Amidst much apprehension, the second and final draft of NRC was published on 30th July, 2018. Out of the total of 3.29 crore applicants, 2.89 crores made it to the list. However 40 lakh names were left out. These 40 lakhs are spread all across the state and comprise of people from different ethnic backgrounds. Of those left out of the draft are the declared foreigners, doubtful voters and their family members.
The names of doubtful voters have along with their family members been put on hold till the time they are cleared by the Foreigners Tribunal. Apart from these, women who only submitted Panchayat Certificate have also been left out. Prateek Hajela, who is in charge of this entire process, have however clarified that all those left out of the final draft will be given an opportunity to get their names included.
Even after the names of 40 lakh people have been left out in the final draft, there was no law and order crisis in the state as feared by the administration. People are still patiently waiting for the procedure to be completed. This is because in a large number of cases, the names of one or two family members have been left out, while the others have been published in the NRC. As such these people are hopeful that their names will be included.
Immediately after the final draft was published, the Union Home Minister stated that those people whose names were left out should not be harassed in any way. On a question about being stripped off their political right, the Election Commission also clarified that these people will be allowed to vote. But even before the final NRC has been published, Amit Shah, the national President of BJP called these 40 lakh people “illegal intruder”.
After his comment, other leaders of BJP started making provocative comments about how these people should be disposed off. This callous remark of Amit Shah failed to take into cognizance that a large number of tribal population have also been left out of the draft.
A number of mainstream news channels have also continuously misreported the happenings. While some have been declaring the 40 lakhs illegal immigrants and thereby demanding deportation, others have been quoting conspiracy theories to explain that a particular religious or linguistic community is being targeted.
Mamta Bannerjee has been constantly trying to make it an Assamese versus Bengali issue, the BJP has been trying to give it a communal tone. BJP legislators like Shiladitya Deb are already complaining because not enough Muslims have been left out of the draft and are challenging the authenticity of the draft.
While Assamese media has been busy critiquing Mamta Bannerjee’s statements, not enough focus has been given to the concern of people left out of the draft. The anomalies in this draft are again glaring. Many people who have served in Indian army, navy etc find their names missing from the NRC. The family members of ex President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed were left out of the NRC as they could not provide adequate documents. A large number of women and children find their names missing due to small inconsistencies in their documents.
Women who have submitted only Panchayat certificates in absence of other documents continue to be in an ambiguous situation. What new documents they can submit is still not clear. According to news paper reports, some 39 families of Morigaon who have been declared foreigners or doubtful voters made their way to NRC.
While administration is assuring that their names will be removed, there is a need to understand why despite having adequate documents were these families declared foreigners. Many Foreigners’ Tribunals are known for declaring ex-parte judgments. If these families could provide documents and cleared the scrutiny of NRC, it is the judgments of those tribunals that need to be looked into.
Further, this draft also shows that a large number of people from different indigenous communities have been left out. It throws a strong possibility that irrespective of ethnic and religious background, a large number of genuine Indians will be incapable of proving their citizenship through documents due to poverty, illiteracy etc.
Ravaged by yearly floods, many have lost their home and hearth along with their documents in these devastating floods. In such a situation, too much emphasis on documents might lead to further harassment. We should not forget that many people committed suicide because they could not provide adequate documents. Policies are meant for people. At times it is important to rethink the effectiveness of certain policies when it starts jeopardizing the lives of people.
Till the final NRC is published we will need to take a stand as to what NRC updation should be – should it be an overwhelmingly technocratic procedure and used as a tool of exclusion or should it take into consideration the myriad issues of human rights of these people whose citizenship is under question without dismissing the fear of the Assamese people who fear a loss of their identity?
What will be done after the final list is published is yet to be decided. How feasible it is to put a huge number of people in a long stretched legal limbo, or leave them entangled in lengthy procedures of proving their citizenship through FT Courts is a question we will have to deal with. Amidst all this, there is a need to maintain vigilance that in no way all this will lead to a humanitarian crisis in the state.