Assam's NRC: What it means and how the political war over it is panning out

4 million from Assam find no mention in the second draft of NRC

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The second and final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was published on Monday in Guwahati. Around four million who sought enrolment in Assam's NRC did not find a place in the final draft. Of the 32.9 million people who applied to prove their citizenship, 28.9 million were found eligible. Those who have been left out will have to apply in their respective Sewa Kendras, in the prescribed form, which is available from August 7 to September 28.

What is NRC and how did it evolve?

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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. 

Eligibility criteria for inclusion in the updated NRC list of 2018

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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.

Rajnath Singh, appealed to not politicise or create panic since it was a sensitive issue

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In the Lok Sabha, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the first complete draft of the NRC published on Monday, is not the final list, and urged the Opposition not to politicise the matter. He said the list has been published on the directions of the Supreme Court and that the Centre has no role in it and Opposition charges against the government were baseless. 

Opposition parties had accused the government of playing vote bank politics

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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.

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