“I don’t want to waste my energy in other things; instead, I would put all that in reaching the next level in a craft that I love the most.”
– NT Rama Rao, Jr.
The burning issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has spread in Tripura as well, with tribal-based parties agitating for an NRC updation exercise in the state with 1951 as the cut-off year. Tripura’s three tribal-based parties — Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and National Conference of Tripura (NCT) – held several rallies and demonstrations to press their demand that the NRC need to be updated. Now, the Supreme Court has tagged a petition seeking updation of NRC in Tripura to Assam case, a few months after the final draft of NRC was released in Assam. The NRC Assam, the register containing names of Indian citizens in the state, was prepared in 1951 as a non-statutory process by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during the 1951 census. After the Supreme Court’s directive, the exercise of NRC updation in Assam commenced in December 2013, to be completed over a period of three years. The apex court is closely supervising the progress of NRC update and has given various directions from time to time. A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, directed the court registry to tag the petition, filed by the Tripura People’s Front and some others, along with petitions in the Assam NRC case. The petition emphasized the need for updating the NRC for Tripura, saying that it was necessary to identify and deport illegal immigrants living in the state.
The petition takes recourse to the 1993 tripartite accord signed by the Government of India with the All Tripura Tribal Force that asked for the repatriation of all Bangladeshi nationals who had come to Tripura after March 25, 1971 and are not in possession of valid documents authorising their presence in the State. The petition asked the Supreme Court to direct the authorities to update the NRC with respect to Tripura in terms of Rules 3 and 4 of The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 by taking July 19, 1948 as the cut-off date as provided for in Article 6 of the Constitution. The exercise in Assam was necessitated due to the “persistent illegal influx problem that has plagued the State for over three decades now”, it said, stating that Tripura is in a worse condition. INPT’s other demands include withdrawal of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, introduction of inner-line permit in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas and inclusion of tribals’ Kokborok language in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.
The ministry of Home Affairs recently clarified in a statement that no decision has been taken to implement NRC in Tripura, which interestingly shares a 856km border with Bangladesh. If the NRC is implemented in Tripura, it will be the first ever initiative. Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb the other day said, “after finalisation of the whole process in Assam and if it is implemented successfully…we will bring NRC in Tripura and all states will also go for it.” So, there is no denying that unanimity lacks as far as taking up of the NRC exercise in Tripura is concerned. The apex court will have to take this aspect into consideration when it hears the petition again.