Monday, July 30, 2018

The final draft of the NRC in Assam.


1. Assam is not new to influx of refugees. From 1826 to 1947, there was a continuous influx of migrant workers to Assam fueled by the British who preferred cheap labour to work in tea plantations. During '71, many from the then East Pakistan, had migrated to escape atrocities. The migration continued even after the formation of Bangladesh, abetted by local politicians towards creating a vote bank.

2. The Muslims and Hindus of Bengali origin make nearly 45% of Assam's population more than ethnic Assamese which triggered tension about losing their cultural and linguistic identity to a migrant population. The other issue is that most of the tribal population register themselves with their tribal identity and not as Assamese.

3. The anti illegal foreigners' movement of the '80s, propelled by the All Assam Students Union(AASU) and the Assam Gana Parishad(AGP) finally underlined the need to prepare the complete list of genuine Assamese citizens.

The Relevance Now.

4. After a series of litigations, the Supreme Court in a judgement of 17 Dec '14 fixed a timeline to update and publish the NRC and said that it will monitor the process. It had fixed 30 Jun '18 as the date to publish the final draft of the NRC.

What's Happened Now. 

5. Assam has released the final draft of the National Register of Citizens(NRC), seven months after it released the first draft on 01 Jan '18. Out of a total applicant pool of 3.29 crores, 2.89 crores were found eligible, leaving out 40.07 lakh people as those without proper documents!

6. The NRC is the list of Indian citizens of Assam. It was first prepared in 1951 following the census conducted that year. The present list has been prepared on the submission of documentary evidence of being an Assamese resident on or before 21 Mar '71. Consequently, all those who aren't included in the list are illegal migrants and they will have to go about the normal process of attaining Indian citizenship as per the existing process in practice!

My take.

7. It would be impossible to repatriate these illegal migrants back to their countries that they came from. The practical solution would be to grant them Indian citizenship over a reasonable time frame as is prudent in such cases. During the interim period, they should be bestowed the rights applicable to foreign immigrants, safeguarding their dignity. 

8. It has been a smart move on the part of PM Narendra Modi for having achieved this seemingly impossible task. It all began with the historic understanding with Bangladesh about securing the common border after deciding upon the ownership of the villages that were isolated in each other's territory. Having secured the border, it was only prudent to understand that the next step would be to ascertain the immigrants! 

9. A word of caution here. From quite a few of the complaints received from the people who've been declared immigrants, it's possible that corrupt officials have played their 'dirty' part to tamper with individual's personal records - a possibility that's usual in many government sponsored activities. These errors will have to be monitored closely, the errors corrected during review and the errant officials brought to book.


21 year old Nimisha, an engineering student of Perumbavoor, while trying to prevent the snatching of a gold chain from her grandmother's neck by an immigrant worker, had her throat slit by him. The sad part was that he'd used the same knife that was in her hand as she came running out of the kitchen, where she was chopping vegetables! RIP, young lady. My salute, tears and prayers for a gallant lady. Here's wishing that your family has the strength to tide over their irreplaceable loss.

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