Ending four years of painstaking work and a four-decade-old demand seeking detection of illegal immigrants, the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam, which was updated after 68 years, was made public on Saturday.
According to details made available by the state coordinator for NRC, a total of 19,06,657 applicants, of the 32.9 million who had applied to be included in the list that identifies Indian citizens and weeds out illegal immigrants, failed to make the final cut.
“Taking into account all the persons already included and after disposal of all Claims and Objections and proceedings under Clause 4(3), it has been found that a total of 3,11,21,004 number of persons are found eligible for inclusion in final NRC leaving out 19,06,657 number of persons including those who did not submit claims,” a press statement issued by NRC said.
The final NRC is a supplementary list of inclusion or exclusion of those applicants whose names were not included in earlier drafts, those who faced objections on their inclusions or those who were in the earlier drafts but called for hearings that took place since July this year.
Applicants would be able to know their status at NRC sewa kendras (NSKs) and offices of circle officers and deputy commissioners or log on to the NRC official site.
Thousands of applicants reached their nearest NSKs across the state early on Saturday morning and queued up to take a look at the final list to know their fate.
Security had been beefed up and 218 companies of central paramilitary forces deployed to maintain peace. There was no report of any untoward incident immediately after the final list was made public at 10 am.
Contrary to speculations and erroneous reports, the Centre and state government have already clarified those left out of final NRC won’t be declared foreigners.
They would have the option of filing appeals within 120 days in Foreigners’ Tribunals (FTs) which will decide on their citizenship status based on provisions of Foreigners Act, 1946, and Foreigner (Tribunals) Order, 1964.
Various political parties and organizations including the ruling BJP, opposition Congress and All India United Democratic Front, and All Assam Students Union (AASU) have assured legal aid to those left out of the final list to file appeals.
The NRC, first prepared only for Assam in 1951, was updated since 2015 following directions from the Supreme Court.
The demand for identification of illegal immigrants, deletion of their names from voter lists and deportation started in 1979, with AASU, spearheading a 6-year agitation.
The complete draft of NRC released in July, 2018 had left out 4 million applicants. An additional list released in June this year, had excluded 100,000 more taking the total tally to 4.1 million.
While state NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela had addressed the media on earlier occasions when the drafts were released, there was no such thing this time around, probably due to avoid controversy.
Instead the final list was made public through the NRC website and through social media platforms.
While majority of those left out of the earlier lists had filed claims seeking inclusion in the final NRC, 380,000 of them didn’t. NRC authorities had gone through their claims one more time before releasing the final list.
While the final NRC has been welcomed by AASU and most ethnic organizations in Assam, the Bharatiya Janata Party had already dubbed it erroneous claiming it included foreigners and left out Indians.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had indicated earlier this month that once the final NRC is published, the government might take legislative measures to correct “anomalies”
“There is no need to celebrate publication of the final list as we don’t consider it a historic document. It is just end of a phase for us. We are already thinking about alternative mechanism to detect illegal immigrants,” senior Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told journalists on Friday.
Abhijeet Sarma of Assam Public Works, a Guwahati-based NGO, whose 2009 petition led the Supreme Court to pass an order in 2013 on updating the 1951 NRC, was also disappointed with a final list.
“This is a half-done exercise after a decade’s worth of struggle. It is now just another tool to destroy original inhabitants of Assam,” Sarma told HT on Friday.