National Register of Citizens

National Register of Citizens

This article deals with ‘National Register of Citizens – Indian Polity.’ This is part of our series on ‘Polity’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.

National Register of Citizens

What is the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

  • On the eve of Independence, the Indian government felt the need to identify Indian Citizens. Hence, the National Register of Citizens was conducted in 1951 in respect of each village, showing the houses and holdings of each person in a serial order. Based on the National Register of Citizens, the Citizenship of each person was confirmed.
  • This Register was used to be kept in the office of the District Collector and Sub Divisional Officer. But in 1960, on the orders of the Home Ministry, all data was given to the Police and was never updated after that.
  • The issue in Assam: Due to the large-scale migration of Bangladeshis in Assam, the need was felt to recognize the Indian Citizens. 

Assamese vs Outsiders

The issue of Outsiders coming into Assam dates back in history.

  • Assamese used to resent the settlement of outsiders (Bengali and Bihari labourers) brought by Britishers to work in Tea Plantations. 
  • After Independence, Assam saw a large-scale arrival of Bengalis.  
  • During the persecution of Bengali Muslims in Bangladesh at the end of the 1960s, more than 10 lakh people came to Assam to take shelter. After the formation of Bangladesh, most of them went back, but some stayed.
  • Even after 1971, Bangladeshis kept on settling in Assam. 

All this created fear in the indigenous population of Assam. They started to fear demographic change, converting them into a minority and heavy stress on the limited resources of Assam.

Assam Accord

1978: Powerful agitation under the All Assam Students Union (AASU) started, which demanded that before conducting elections, the problem of illegal migrants should be solved. They demanded the removal of those who arrived after 1961 from Assam.

1985: Assam Accord between Rajiv Gandhi Government and AASU

  • Those who arrived between 1951 and 1961 will be given full Citizenship and the right to vote. 
  • Those who have arrived after 1971 will be sent back
  • Those who arrived between 1961 and 1971 were given Citizenship, but the right to vote wasn’t given
  • A Special Package was given for the development of Assam
  • Oil Refinery, Paper Mills and Technical institutions would be opened in Assam

But due to politics, little happened over the decades. Finally, in 2014, the Supreme Court asked the state government to update the 1951 NRC in a timebound manner and conduct the exercise under its supervision.

NRC updating process in Assam

NRC updating involves the procedure of adding the names of individuals (or their descendants) whose names are found in either of the following lists.

  • Any of the Assam’s Electoral Rolls up to March 24 1971, or
  • National Register of Citizen of 1951, or
  • Any of the admissible documents stipulated, such as land or tenancy records, citizenship certificate, permanent residential certificate, etc.

In August 2019, the updated and final National Register of Citizens, which validates bonafide Indian citizens of Assam, was released with over 19 lakh applicants who had failed to make it to the list (and many were Hindus).

Hence, this process has the danger of exclusion and inclusion errors, and a large number of legitimate Indian citizens could end up being denied their rights. Along with that, Illegal migrants out of NRC will be sent back to Bangladesh. However, India does not have any deportation treaty with Bangladesh. Moreover, there are apprehensions that a large number of stateless people can be created in India, thus impacting the overall image of people.

Assam Accord vs Citizenship Amendment Act

There are inherent differences between the Assam Accord and the Citizenship Amendment Act, as the Amendment provides citizenship rights to Hindu migrants who have arrived post-1971.

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