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Business News/ Politics / News/  Fate of 1.9 mn people excluded from NRC hangs in the balance
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Fate of 1.9 mn people excluded from NRC hangs in the balance

Assam govt officials say those excluded from citizens’ register won’t lose fundamental, voting rights for now
  • 39 designated courts will divide peoples’ appeals into clusters that foreigners tribunals will decide on
  • Those excluded from the final NRC will now need to prove that they or their ancestors were Indian citizens on or before 24 March 1971. (Photo: AP)Premium
    Those excluded from the final NRC will now need to prove that they or their ancestors were Indian citizens on or before 24 March 1971. (Photo: AP)

    Uncertainty plagues a large section of the people of Assam as the National Register of Citizens (NRC) released on Saturday left out about 1.9 million people in the state, potentially rendering them “stateless." The fate of this large section of the populace hangs in the balance, as the foreigners’ tribunals are unlikely to take a decision on their status before four months.

    Assam government officials have said that while those who have been excluded will not lose basic fundamental or voting rights for now, it will be several months before there is any clarity on the matter.

    “For now, 39 designated courts will divide the collective appeal of the affected people into certain clusters, which will be put before 200 foreigners’ tribunals even as 200 more such tribunals are being set up. So, cases will be placed before judges over the next 120 days. However, it is a quasi judicial process and will take 2-3 years," said a senior state government official on condition of anonymity.

    One court can hear up to a maximum of four cases every day, according to the official quoted above.

    Judges have already been appointed to fast-track the process. However, a foreigners’ tribunal will merely give “its opinion", after which the matter can reach the high court or the Supreme Court, a process which will take at least three years to wrap up, the official said.

    However, officials in Assam who have been part of the decision-making process in the aftermath of the release of the NRC said that no one would be deported or labelled a foreigner or rendered stateless, till a judgement is issued.

    “Right now, the modalities are being worked out. Even those people whose names have been left out of the NRC, will continue to have voting rights for now and they will not be stateless. Their fundamental rights also will not be curtailed. So, this question of putting them into detention centres does not arise now," said Nani Gopal Mahanta, professor of political science at Gauhati University.

    The central government and the Assam government are scrambling to tackle the impact of the release of the NRC on the 1.9 million who have been left out, even as the foreigners’ tribunals have already declared 130,000 people as foreigners, including the cases of doubtful voters.

    A process of identifying these persons was being worked out, including measures such as documentation of “their iris scans and finger biometrics like a unique Aadhaar system", said a senior official of the Union home ministry. “These people will also have to report to the police station every week. An ID card process is also being worked out, which could allow them to get work permits," said the official.

    In Assam’s Dhubri district 10% of the people had not even applied in the inclusions list for NRC, Mahanta said. However, a senior Assam state police official said “it was possible that these people have left Assam".

    The final supplementary list released on Sunday noted that a total 31.1 million people were found eligible for inclusion in the final NRC list, and about 1.9 million, including those who did not submit their claims, were excluded.

    Those excluded, will now need to prove that they or their ancestors were Indian citizens on or before 24 March 1971, according to the Assam Accord of 1985, which was drafted between the Centre, the Assam government and the All Assam Students’ Union.

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    Published: 01 Sep 2019, 11:52 PM IST
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