The central government has decided to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC), currently being updated in Assam, on priority basis in areas affected by infiltration, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Thursday.
In his address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament, Kovind also said efforts will be made to amend the Citizenship Act while protecting linguistic, cultural and social identities.
"My government has decided to implement the process of National Register of Citizens on priority basis in areas affected by infiltration," he said in his customary address after the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha.
The President, however, did not specify in which areas the NRC will be implemented.
Apart from Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and some other parts of the Northeast are reportedly affected by the problem of illegal immigration.
Kovind said security along the border will be further strengthened to prevent infiltration.
The President said while on the one hand, the government is working to identify infiltrators, on the other, it is also fully committed to protecting those who are victims of persecution due to their faith in neighbouring countries.
"In this regard, efforts will be made to amend the Citizenship Act while protecting the linguistic, cultural and social identities," he said.
The Supreme Court-monitored NRC exercise, aimed at identifying illegal immigrants in the state that borders Bangladesh, was carried out only in Assam, which faced an influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century.
When the draft NRC was published on July 30, 2018, there was a huge controversy over the exclusion of 40.7 lakh people from it. The draft NRC included the names of 2.9 crore people out of the total 3.29 crore applications.
The final list of the NRC will be published on July 31, 2019.
When the NRC was first prepared in Assam way back in 1951, the state had 80 lakh citizens.
According to the 2011 census, Assam's total population is over 3.11 crore.
The process of identification of illegal immigrants in the state has been widely debated and is a contentious issue in state politics.
There were huge protests in the Northeast, particularly in Assam, early this year over the move to amend the Citizenship Act as it intends to give citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The main objection of the people of the Northeast was to the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act will negate a provision of the 1985 Assam Accord, which provides for declaration anyone, irrespective of religion, who had entered India after 1971 as foreigner.
The BJP has maintained that the Citizenship Amendment Bill is aimed to give Indian nationality to those people who have been facing persecution in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan for their religion.