court. On many an occasion it has been observed that several things underway in the state are actually violating various guiding principles laid down by the SC.
These serious discrepancies and disconnects have been coming to light after the publication of final draft NRC on July 30, 2018.
NRC Fails to Deliver: Aug 10 Deadline
The office of the state Co-ordinator, NRC has declared prior to the publication of the final draft of the NRC that, after publication of the final draft NRC, the List itself will be made available at all Nagrik Seva Kendras (NSKs) for public scrutiny and verification from the date of its publication until August 28, 2018. This was to enable every applicant to verify their presence or otherwise on the list, the final draft NRC. Thereafter, any applicant, whose name has not appeared in the final draft of the NRC will able to apply the NRC authority with queries and clarifications behind the exclusion.
The Co-ordinator, NRC, apprised the Supreme Court of India on July 31, 2018 that persons, whose name has not appeared in the final draft NRC will have to apply to the NSK in the period between from August 7 to 28 August, 2018. After their application was made, in a specific format, every person will be given a written answer from the NSKs citing the reasons for their names being dropped from the Final Draft of the NRC. On getting the reason, they will able to apply again for inclusion of their names in the final NRC with additional documents in the period between August 30 to September 30, 2018.
The Apex Court consented to this formula with a specific condition that was binding: that in consultation with all counterparts the State Co-ordinator, NRC and Registrar General of India (RGI) will submit a new SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) before the Supreme Court of India before August 15, 2018, which will be finalized by the Apex Court at its hearing on August 16, 2018.
However, despite this publicly announced procedure, and assurances before the SC, the NRC has let the people of Assam down. Though the State Co-ordinator, NRC assures the Supreme Court that every person/persons who applies to the NSKs to know the reason of their exclusions from the final draft, would be given the reason/reasons forthwith (to enable their process of applying under the claim and objections process), deadlines have come and gone and this assurances has been violated, largely.
Firstly, the process of distribution of the application form to know reasons for exclusion was set at August 7, 2018 onward. But, the office of the State Co-ordinator, NRC, started to serve this notice only from August 10, 2018. It is a matter of serious concern that hundreds of NSK centres have not made this form available even after August 10.
Nur Alom, a teacher by profession went to his NSK centre in Bijni Town on August 10, as his name has been excluded from the final draft NRC. “After, a daylong wait at the NSK centre, late in the evening of August 10, I along with others were informed that the prescribed from is yet to come! I had to go again the next day. That’s when I got the form,” said Alom. “People are being forced to keep checking at the NSK centre again and again,” he said exasperated by the unnecessary harassment.
It is not only the NSK centres in Bijni, thousands of NSK centres have remained in a state of collapse on that day, August 10, due to the non-availability of the specific form. It is surprising that the form is still unavailable in various interior places, specially in minority dominated areas.
There is another rather embarrassing angle to the ongoing embroglio: those residents who have already applied to know the reason for their exclusion from the final draft NRC, have been asked, in most of cases, to go to the NSKs, where they are told they will be apprised about the reasons only after August 17, 2018. At the same time, thousands of people have been served the answer (already!), a mechanical one, where the stock answer given to all is, that he/she has been dropped from the final draft NRC because of either pending Foreigners Tribunal (PFT) cases or he/she being descendants of declared foreigners or D Voters. (This is relying on the controversial orders passed by NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela on May 1 and 2, 2018).
In most of these cases, while all family members have been included in the final draft list of NRC, one/ two/ three persons have been dropped making this false claim; PFT (Pending Foreigner Tribunal Case) or DDF (Descendants of Declared Foreigners) or D Voters.
Most of such family members, after getting such a stock-and rather unfair reply, have been rushing to the competent Authority of the NRC and Border Police. Neither ‘Competent Authority’ has been able to provide evidence that these persons have any pending case in any Foreigners Tribunal all over the State or anyone of his/her family tree have been declared Foreigners by anyone of the Foreigners Tribunal in the State!
So, it’s a daily and tortuous grind for the four million plus residents of Assam. Who will pay for this state driven cruelty and apathy?