Wait grows longer as NRC claims process yet to start in Assam
Draft errors unlikely to be fixed soon with top court suggesting re-verification.
Garment shop owner Abdul Kalam Azad’s six-member family sat pretty in Assam’s Bongaigaon district expecting to make it to the National Register of Citizens (NCR) for confirmation of their Indian citizenship. They hoped their genuine paperwork would see them through. But Azad was shocked to see his family excluded from the draft. Inquiries revealed that there had been a mix-up. The acknowledgement number allotted in response to their application for the inclusion in the NRC has been registered under the names of one Bilat Ali’s family. “I have complained. But they are still to rectify it...,” said Azad.
Azad’s family is not alone. Many families have been unable it to make it to the NRC because of data entry errors. Complaints have been pouring since the final NRC draft left out over 40 lakh people on July 30. There have been cases wherein some members of a family have been excluded and others included in the draft.
Azad’s family is waiting for the claims and objections exercise to begin for having their names included in the NRC. The Supreme Court is yet to decide on a procedure for the exercise. It has asked different stakeholders for their views on the issue.
In an order last month, the court suggested re-verification of 10 per cent of 2.89 crore people included in the draft. This is likely to further delay the final NRC. The court has underlined the need for considering verification after going through the district wise data of exclusions.
Indigenous groups have been complaining that the exclusion rate in several districts is lower and it shows illegal immigrants have made it to the NRC.
For former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, it is worth waiting for. “It may mean more delay but a correct NRC should be prepared. Even indigenous people have been left out of the draft,” said Mahanta, who led the Assam agitation in the 1980s for the expulsion of foreigners from Assam.
The agitation culminated into the Assam accord under which it was agreed to weed out the foreigners, who had entered Assam after March 1971.
Morigaon deputy commissioner Hemen Das has confirmed that over 200 declared and suspected foreigners have been included in the draft in his district. He has promised to delete their names from the final.
“There is a problem with the exercise, with the software, with how it is being carried out,” said Abhijeet Sarma of NGO Assam Public Works.
The Supreme Court had ordered the updating of the NRC on Sarma’s petition.
“There is a need to make sure the officials do not act in a biased way,” said All Assam Minorities Students Union advisor Azizur Rahman.
“We are also against the entry of Bangladeshis. But if all the people in Dhubri, for example, have been included in the NRC draft after submitting proper documents, it does not mean they are Bangladeshis,” he said.
The people excluded from the NRC draft are facing a backlash even as the Supreme Court and the Centre has said it is not the final list.
The Mizo Zirlai Pawl, a students organisation, has “pushed back” as many as 450 people, who did not have NRC documents.
A similar exercise was undertaken in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. “We want to save Mizos from illegal immigrants,” said MZP general secretary Lalnunmawia Pautu. “The exercise will continue,” he said.