NRC final draft is out in Assam: What it means and top 5 developments

Around 4 million of those who applied to enrol their names in Assam's NRC (National Register of Citizens) did not find a place in the final draft published on Monday. State NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela said 32.9 million people had applied, and 29 million have been found eligible to be included in the register. 

Security has been stepped up across the state to prevent any law and order situation following the publication of the draft, with deputy commissioners and SPs being directed to maintain a strict vigil, a senior police official said.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC have been imposed in seven districts -- Barpeta, Darrang, Dima Hasao, Sonitpur, Karimganj, Golaghat and Dhubri.

A brief history of Assam's citizenship issue

The National Register of Citizens is a list of all bona fide Indian citizens. It was first prepared after the Census of 1951. 

In 1978, a by-election was conducted in Assam after the death of an MLA. During the election, observers noticed that the number of registered voters had grown dramatically. Thus started a long-drawn agitation claiming that foreign nationals, especially Bangladeshis, had settled in the state illegally. It resulted in an insurgency and cost Assam many lives. 

In 1985, the Assam Accord was signed to put the movement, which demanded that illegal settlers be deported, to bed after six years of agitation. One of the cornerstones of the document was a promise to weed out illegal migrants from the voter lists. However, nothing much happened over the decades. In 2014, the Supreme Court asked the state government to update the 1951 NRC in a time-bound manner. Since then, the court has monitored the progress.

Eligibility for being included in NRC

A bone of contention in the process has been the base year. According to the accord, all foreigners who had entered Assam between 1951 and 1961 would be given full citizenship, including the right to vote. However, those who had done so after 1971 were to be deported. The immigrants who came between 1961 and 1971 were to be denied voting rights for 10 years but given all other rights of a citizenship.

After the SC directive, the then Tarun Gogoi (Congress) government allowed the cut-off year to be fixed as midnight of 24 March 1971. The 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.  

Top 5 developments around the NRC

1. Opposition parties led by the TMC and the Samajwadi Party on Monday created an uproar in the Rajya Sabha over the publication of Assam's National Register of Citizens, forcing adjournment of proceedings till noon. A Times of India report quotes Mamata Bannerjee as saying that Indian people have become refugees in their own country. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a major political issue in West Bengal too.

2. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has urged people to refrain from making "inflammatory" remarks in the wake of the publication of the final draft of NRC. "I reiterate that no genuine Indian citizen will be devoid of their citizenship rights. So no one should panic after publication of the final draft of NRC. I also urge people not to make any communal statements and remain watchful against falling prey to rumours," he tweeted.

3.  Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday said the draft National Register of Citizens for Assam is completely "impartial". 

4.  Assam government announced the cancellation of leaves and training of officials of all ranks and employees with immediate effect till August 15 in view of the final NRC draft release and the Independence Day

5. Several north-eastern states which share borders with Assam have kept their police forces on alert to thwart possible infiltration of illegal immigrants after the draft NRC is published.

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