Extended Case BackgroundAssam’s National Register of Citizens
Extended Case Background – Assam’s National Register of Citizens
Assam is the only Indian State that has an NRC (National Register for Citizens), a document, which contains the list of all Indian citizens in Assam bearing their name, address and photograph.
The increasing influx of illegal immigrants from East Pakistan into Assam post partition drew the attention of the State authorities. Consequently, the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act was brought into force in the year 1950, mandating expulsion of illegal immigrants from the State of Assam. In order to distinguish bonafide citizens from illegal immigrants, the Ministry of Home Affairs monitored the creation of the first National Register of Citizens (NRC) by recording particulars of every individual registered with the State of Assam in the 1951 census.
The period between partition and the liberation of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh witnessed heightened rates of migration from Bangladesh to Assam. This led to a violent agitation by the All Assam’s Student Union in the 1980s demanding the expulsion/deportation of illegal immigrants from the State of Assam. The resultant Assam Accord was a tripartite agreement reached between Assam Government, Union of India and All Assam Students Union (AASU) for identification and deportation of illegal immigrants who entered India in wake of the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. The Assam Accord ended the six-year-long agitation against deportation of Bangladesh immigrants and mandated a second NRC.
The framework for deportation was to divide people who entered Assam into three groups : 1951-61; 1961-71 and after 1971.
- All those foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship, including the right to vote.
- The entrants between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for ten years but would enjoy all other rights of citizenship.
- Entrants after March 24th 1971 were to be deported.
The Assam Accord necessitated the formation of a second NRC for finding out the status of illegal immigrants in Assam. Despite signing of the Accord in 1985, the process of NRC did not take pace up until 2015. The Manmohan Singh Government in 2005 had first announced that NRC would be updated but the Assam Government did not initiate the process. The update process of NRC started in the year 2013 under the strict monitoring of Supreme Court of India.
Currently, the division bench of Supreme Court comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi (then Justice) and Rohinton Nariman J is monitoring the NRC under the Citizenship Act 1955 and Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Card Rules) 2003.
On December 31st 2017, part Draft NRC was released and subsequently on July 30th 2018, the complete NRC was released. Under the July 30th draft, a total of 3.29 crore applications were submitted. The draft accepted 28.9 million people as Indian citizens leaving 4 million people, who had also applied for recognition as Indian citizens.
On July 31st, the Apex Court had made it clear that there will be no coercive action by the authorities against over 40 lakh people, whose names did not figure in the NRC while observing that it was merely a draft.
On August 14th, the Centre had told the apex court that distinct IDs will be created by collecting biometric details of 40 lakh people filing claims and objections with respect to the NRC.
The court also directed that that Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for filing objections to the NRC list should be examined by stakeholders and petitioners in the current litigation. The court named eight stakeholders — Assam Public Works, Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha (an indigenous people’s organisation of Assam), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Progressive), Indigenous Tribal Peoples Federation, All Assam Bhojpuri Parishad, Joint Action Committee for Bangali Refugees, All Assam Minorities Students’ Union (AAMSU) and Jamait Ulama-i-Hind – for the purpose.