20, Dec 2018 | CJP Team
In a recent letter to the Indian Government, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs have once again raised concerns about people left out of the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), especially with respect to the haphazard and arbitrary process of filing Claims and Objections.
The letter written by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, draws attention to “the impending deadline of 31 December 2018 for the closure of the Claims and Objections period with regards to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the State of Assam.”
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, 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 18 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 letter also says, “While there is no specific data regarding those excluded from the list, as well as those ‘on hold’, it appears that many are from ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, including Bengali speakers, including both Muslims and Hindus of Bengali descent, Nepali and Hindi linguistic minorities, as well as tribal groups.”
Here are the key issues raised in the letter.
Hurdles in Securing Documentation
The letter acknowledges that though the NRC authority has included multiple options in the list of documents acceptable for verification, “a large number of people were excluded because of lack of access to the required documentation. This appears to have had a disproportionate impact on those from poor and illiterate and marginalised communities, who often belong to minorities. Many of those excluded reportedly reside in geographically remote areas, making it difficult for them to obtain the documentation required by NRC authorities.”
The Plight of Married Women
Taking cognizance of the unique plight of married women, the letter says, “married women – especially those with limited or no schooling and those married early – have been especially vulnerable to the process, as many do not have documents linking them to their paternal house. If residing in their husband’s village, many do not have identification documents such as marriage certificates or voter IDs, with many marriages not being registered.”
Extra Hurdles for Minorities
The letter alleges that members of minority communities such as Muslims and Bengali speaking people were made to jump through additional hoops in a bid to harass and then exclude them. The letters syas, “it has been reported that many minorities, and notably women, submitted Gram Panchayat (village council, hereinafter ‘GP’) certificates as proof of residence, a document which was on the list of eight admissible List B documents.” However, in what appears to be an extra level of harassment, “A special two-step verification process was put in place for 2.25 million applications identified as eligible ‘non-original inhabitants’. This de facto appears to have instated a more rigorous process of verification for members of minorities, including the Bengali-speaking Muslims and Hindu minority as well as the Nepali speaking minority. Married women considered ‘original inhabitants’ who used GP – certificates – numbering 1.74 million in all – were not required to go through this additional check. This has led to complaints from amongst Bengali-speaking applicants that they were discriminated against.”
The letter also has an annexure listing relevant international human rights laws. The complete letter may be read here: