The NRC is a list of all legal citizens of India. It was first prepared in 1951, after the Census. that year. In 1978, a by-election was held in Assam after the death of a MLA. During the election, observers noticed a spike in the number of registered voters. This triggered a long-drawn agitation over foreign nationals, mostly Bangladeshis, having settled in the state illegally. The resultant insurgency cost Assam many lives. In 1985, the Assam Accord was signed to quell the call for deportation of illegal settlers after six years of agitation. Tthe document has a provision to weed out illegal migrants from the voter lists. However, nothing much happened for decades. In 2014, the Supreme Court asked the state to update the 1951 NRC in a time-bound manner.
All foreigners who entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 would be given full citizenship, including the right to vote. Those who came in after 1971 were to be deported. According to the SC directive, one had to prove residential status before midnight of 24 March 1971 to be included in NRC. Following Lok Sabha and state elections where the BJP won big, the base year became a major political issue. However, the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which the ruling BJP espouses, might push the base year further to 2014 under special cases.
Several Opposition parties said they were not satisfied with the Home Minister’s response to what is essentially a humanitarian problem. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee calling it a ‘deliberate ploy’ to isolate voters. She said four million “Indian citizens have become refugees” in their own land. It is a plan to throw out Bengali-speaking people and Biharis. and she fears the ripples of the move will be felt in West Bengal.