At the stroke of midnight today, the Assam government will release the first draft of the much-awaited National Register of Citizens (NRC) with names of 2.24 crore bona fide Indian citizens.
Of the 3.28 crore people who had applied for inclusion in the registry, 2.24 crore have found a place in the first draft following verification of their documents. The rest will be considered in the next two drafts, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal told mediapersons yesterday.
“As per hon’ble Supreme Court’s order, there will be two more drafts of the NRC and the names of all genuine citizen claimants whose names do not feature in the first publication will be included in it after verification of the pending documents,” Sonowal said.
Dispelling apprehensions over security, Sonowal said no untoward situation is expected to arise as the district administrations have been conducting public meetings and campaigns to explain to the people the updation procedures.
However, the government has reortedly made elaborate security arrangements in view of inputs about some groups trying to create trouble once the draft NRC is released.
Around 60,000 security personnel including Assam Police and 50 companies of paramilitary troops have been deployed, and the Army has been asked to be on standby, reports said.
The chief minister also said the media have an important role to play in disseminating correct information to the public.
“Social media will be monitored closely for misinformation on the NRC draft and strict action will be taken against those attempting to create trouble,” he said.
Asked about a tentative date for release of the final draft, Sonowal said, “The Assam government is conducting the NRC updation process with the state government machinery, the district deputy commissioners’ offices mobilised for it on the orders of the Supreme Court... The complete draft will be published after verification of all documents of those who had applied for inclusion.”
The state coordinator for NRC, Prateek Hajela, asserted that “genuine” Indian citizens need not panic if their names have not appeared in the first draft as verification process is yet to be completed.
“If the name of any genuine Indian citizen does not appear in the first draft, it means the verification process of that person is yet to be completed,” Hajela said, adding there will be scope for making claims after the final draft is published.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, during his visit to the state, had also said there will be an opportunity for claims and objections after the release of the third draft.
“Those who do not find their names in the first draft need not worry as there will be opportunities for subsequent investigation and document verification,” Gauba had said after reviewing the NRC updation process in Assam.
The office of the State Coordinator for NRC has made elaborate arrangements for people to check their names in the first draft at NRC sewa kendras across the state from 8 am on January 1. They can also check for information online and through SMS services.
Assam, which faced influx from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC, first prepared in 1951.
According to the Assam government’s official website, “The NRC is a register containing names of Indian citizens. The only time that a National Register of Citizens (NRC) was prepared was in 1951 when after conduct of the Census of 1951.”
It was prepared by recording particulars of all the persons enumerated during that Census, the website said. The issue of updating the NRC of 1951 was first raised by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) more than three decades ago.
The students’ body had submitted a memorandum to the Centre on January 18, 1980, two months after launching the anti-illegal foreigners Assam Movement.
On November 17, 1999, at an official-level tripartite meeting to review the implementation of the Assam Accord, a decision was taken that the NRC would be updated and the Centre sanctioned Rs 20 lakh for the purpose and released Rs 5 lakh of it to start the exercise.
The final decision to update the NRC was taken on May 5, 2005 when the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired a meeting to review the implementation of the accord.
Thereafter, the government created a directorate for updating the NRC and the process of computerisation of the voters’ list up to 1971 and the NRC of 1951 began. A pilot project that was launched in two revenue circles of Barpeta and Chaygaon was suspended after a violent protest by a few organisations.
The state government then formed a group of ministers (GoM) to hold talks with different organisations to draft modalities for updating the NRC. The updation process finally gained momentum after the Supreme Court started monitoring its progress and set December 31 midnight as the date for publication of the first draft of the NRC.
(With inputs from PTI)