Assam’s NRC Draft-One Draft Multiple Questions

3.29 crore people had applied for inclusion in the NRC (National Register of Citizens), however only 2.89 crore citizens have been included in the final draft that was released on 30th July 2018. Hence, as many as 40 lakh people have been excluded from the final draft. Any person who is not included in the National Register of Citizens shall not be entitled to enjoy the rights of a citizen of Assam. Since this is not the final draft, it is not that bad a situation for the excluded ones in Assam as they can re-apply or what is legally called ‘claim’ to be included in the NRC.

Despite the simplicity of the theory of the system, there are several complexities which have led to the current crises in Assam. The main problem associated with this system is the inevitable flaws of the manual process that is employed to gather the information. In fact, in one of the interviews the NRC State Coordinator even stated that the exclusions made in the final draft may not be necessarily correct at the same time even the inclusions made in the final draft might be incorrect. The inherent problems in the system are tackled by “the process of claims and objections.” But what we need to note here is that already we have a complex application and verification system, re-applying through the same system is indicative of the usage of the same exhaustive process all over again, for not just one person but for over 40 lakh people, without any guarantee of rectifying all the errors.

Does this mean that the system is flawed? The demand for bringing the National Register of Citizens as a system in practice lies in a historical context. Consistent issues were faced by the Assamese population on account of the rising number of immigrants in the region after the two waves of immigration into the Assam region, from East Pakistan and then what came to be known as Bangladesh respectively. Hence the system in itself is not flawed but the implementation is somewhere not up to the mark. Yet, the system and its impacts have attracted undue criticism on account of the inadequate information existent about the issue among the people and fostered political opportunism.

As far as the information is concerned, it is being assumed that the 40 lakh who are not included in the list are going to be deported. Definitely that’s not the case. These 40 lakh have time till the end of September to claim for inclusion in the final draft and the NRC consequently. Likewise even if they aren’t included in the final list then too they will not be immediately deported because their right over their identity as Indians shall be determined by a legal procedure before the Supreme Court. Thus, there is enough reason for us to wait for the final list of citizens included in the NRC to come out by the end of this year. The only point over which we can express our skepticism is the accuracy of the system of documentation and verification that is being used, it is high time that the officers involved in the process of assessment and enrollment in the NRC focus on improving the product of the entire process.

The biggest issue in the entire scenario is the way the whole situation has been placed in the political rhetoric. While on one hand we have a particular party making use of terms like “ghuspethiye” and claiming to weed them out from the region in question, on the other hand we have another party specifically outlining the communal aspects associated with the issue. What is unfortunate is that these expressions are resonating with the people as well, thereby prompting them to respond in the same light. As much as one cannot deny the fact that politics cannot function without these shallow maneuvers, it is important to look at the wider impact of such statements.

In the process of aggravating people’s reactions by constantly referring to the communal aspects of the issue so as to translate those reactions into votes what the leaders are actually doing is quite in contrast to what they should be doing, which is to reinstate people’s faith in the system. Since our leaders are unable to do it for us, it is time that we do it for ourselves- we should have faith in the system which in this case is the NRC. It is being monitored by the Supreme Court which in its capacity will hopefully ensure that both the Assam Accord and the 40 lakh are respected towards the end of the NRC assessment.

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