The final draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was published on July 30, which excluded 40 lakh peoples name. For several decades Assam has tolerated the brunt of illegal migrant and NRC is the mechanism designed to oust the illegal migrant who came after March 24, 1971 in Assam. The All Assam Students’ Association (AASU) welcomes the decision of the central government in the updation of the final draft.
State coordinator Prateek Hajela said 32.9 million people applied, and 29 million have been eligible to be included in the register. The NRC is a list of all bona fide Indian citizens. It was first prepared after the Census of 1951.
In 1985, the Assam Accord was signed to put the movement, which demanded that illegal migrants be deported to Bangladesh. One of the key points of the document was a promise to weed out the illegal migrants from the voter list. In 2014, the Supreme Court asked the state government to update the 1951 NRC in a time bound manner.
According to the accord, all foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 would be given full Indian citizenship, including the right to vote. However, those who had come after 1971 were to be deported. The immigrants who had came between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for 10 years but given all other rights of a citizenship.
After the publication of the final draft, the peoples whose name were excluded from the NRC list after having all legal documents to prove Indian citizenship were very much annoyed with the process. The whole process of NRC updation was happened under instruction of Supreme Court.
According to 2011 language census, the number of Assamese speakers has decreased to 48 per cent from 58 per cent in 1991 while Bengali speakers have increased from 22 per cent (1991) to 30 per cent.
Some organization believed that NRC is the process to save their motherland “Assam” from illegal migrants. It has been clear that those who come after March 24, 1971 were deported to Bangladesh. Interestingly, the Indian counterpart has not discussed about the deportation issue with the Bangladeshi government. It needs to be seen that for lakhs of immigrants, both Muslim and Hindus, the NRC has put a final seal on their citizenship and this is a great closure for them. In this context, it is significant that organization like Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha, which has moved the Supreme court for 1951 to be cut-off year instead of 1971, have accused the AASU and the Asom Sahitya Sabha of betraying the Assamese cause by helping lakhs of “foreigners” to get citizenship.
The BJP government has clearly said those names which were not included in the final draft need not to worry because the whole NRC process will be completed on December this year.
The Supreme Court has recently reprimanded Assam’s NRC co ordinator and the Register General of India for their statement on the NRC issue, saying it could have sent them to jail for contempt, and restrained them from speaking to media in future without its approval.
Families living in Assam past 100 years missing from NRC
The final draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30, 2018 has dissatisfied many people residing in Assam because 40 lakh people names were excluded in the final draft. The main objective for the updation of NRC is to detect the illegal migrants who have entered Assam after March 24, 1971.
Reba Chakraborty Deb, 71, and her son Suhartta Dev are extremely dissatisfied with the NRC process as their names have been excluded from the final draft released on 30 July. Reba is a retired primary school teacher at Santipara Bengali Primary School Dibrugarh, Assam. Reba was born and brought up in Assam, but still could not find a place in the final draft of the NRC.
Reba says that they have applied for the NRC with all the necessary documents but their name was not published in the first draft of the NRC released on 31 December, 2017. She says in the second draft their names again excluded from the second list.
Reba was born in Ledo, a small township in the Tinsukia district in 1948. After having studied there up to class VIII, she took admission in Victoria Girls High school in Dibrugarh and completed her schooling from there. In 1967, she got a job as a school teacher in Shantipara Bengali primary school and after 40 years of her service, she retired from the school in 2007. Just like her, the names of her son and husband were also excluded from the NRC final draft.
Although it has been a year since Reba’s husband, Sitesh Chandra Deb, passed away, he applied for the NRC while he was still alive. So, technically, his name should have still appeared in the list is what she says. He too worked in the same primary school as Reba and had grown up up in Sadiya, Assam, says Reba.
Sashi Bhushan Chakraborty, Reba’s grandfather, was a postmaster during British Raj and served in various districts of Assam. He came to Assam in 1903 from present day Bangladesh before Partition and started working as a postmaster. At the time, Shillong was the capital of Assam. They are a Hindu Brahmin family that migrated to Assam before Partition and have been living in the state for over 100 years now. Her grandfather had four sons and all of them were born in Assam.
