August 2019 NRC is final: Assam Foreigners’ Tribunal

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    • In the recent Doubtful Voter case, the Foreigners’ Tribunal reiterated that NRC Assam published in 2019 is the Final NRC.
      • It was in response to an affidavit in Gauhati High Court, referring to the 2019 list as ‘supplementary’ and not ‘final NRC’.
        • The affidavit sought re-verification.

    National Register of Citizens (NRC)

    • National Register of Citizens, 1951 is a register prepared after the conduct of the Census of 1951 in respect of each village.
      • It shows the houses or holdings in a serial order and indicates against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein.
    • The NRC for the whole country was published only once in 1951.

    Where did the Problem start?

    • Before 1971, there was a huge exodus of people fleeing from the then East Pakistan (Presently Bangladesh) after the tyrannical suppression by West Pakistan.
    • In 1979, All Assam Students Union (AASU) started a movement to deport the Bangladeshi immigrants quoting
      • Changed demography
      • Threat to Assamese Culture.
    • This 6 year struggle culminated in the Assam Accord of 1985.

    Assam Accord and Citizenship

    • It chose three different categories for deciding the fate of immigrants.
      • Those came to India before 1 January 1966:
        • They were to be deemed as the Citizens of India
      • Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 
        • They were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years. 
      • Those entering after March 25, 1971 
        • They were to be deported.
    • The cut-off date prescribed under articles 5 and 6 of the Constitution was July 19, 1949. 
      • Hence, to give force to the new date, an amendment was made to the Citizenship Act, 1955. 
        • The new section was introduced and made applicable only to Assam.
    • The problem began to aggravate due to continuous delay by the governments to conduct NRC until the Supreme Court took matters in its hands in 2018.
      • The speed with which the process was conducted led to multiple inclusion-exclusion errors.
      • Many government employees were also deemed as illegal citizens.

    Difference between NRC and NPR

    National Register of Citizens (NRC)

    National Population Register (NPR)

    • It includes only citizens.
    • It was published only once in 1951 for the whole country.
    • The NPR is a list of “usual residents” of the country.
    • It is compulsory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR. 
    • This includes both Indian citizens as well as a foreign citizen.
    • A “usual resident” is defined as 
      • a person who has resided in a local area for the past 6 months or more or 
      • a person who intends to reside in that area for the next 6 months or more.

    D or ‘Doubtful Voter’

    • D voter, sometimes are also referred to as Dubious voter or Doubtful voter.
    • It is a category of voters in Assam who are disenfranchised by the government on the account of their alleged lack of proper citizenship credentials

    Foreigners Tribunal in Assam

    • They are quasi-judicial bodies set up and empowered under the provisions of Foreigners Act 1946 and Foreigners (Tribunals) Order 1964.
      • Only Foreigners Tribunals are empowered to declare a person as a foreigner.
    • Every individual, whose name does not figure in the final NRC, can represent his/her case in front of the appellate authority i.e. Foreigners Tribunals (FT).
    • The Assam Police Border Organisation is tasked with detecting foreigners.
      • It also readies the cases for the tribunals to decide who is a foreigner and who is not.
      • It is a wing of the State police.

    Significance of Opinion and Verdict by Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT)

    • The opinion holds significance since the NRC has not yet been notified by the Registrar General of India.
      • The Assam Government is also pushing for a corrected NRC.
    • The Order ignores the Assam Government’s recent directive of not to pass  “consequential orders/directions”
      • The state government asked FT to stick to giving an “opinion” as mandated by the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.
    • The FT noted that the petitioner’s relatives like grandmother, parents and younger brother are in the NRC list.
      • FT accepted it as conclusive proof of his Indian Citizenship despite not being in the NRC list.
      • They also took into consideration the fact that the petitioner’s name figured in the NRC that was supervised by the Supreme Court on the basis of 
        • The Citizenship Act of 1955 and 
        • The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.

    Different Debates and Challenges surrounding NRC

    • Social consequences of illegal migration
      • Identity Crisis and Threat to Culture
      • Many insurgent groups of Assam and violence amongst Assam ethic groups were seen.
        • Eg. Bodo-Muslim violence in the BTAD
    • Environmental Degradation due heavy encroachment by immigrants for settlements.
      • The state experienced a declining percent of land area under forest from 39% in 1951-52 to about 30% now.
    • Increased financial burden on state exchequer
    • Displacement of natives from jobs and denial of their traditional rights.
    • Decreased wage rates due to surplus labour
    • Political Rights of the locals are also abridged due to mass inflow of illegal migrants who are outnumbering the native tribes.
    • As per Lt Gen SK Sinha in 1998, Pakistan ISI is also involved in fueling such conflicts.

    Way Ahead

    • The Central Home Ministry should intervene to clarify all doubts and constitutional positions of all stakeholders.
      • The State Government wants FT to issue only advisory orders not final verdicts.
    • Detention Camps should be discouraged and those found to be living in India for the last 15 years may be considered for citizenship.
    • Also the relationship with Bangladesh must be taken care of while carrying out all such procedures.

    Source: TH