“Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity”
The universe comes to a standstill when we receive the news claiming that we have been denied the citizenship of the country where we have seen ourselves transcend from a child to an adult and an entity which holds the responsibility of sustaining our upcoming generations. ‘Identity crisis’ is one recent phenomenon experienced by many citizens of our country.
National Register of Citizens is an official document that certifies the names of all the citizens of India and their homes and holdings. The effort to build this list up was initiated back in 1951. India has been facing a huge influx of immigrants from the neighboring countries, way before partition which continued even after partition. This lead to the creation of The Immigrants Act, 1950. The sole aim of this Act was to expel the immigrants out of Assam. The creation of a list like NRC was the need of the hour.
Developments In NRC
NRC, as explained earlier was first prepared in the year 1951. Due to the rigorous demand of the same from the public, the work for the second phase of NRC began on May 5th, 2005. A meeting between the Assam government, All Assam Students’ Union, and the then Prime Minister agitated the NRC chapter. Furthermore, in the year 2009, an NGO named Assam Public Works filed a written petition for the removal of the names of illegal migrants from the electoral rolls of Assam. The reach of this episode was so high that even the Supreme Court got involved in the case. Kamrup and Barpeta districts of Assam witnessed pilot projects, the aims of which were to update the NRC. Unfortunately, this had to shut down only after a month of its commencement due to the failure of law and order. Many such activities went on till the year 2015. In the year 2015, forms for NRC were distributed and the responses were collected till August 31st, 2015.
The much hyped and the awaited list was released on July 30th, 2018, and with that, about 4 million people felt dejected when they did not find their names on the list. They went from identifying India as their country and Assam as their state to people who do not have any association with the country they belong to or have resided in for the past so many years. What is perplexing is that none of us, as Indian citizens paid any heed to who amongst the masses are illegal citizens.
The NRC authorities claimed that the people who had moved in or had their descendants in India before March 24th, 1971 would have their names in the NRC but anyone who entered Assam after midnight on the same date would be an illegal immigrant.
Although, the NRC authority still claims that this list is not final and it’s just a draft and many such drafts are yet to come. Along with that, all the people who have their names misspelled can get it rectified. This leaves those four million with a ray of hope.
What’s Next for People Who Have Been Left Out of the NRC Final Draft?
The 4 million people whose names have not been included in the final draft of NRC have been recognized as possible D-voters or illegal immigrants; however, no punitive action or deportation will be made on the basis of this final draft. Provisions have been made for the people to make claims and objections post which the final list will be published. If one had applied but their name isn’t reflecting on the final draft, then a claim for inclusion can be made. This claim needs to be back with the required documents and evidence supporting the same. Also if one believes that the draft includes ineligible people then an objection can also be raised. Claims and objection forms will be issued from August 7 to August 30 and then can be submitted from August 30 to September 28 to the NRC authorities.
After the claims and objections have been made the final list will be published, the date for which is yet to be decided by the Apex court. For those who will be left out of the final list, cases will be heard in the Foreigners Tribunal which can be further challenged in the high court.
Can NRC Hamper India – Bangladesh Relations?
The publication of the final draft of the NRC has triggered the speculation if the people who will be left out of the final list will be deported to the neighboring country. Hasanul Haq Inu, the Information and Broadcasting Minister of Bangladesh commented on the matter saying “NRC is India’s internal problem” indicating that no talks have been made with respect to Bangladesh accepting the deported illegal immigrants. Bangladesh opened its doors for about 10 lakh Rohingyas refugees as a humanitarian act; however, whether they will be accepting of the deported immigrants is not certain.
How NRC is Impacting the People of Assam
While there are many supporters of the NRC in lieu of national security and the attempt to weed out illegal immigrants, there are also many people who are opposing it. For many people who have not been included in the final draft, there is a sense of fear, confusion, and anger. Many cases are cropping up where government officials, army veterans, and descendants of freedom fighters have not been included in the final draft leading to a doubt on the accuracy of the process. Also, there is a fear of separation among families where all the family members could not make it to the final draft of the NRC. With this, the Home Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh has assured the people of Assam that fair opportunities will be given to the people left out of the NRC final draft to prove they are legal citizens and they will not be harassed in the process of doing so.
While millions of people stand at the edge of an uncertain future, there has been no clear indication by the government as to what will be the fate of the people who will be declared stateless once the final list is published. NRC has thrown up a challenge that we as citizens never thought of. There are supporters and critics, with their own valid reasons.
The question is, is this going to affect India’s international relations? Will this be India’s answer to its prevalent issue of illegal immigration? What will be the future of immigrants, declared illegal? And what will be its effect on the coveted vote bank?
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