A year ago on Independence Day, Onmanorama had got in touch with Assam's three ex-servicemen, who were not included in the National Register of Citizens (NRC), to know what freedom meant to them. All of them then said patriotism and love for the country were there in their DNA but what the government did to them was sheer betrayal.
They said they braved enemy bullets for the country under sub-zero temperatures and Pakistan's shells and terrorists' AK-47s could not break their patriotic spirit but NRC shattered their hearts. These ex-servicemen were among lakhs of people who were not included in the NRC, triggering protest across Assam. In July last year, 40,07,707 names were excluded from the complete draft of NRC, which contained 2,89,83,677 eligible persons out of a total 3,29,91,384 applicants. An additional 1,02,462 names were added in the list of excluded persons in June this year taking the total ineligible persons to 41,10,169 in the complete draft.
Ther final list released on Saturday morning has named 3,11,21,004 people as Indian citizens and 19,06,657 were excluded. The citizens' registry was released online at 10am, ending six years of speculation over the exercise that identifies illegal foreigners living in the Assam.
Amid criticism from several quarters, the state government has clamped prohibitory orders in Guwahati under section 144 CrPC. Before the publication of the document, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had asked people not to panic and said the state government will take all possible steps to help genuine Indians prove their citizenship and provide legal assistance.
The NRC is touted as the proof of Assamese identity and it is hoped that it will filter illegal foreign nationals.
With the controversy over NRC raging, Onmanorama explains what is NRC, why it's controversial, how and when can one check the register and a lot more.
The NRC is a list of genuine Indian citizens. The only previous occasion when the NRC was published was in 1951. That was based on the Census of 1951.
That NRC is being updated in Assam now to identify the illegal foreigners who may be living in the state.
Updating the NRC was one of the promises made under the Assam Accord, a memorandum of settlement signed between the Government of India and the leaders of Assam Movement in New Delhi on August 15, 1985. The process to update the NRC was delayed for years, until the Supreme Court took up the matter in 2013 and a set a deadline for releasing an updated NRC for Assam.
Who is in it?
People who figured in the first NRC of 1951.
Citizens and descendants of those whose names appear on any voter list prepared in Assam before the midnight of March 24, 1971.
People who came from Bangladesh between January 1, 1966 and March 24, 1971, registered themselves with the Foreigner Regional Registration Office and were declared by the Foreigner Tribunal as Indian citizens.
Indian citizens, including their descendants, who moved to Assam after March 24, 1971 (they need to furnish proof of residence in another part of the country as on March 24, 1971).
How it all started again
On May 5, 2005, a tripartite meeting was held in New Delhi between the Centre, Assam government and the All Assam Students' Union and it was decided that the NRC would be updated for Assam.
In June 2010, the Assam government started two pilot projects to update the NRC in two blocks in Assam's Kamrup and Barpeta districts. The projects were halted following violence.
In 2013, the Supreme Court set a deadline to update and publish a revised NRC. This deadline was extended over the years, however, unlike in the past the work to update the NRC actually began in Assam.
In 2015, NRC application forms were distributed. Applications stopped getting accepted on August 31, 2015 and process of verifying the applications began on September 1, 2015.
Around 3.29 crore applicants had submitted around 6.6 crore documents for including their names in the NRC list.
Around 55,000 state government employees were engaged in the process to update the NRC, which cost around Rs 1300 crore.
In July last year, 40,07,707 names were excluded from the complete draft of NRC, which contained 2,89,83,677 eligible persons out of a total 3,29,91,384 applicants. An additional 1,02,462 names were added in the list of excluded persons in June this year taking the total ineligible persons to 41,10,169 in the complete draft. This triggered the controversy with people staging protests. There are concerns that NRC for Assam may end up incorrectly including or excluding people from the list.
The NRC in Assam is being seen as the beginning of more such lists for the rest of the nation. There are concerns and fears that such an NRC could end up targeting minorities in the country.
Fate of excluded citizens
The Assam government has assured that those who find their names missing from the final NRC will not immediately be termed "foreigners" or illegal immigrants.
They will be allowed to register protests with the Foreigners Tribunal. The people can even approach the Assam High Court or even the Supreme Court if they are not satisfied with the response of the Foreigners Tribunal.
The government has also agreed to provide legal aid to the poor who find their names missing.
What it takes to get included
Those whose names appear on the 1951 list, or are on electoral rolls before March 24, 1971, and their descendants.
Documents such as the birth certificate, refugee registration certificate, land and tenancy records, government-issued employment or education certificates dated prior to March 24, 1971.
Those who moved to Assam but can show proof of living elsewhere in the country prior to 1971.
Those born in India have to show that the person or their parents were born before a certain cut-off date.
Not only do people have to prove that their ancestors were in the country before March 24, 1971, but also prove that they are related.
Those born after December 3, 2004, won't be included in NRC if any of the parents is a doubtful voter, declared foreigner by a tribunal, or is contesting the case.
Doubtful voters, also known as D-voters, are a category of voters in Assam who are deprived of the voting rights as their citizenship cannot be ascertained. Around 1.25 lakh people are believed to be doubtful voters.
Future course of action for excluded people
The Union home ministry had declared that non-inclusion of a citizen's name from the list does not automatically amount to s/he being a foreigner and those not on the list would get 120 days to file an appeal before Foreigner Tribunal. The order by the tribunal can be challenged before the Guwahati High Court, and subsequently in the Supreme Court. However, rejection by the tribunal would entail a person to be declared as a foreigner.
Here are the guidelines to check your name in the National Register of Citizens list:
You can check your name in the Assam NRC list offline or online.
Check Assam NRC list offline:
You can visit your NRC Seva Kendra, office of Circle Officer or Office of Deputy Commissioner to check the names in the supplementary inclusion list on all working days from 10 am to 4 pm.
Check Assam NRC List 2019 online:
To check your name in the NRC list online, keep your Application Reference Number or ARN handy.
Step 2: Check on the link that says, "Supplementary Inclusions/Exclusions Lists (Final NRC) status"
Step 3: Punch in your Application Reference Number (ARN) to check if your name has been added to the final NRC list.