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A part of a much-awaited list that aims to separate the genuine residents of border state Assam and illegal Bangladeshi immigrants was released Sunday midnight. Assam, which faced influx from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only State having an NRC, first prepared in 1951. The National Register of Citizens received about 3.29 crore applications. The first part draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam that came out amid watertight security recognises 19 million people out of a total 32.9 million applicants as Indian citizens.
The much-awaited first draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was on Monday published with the names of 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore total applicants in Assam recognising them as legal citizens of India.
The rest of the names are under various stages of verification, Registrar General of India Sailesh said at a press conference held at midnight where he made the draft public as the verification process for the rest of the applicants was underway. “This is a part draft. It contains 1.9 crore persons, who have been verified till now. The rest of the names are under various stages of verification. As soon as the verification is done, we will come out with another draft. Everybody should be patient to wait for the release of the final draft,” he added.
NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela said those people whose names have been excluded in the first list need not worry. “It is a tedious process to verify the names. So there is a possibility that some names within a single family may not be there in the first draft,” said Mr. Hajela.
“There is no need to panic as rest of the documents are under verification,” he said. Asked about the possible timeframe for the next draft, the RGI said it will be decided as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court — under whose monitoring the document is being prepared — in its next hearing in April. The entire process will be completed within 2018, Mr. Sailesh said. The application process started in May, 2015 and a total of 6.5 crore documents were received from 68.27 lakh families across Assam.
“The process of accepting complaints will start once the final draft is published as rest of the names are likely to appear in that,” Mr. Hajela said. People can check their names in the first draft at NRC sewa kendras across Assam from 8 am on January 1. They can also check for information online and through SMS services. The RGI informed that the ground work for this mammoth exercise began in December 2013 and 40 hearings have taken place in the Supreme Court over the last three years.
Assam director general of police Mukesh Sahay said that we will be watchful for few days. Since the draft was released online, it would take some days for people to reach NRC offices and physically verify if their names are in the list.
The NRC is being updated in Assam for the first time after 1951 with the aim of identifying those who may have entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971 — a sensitive issue that led to a movement by the state’s indigenous people in the 1980s. Many fear an unabated influx, which has been going on for close to a century, is a threat to Assam’s identity. No timeline has been fixed for the release of the complete draft but officials say the process, which is being monitored by the Supreme Court, could take a few more months. Security has been tightened across the state as there were apprehensions about violence by those whose names are missing. No report of violence was reported till Monday morning. Muslims in the state are worried about whether their names will be included in the list. But with the first part draft getting published and hopes of inclusion of all names in the final draft, there’s a sense of relief. Individuals, who can prove links with family members whose names appeared in the 1951 NRC or subsequent electoral rolls till March 25, 1971 will be included in the updated NRC. Physical verification of the updated first draft has begun at over 4,200 NRC centres across Assam. Long queues of people waiting to check their names were seen at several centres since early morning.
Assam, which faced influx from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only State having an NRC, first prepared in 1951. The Supreme Court, which is monitoring the entire process, had ordered that the first draft of the NRC be published by December 31 after completing the scrutiny of over two crore claims along with that of around 38 lakh people whose documents were suspect.
Besides the online and physical verification process till January 31, applicants can send text messages or call a 24/7 toll-free helpline to check if they figure in the list.
The All Assam Students Union (AASU) led a mass agitation for six years against illegal immigrants, and the stir led to the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985. In 2005, as part of an agreement among central and state governments with the AASU, it was decided to update the 1951 NRC to prepare a comprehensive list of bona fide Indian citizens in the state. The process started in 2015. It got a big push after the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which made the issue of illegal immigrants a key poll plank, came to power in Assam for the first time in 2016.
“We are happy that the first draft of NRC has been released. It was a much-anticipated dream of all indigenous Assamese. We hope the complete draft, which doesn’t include names of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, would be released soon,” AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said.
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