National Register of Citizens

National Register of Citizens
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National Register of Citizens

National Register of Citizens

As soon as the Citizenship Amendment Bill was passed in both houses of Parliament and given Presidential assent making it a law, loud murmurs started about another move- the National Register of Citizens or NRC.

What is NRC?

  • NRC is the National Register of Citizens. The NRC identified illegal immigrants from Assam on the Supreme Court’s order.
  • The objective of NRC is to count citizens so as to separate them from non-citizens and expel the infiltrators out of the country.
  • It is an official record of those who are legal Indian citizens. It includes demographic information about all those individuals who qualify as citizens of India as per the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • The register was first prepared after the 1951 Census of India and since then it has not been updated until date.
  • So far, such a database has only been maintained for the state of Assam. However, on November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.
  • This has been a state-specific exercise to keep its ethnic uniqueness unaltered. But ever since its implementation, there has been a growing demand for its nationwide implementation.

Who is a citizen of India?

  • As per the Citizenship Act, 1955, every person born in India:

    (a) on or after the 26th day of January 1950, but before the 1st day of July 1987;

    (b) on or after the 1st day of July 1987, but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth;

    (c)on or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, where-

          (i)both of his parents are citizens of India; or

         (ii)one of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.

NRC Updation for Assam

  • In 2013, Assam Public Works and Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha & Ors filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court demanding the deletion of illegal migrants’ names from voter lists in Assam.
  • In 2014, the SC ordered the updation of the of NRC, in accordance with Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship Rules, 2003 in all parts of Assam.
  • The process officially started in 2015 and the updated final NRC was released on August 31, with over 1.9 million applicants failing to make it to the NRC list.
  • After protests of the exclusion of many Hindus from the list, the home ministry declared that the NRC will be carried out again in Assam.

Why massive protest happening in Assam?

  • Except in Bengali speakers’ dominated Barak valley, people in other parts fear CAA will lead to lakhs of Hindus from Bangladesh swamping indigenous communities, burdening resources and threatening their language, culture and tradition.
  • Some groups in the state feel that Act could nullify the 1985 Assam Accord, which had set March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of illegal refugees.
  • While the NRC was aimed at deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of their religions, the Citizenship Act is likely to benefit non-Muslim migrants, according to some activists.
  • In Assam, the protesters were seen targeting lawmakers wherever they find them.

What is the Assam Accord?

  • People noticed an unusual rise in voters for the Mangaldoi LokSabha bypoll in 1979, and suspected it was due to influx of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
  • It led to a massive and violent agitation in which 885 people were killed over six years. The stir ended after the Centre signed the Assam Accord in 1985.
  • The accord put the date of detection and deportation of foreigners as March 25 1971. For other states, it was 1951.
  • CAA now has a new cut-off date of 2014. Protesters say it, hence, violates the accord.

What is Inner Line Permit?

  • The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is a system introduced for border areas by the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873.
  • People outside such declared areas can visit the places only if they have a permit. They cannot settle in such areas even with ILP.
  • The system is now being used to protect certain areas from the purview of CAB. Places notified for protecting tribes under Sixth Schedule Areas of the Constitution too have been placed outside CAB’s purview.
  • ILP is applicable to most areas of other NE states.
  • In Assam, Karbi Anglong, Dima Haso and Bodoland are protected under the Sixth Schedule. They, however, make only seven out of 33 Assam districts.

How is NRC related to CAA?

  • With the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 turning into an Act, there’s a sense of confusion among many that the CAA and NRC will deny citizenship to certain existing Indian citizens or it is against Indian Muslims.
  • CAA is based on religion, with a thrust on exclusion of Muslims from those immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours — Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan — seeking India’s citizenship.
  • But National Register of Citizens is not based on religion. It seeks to detect any illegal immigrant, regardless of their caste, creed or religion and detain and eventually deport them.

What will happen to the affected?

  • If CAA implemented, it will target illegal immigrants in India.But Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh won’t be affected, if they claim they have arrived India after fleeing religious persecution.
  • Which essentially means, if a nationwide NRC comes in as proposed, any illegal immigrant from other than Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, will be affected.
  • As for those three nations, people coming from there who belong to the Muslim community will also be affected as they are not included in the Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • If a nationwide NRC comes in place, the affected will be detained and taken to large detention centres, as it is happening in Assam.
  • After that, the Ministry of External Affairs will get in touch with the concerned nations.If the details of the detained are matched and accepted by the concerned nations, deportations will follow.

Conclusion

  • In as much as Assam and other parts of the Northeast oppose the CAA and the larger danger of a homogenising Hindu nationalist project, the onus is on regional political elites and the civil societies at large to accommodate their internal social and cultural diversities. Recent episodes of violent protests in various parts of northeast India and beyond are a stark reminder of the risk of allowing states to be laboratories of a deeply assimilation, divisive and homogeneous project under the garb of the CAA.

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National Register of Citizens

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