Forty lakh people in Assam do not find themselves on citizen register

As alarm bells rang out from Guwahati to New Delhi, officials hastened to clarify that those who did not figure in the draft list can file their claims from August 30 to September 28 and will not be deprived of rights.

Forty lakh people in Assam stared at uncertainty after they found their names excluded from the “complete draft” of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) released Monday in Guwahati. Of the 3.29 crore people who had filled in applications for the NRC in 2015, 2.89 crore people found their names in the draft list.

As alarm bells rang out from Guwahati to New Delhi, officials hastened to clarify that those who did not figure in the draft list can file their claims from August 30 to September 28 and will not be deprived of rights.

Sailesh, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, told a news conference: “28983677 people have been found eligible for inclusion in the draft NRC out of 32991384 applicants.”

“No genuine Indian citizen should have any fear or panic in regard to filing of claims and objections. We will see that a person who lacks knowledge gets assistance. There will be modalities and ways where people can get some sort of assistance to fill up claim forms correctly. There will be an intensive campaign for that. Full justice will be meted out,” he said.

On whether the 40 lakh people excluded from the draft list are still eligible to vote, Sailesh said that process is handled by different authorities (Election Commission of India) and they will take a decision eventually.

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Applications for this technology-driven updation process — that enlisted the services of over 55,000 government officials and contract workers in an exercise monitored by the Supreme Court — started in May 2015.

The exclusion of 40 lakh names from the draft list led to a din in Parliament where Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh told the Opposition not to “unnecessarily politicise a sensitive issue”.

“It will be improper to raise such allegations. It’s not the final NRC… Everyone will have full opportunity to file claims and objections as per provisions in law. Only after the disposal of claims and objections — for which the time frame will be decided by the Supreme Court — the final NRC will be published. Disposal will be by higher administrative authorities. Then, whoever is left, can go to the Foreigners Tribunal. Justice will be done to them,” he said.

In Guwahati, Satyendra Garg, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, who was present at the release of the draft NRC, said that based on this draft, for no person would a “reference” be sent to the Foreigners Tribunals nor would anyone be sent to any detention camp. The administration, he said, was committed to law and order.

Prateek Hajela, NRC state coordinator, said of the 40 lakh names not included as of now, 2.48 lakh people kept on “hold” belong to four categories: D-voters, descendants of D (doubtful)-voters (those who have drawn descendancy from D voters), people whose cases are pending at FTs and descendants of these persons.

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Hajela did not give a districtwise break-up of the exclusion or inclusion list, or any demographywise break-up. He said the authorities will not give out the reasons for exclusion of persons publicly. Individuals, he said, will get to know the reason for exclusion when they approach their NSKs (NRC Seva Kendra) August 7 onward. Forms for claims, objections and requests for correction will be available from August 7 at the NSKs and can be submitted from August 30 to September 28.

In a parallel process of citizenship-determination, the Assam Border Police can, after enquiry, refer any resident to the FTs as a suspected foreigner following which the tribunal sends a notice to the person. Moreover, there are D or “doubtful” voters — a category introduced in the electoral rolls of Assam in 1997 to supposedly mark people unable to prove their citizenship during verification — who have to eventually prove their citizenship after notices are served by the FTs.

The NRC of 1951 is now being updated in Assam to include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the NRC, 1951, or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to March 24, 1971 or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to March 24, 1971.

As the NRC process approaches completion, there have been apprehensions regarding the fate of people who do not find mention in the NRC, and also allegations of bias.

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“The exercise of NRC in its scale, size and complexity is unprecedented. It has no parallel in the country and perhaps in the world. The process has been completely transparent and fair and meticulously carried out,” Sailesh said.

On Monday, people across the state checked their names through three means: checking the hard copy at the 2,500 NSKs, online or through SMS. At NSKs, officials sat with documents that carried photographs and names of people included in the draft NRC of their areas. These were tallied with application reference numbers.

In Korora, some 30 km from Guwahati, Prabin Chandra Rabha said: “At the NSK level, we are not authorised to reveal the exact figure of people excluded at our NSK. Some people came and checked their status but a large number checked online or through SMS. There was no massive rush. From August 7, when people come to enquire why their names are not there, we will tell them.”

At Sipajhar, around 70 km from Guwahati, an official said at least 500-600 families have been left out of the list at his NSK.

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