“Our names were not included in the final draft of the NRC. My son and my brother’s names were also excluded from the final list. I have been born and brought up in Assam, but still, my name was excluded from the final draft. My father was born in Assam and received a diploma degree in pharmacy from John Berry White medical school in Dibrugarh,” said Reba. Expressing her dissatisfaction she added that she doesn’t know what to do next.
“I worked as a teacher from 1967-2007 and I am a pension holder. But still, my name was not included in the final draft of NRC. The NRC list was published to detect the illegal migrants but seems that the genuine and indigenous people of Assam are facing harassment during the process too,” said Reba.
On the other hand, her son, Suhartta Dev, 33, is extremely annoyed with the situation as their names have been excluded despite having provided all necessary documents.
“We are not illegal migrants but now we feel like illegal citizens. After providing all the documents our names were missing. We support the government’s move to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) because it will detect the illegal migrants who came after March 24, 1971, but it is harassing a genuine Indian citizen,” Suhartta says.
Assamese Community in London delivers a memorandum
The Assamese Community in London is deeply concerned because of the threat posed by the forthcoming Indian Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. If the bill passes through it will have a serious implication on the people of Assam regarding the demography, culture and the Assamese language. Our identity is at threat and our safety as an NRA (Non-Resident Assamese).
A delegation members of Assamese Community in London led by Dr. Benu Kakati, Rini Kakati, Dr. Apurba Baruah, Krishna Baruah, Dr. Sarada Sarma, Binu Sarma, Dr. Pallab Das and Dr. Amit Sarmah on Friday, 13 July, 2018 went to meet HE Shri Y K Sinha, Indian High Commissioner to UK at India House, Aldwych, who received them with warmth and hospitality. His father Lt Gen SK Sinha, was Former Governor of Assam whose immense contributions and effort to the welfare of Assam will always be remembered.
The people who are not Indian citizen (Non Indians) are not covered by the constitution of India. If a large number of vulnerable refugees from Bangladesh need to be given Indian Citizenship, then these refugees should be settled by the central Government in all over India not in Assam only.
The delegation requested HE Shri Y K Sinha, Indian High Commissioner to UK to convey our concern to the appropriate government departments in New Delhi, India notably to our Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee as India Government’s UK representative.
There is a strong probability that a significant beneficiary of this amendment would be Bangladeshi Hindus and would immigrate to Assam .This will endanger the very existence of Assamese Culture and Assamese Identity. No other state faces such a risk and therefore those states are indifferent to this development.
We strongly object to the citizenship amendment bill 2016 based on the following factual reasons:
The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 breaches the fundamental principle of the Indian Constitution in Article 14 which declares India as a sovereign, secular, democratic republic assuring its citizens justice and equality within the territory of India and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste sex or place of birth within India or any of them. If a significant portion of Bangladeshi Hindu refugees entering into India are given permanent settlement in Assam the demography of Assam, Assamese language and Assamese Culture face a great identity crisis. If for humanitarian reasons these refugees escaping persecution need to the settled in India, they should be proportionately distributed to all the Indian States and Union Territories and not just in Assam.
Based on Assam accord, at the intervention of the Supreme Court of India and on the instruction of the Central Government, Government of Assam is engaged in intensive updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to include people permanently residing in the state till 24th March 1971 and to treat only those people as genuine citizens of the country. Under Assam Accord Assam has already agreed to absorb an alarmingly large number of foreign nationals that had entered Assam illegally until March 1971.
The present attempt of the Government of India to extend citizenship beyond the cutoff point of 24th March 1971 is unacceptable. The state of Assam is already overburdened with high influx of foreign nationals from Bangladesh, causing serious economic and social distress and identity crisis for the indigenous communities of Assam.
Under these circumstances, the proposed amendment poses a serious threat to the existence of Assam as a unique cultural and linguistic entity enshrined in the formation of various states at independence of India.
We therefore strongly demand the withdrawal of the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
Furthermore, we join hands with the other global organisations of Assamese communities notably Global Assam Association in implementing the following actions to safeguard the legitimate interests of the indigenous people of Assam.
Considering the strategic situation of Assam and it’s people’s total loyalty to India despite emergence of so many secessionist insurgency groups in the North East, we request the Government of India to implement our due demands as outlined above and let us keep our unique.