The final Assam citizens’ list will be published online at 10 am on Saturday, over a year after the first list that identifies whether a person is an Indian or a foreigner was released. The names of over 41 lakh people don’t appear in the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam. The announcement of the final NRC list is likely to be the biggest development in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term, after the centre’s move to scrap special status from Jammu and Kashmir and divide it into two union territories. “The list would be available online by 10 am and those who do not have internet connections can go to Seva Kendras set up by the state government to check their status,” a senior officer in the Home Ministry told Media.
Here’s your 10-point cheatsheet of the Assam NRC story:
The centre has said people whose names don’t appear in the final NRC cannot be declared foreigners till all legal options are exhausted. Every person left out of the NRC can appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal, and the time limit to file the appeal has been extended from 60 to 120 days.
The Home Ministry said at least 1,000 tribunals will be set up in phases to hear disputed cases; 100 tribunals are open presently and 200 more will be opened in the first week of September. If one loses the case in the tribunal, one can approach the high court and then the Supreme Court. No one will be put in detention centres until all legal options are exhausted, the government has said.
Security has been tightened in the north-eastern state bordering Bangladesh, and any gathering of more than four people at several public places are banned, especially at sensitive areas that have seen violence in the past, including main city Guwahati. The centre has sent 20,000 additional paramilitary forces to Assam.
The Assam Police tweeted the government has “ensured adequate safeguards for people whose name may not appear in the final NRC”. “Don’t believe rumours, as some elements are trying to create confusion in society. Safety of citizens is our top priority,” it said.
“No one should panic. Government is here to take care of everyone. Even those who will be excluded from final list will get enough opportunity to prove their Indian citizenship,” Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said, news agency PTI reported.
The centre has said it will give legal aid to those who have been left out of the NRC through the district legal services authorities. The ruling BJP in Assam and its rival Congress plan to assist some “genuine” people whose names are missing in the NRC, and several non-profits have come forward to volunteer with legal help.
Some BJP leaders have raised concerns over a large number of Bengali Hindus being left out of the NRC. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, after meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah last week, said the centre may consider bringing in a law to remove foreigners who could have entered the list and add genuine citizens who could have been left out.
Sources said the BJP may be worried over exclusion of a large number of Hindus. It is estimated that a majority of Assam’s 18 per cent Bengali Hindu vote bank supports the BJP. In the national election this year, the BJP won nine out of 14 seats in Assam – a stellar performance due to consolidation of tribals, Assamese Hindus and Bengali Hindus.
BJP’s firebrand Bengali Hindu MLA Siladitya Dev minced no words. “The NRC coordinators are reluctant towards Hindu migrant who came before 1971. They are keen towards Muslims who came later. So the NRC has become a documentation process and whoever can manage will get a place,” Mr Dev told Media.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC), first published in Assam in 1951, is being updated as per directions of the Supreme Court to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who have illegally entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.