National Register Of Citizens: A Ready Reckoner
What is National Register of Citizens (NRC)?
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a list containing details of all Indian citizens of Assam. Interestingly, Assam is the only state in the country to publish the NRC.
The only time that the NRC was prepared prior to this in Assam was in 1951 under a directive from the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA). During that year, census survey was also conducted after which the NRC was prepared by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during the 1951 census.
The registers covered every single person enumerated during the Census of 1951 and were kept in the offices of deputy commissioners and sub divisional officers according to instructions issued by the Government of India in 1951. However, these registers were later transferred to the police.
Why is NRC being updated?
Originally, the NRC was meant to be regulated on a regular basis which did not happen. The exercise of updating the NRC list was based on the demands to identify illegal migrants from Bangladesh and other places living in Assam.
The process of NRC updation began in 2013 after the Supreme Court of India issued orders for the same and the apex court has been monitoring the entire process. The project is headed by state coordinator of NRC, Prateek Hajela.
The NRC is being updated as per the provisions of The Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 and the Assam Accord. As per the state government, the eligibility for inclusion in updated NRC shall be determined based on the NRC, 1951, Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24th March, 1971.
Those who are eligible to apply for the updated NRC include the people whose names appear in 1951 NRC, those whose names appear in any of the electoral rolls up to the midnight of 24 March, 1971 and descendants of these persons.
Further, people who came to Assam on or after 1 January 1966 but before 25 March 1971 and registered themselves in accordance with the rules made by the central government with the Foreigners Registration Regional Officer (FRRO) and who have not been declared as illegal migrants or foreigners by the foreigners’ tribunals are also eligible to apply.
Additionally, in order to ensure that a person’s name appears in the final NRC, the applicants have to furnish the existence of their names in the legacy data or they will have to prove their linkage to the person whose name appears in the data by furnishing various documents.
NRC vs Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
The Citizenship Act of 1955 defines illegal migrants as foreigners who come to India without valid travel documents or those who stay in the country even after their permitted time period.
The 1955 Act prohibits illegal migrants from acquiring Indian citizenship. The original Act allows a person to apply for citizenship if they have resided in India for 12 months immediately preceding the application for citizenship and for 11 of the previous 14 years prior to the 12-month period.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016 (CAB) seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 by making Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan to become eligible for Indian citizenship. The Bill, however, does not talk about other minority communities including Muslims, Jews etc.
The Bill also proposes to relax the norms of a person to apply for citizenship by relaxing the 11 year requirement for residing in India to six years for people belonging to the earlier mentioned six religious communities.
The CAB is also at loggerheads with the NRC updation process in the state. The NRC process aims to identify all “genuine” Indian citizens residing in Assam and to detect illegal migrants residing here since after March 24, 1971.
The locals feel that the Bill, if passed, will undermine the ongoing NRC process by granting Indian citizenship to people who would have otherwise not been eligible for it.
The CAB was passed by the Lok Sabha in January this year.