Assam’s final list of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was released on Saturday morning, leaving out 19,06,657 number of persons as against the 40.7 lakh people that were excluded when the draft NRC was released on July 30, 2018. Overall, 3,11,21,004 people were found eligible for inclusion in the NRC list. Ahead of the release of the list, Section 144 was imposed in many parts of the state. According to the 2011 census, the total population of Assam is over 3.11 crore.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has clarified that a person whose name does not appear in the final NRC list is not automatically designated as a foreigner. Under the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964, only a foreigners tribunal (FT) can declare a person as a ‘foreigner’. The aggrieved persons excluded from the list can file appeals in the FTs. The MHA has increased the time limit for filing an appeal from 60 to 120 days. While about 100 FTs are functioning currently, 200 additional FTs are going to commence operations from September 1. A total of 1000 FTs have been sanctioned by the MHA. If the individual loses the appeal in FTs, he or she can appeal to the High Court as well as the Supreme Court (SC). The government would render legal aid to the needy people through the District Legal Services Authorities. No one would be sent to the detention centres until all the legal remedies have been exhausted.
Addressing the people of Assam ahead of the publication of the final NRC list, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal stated that no person should be deemed a foreigner unless the FTs give a verdict. He appealed to the people to maintain peace and tranquility in the state. Sonowal also assured the excluded people that they will not face unnecessary harassment from the state government. The Assam CM reiterated that this was an SC monitored process and thanked the people for their unconditional support to update the NRC.
Initially published in 1951, the NRC was specifically demanded in Assam by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) due to the centuries-old illegal migration of people. The ill-treatment of people in East Pakistan and the subsequent war in 1971 exacerbated the situation as thousands of persons from that region entered Assam. The Assam Accord signed by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 principally agreed to the AASU’s demand. However, it took decades before the process commenced, after the direction of the Supreme Court. The cut-off date for inclusion in the final NRC list is March 24, 1971.