The NRC draft delay

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“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

– Thomas Paine


It is now final that the complete updated draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) is going to miss the Supreme Court fixed June 30 deadline, despite tall talks by NRC’s Assam coordinator Prateek Hajela. The Supreme Court had fixed June 30, 2018 as the date for publication of the complete draft NRC and subsequently in its May 8 order the apex court did not give any relaxation to the NRC authority on time-lines. For the delay, Hajela blamed it on the “heavy floods in the Barak Valley.” As the first wave of flood wrecked havoc in the state, it was reported that around 70 NRC Seva Kendras were affected for over a week in the districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. Now, Assam government has moved Supreme Court seeking extension of the timeline. The apex court will hear the petition on July 2. The NRC of 1951 is being updated for Assam in accordance with the tripartite agreement among the Union and the state governments and the influential All Assam Students Union (AASU), which was arrived at in 2005 to implement the 1985 Assam Accord and the first draft NRC for was published on midnight of January 1, 2018 as per the apex court’s direction. It tagged about 1.9 crore of the 3.29 crore Assam residents as ‘legal’. The political consensus in the state is that the NRC is the best mechanism to separate the citizen from the illegal migrant.

The NRC-updating exercise, as expected, has generated a lot of heat both within and outside the country and several questions have been raised pertaining to the whole exercise. Recently, a group of special rapporteurs of the United Nations has raised questions on the process of updating the NRC in a letter to the External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj. The letter, signed by its special rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes, sought clarification from the Centre about the fate of individuals whose names will be excluded from the updated NRC, on whether they will face detention or deportation. The rapporteurs have raised questions about possible discrimination against the Bengali Muslim minority, the controversial May 2 order of the NRC State Co-ordinator that asked the names of family members of a declared foreigner to be kept pending from the NRC, as well as a host of other issues. The Centre has so far not spelt out what will happen to those whose names will be excluded from the final NRC.

The NRC authorities have time and again said that claims and objections could be filed by people whose names do not figure in the final draft. Three most pertinent questions arise here (a) What will be the time limit for disposal of claims and objections? (b) After the disposal of claims and objections, when can one expect the final updated NRC? (c) Will those people whose names do not figure in the final NRC be automatically regarded as foreigners and what will be their fate? With the delay in publication of the final draft NRC, the exercise will drag on. The moot issue is if the complete draft NRC is not published on June 30, when will it be published? All eyes are on the new date to be fixed by the Supreme Court, expectedly on July 2, for the publication of the complete draft NRC.

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