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Uncertainty in Assam over legal residents' list

September 1, 2019

Over 19 lakh people have been left out of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) that was published on Saturday. The list is meant to identify legal residents and weed out illegal immigrants from Assam and is crucial.

3.11 crore have been included in the citizens' list, which is the second citizens' list published in India after 1951. This comes weeks after the government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status and is seen as one of the biggest moves by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his second term.

The Centre has said people whose names don't appear in the final NRC cannot be declared foreigners until they have exhausted all legal options. Every person left out can appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal within 120 days. The status of inclusion and exclusion can be viewed online on the NRC website, www.nrcassam.nic.in. The website crashed soon after the list was published. People can also check the status at Seva Kendras set up by the Assam government.

Security has been tightened in Assam, with tens of thousands of paramilitary personnel and police posted. The Home Ministry said at least 1,000 tribunals will be set up in phases to hear disputes. 100 tribunals are already open and 200 more will be set up in the first week of September. If one loses the case in the tribunal, one can approach the high court and then the Supreme Court. No one will be put in detention centres until all legal options are exhausted. The centre has said it will give legal aid to those who have been left out of the NRC.

Many BJP leaders have raised concerns over a large number of Bengali Hindus being left out of the NRC. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said that a law may be passed to remove foreigners who could have entered the list. BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said he had little faith the list would help get rid of foreigners.

We have lost hope in the present form of the NRC right after the draft. When so many genuine Indians are out, then how can you claim that this document is a red letter for the Assamese society. In districts bordering Bangladesh, like South Salmara and Dhubri, the rate of exclusion is the lowest and in Bhumiputra district, it's high. How it can be? We are not interested in this NRC anymore. NRC is no quarter final, semi-final and final for driving out Bangladeshis...wait a while and you will see more finals under the BJP regime. - Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam minister

The Congress party has slammed the move as well. Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu SInghvi said, "Up to 4 million Indian citizens could be made stateless tomorrow if they are not included on National Register of Citizens (NRC). A thought process of inclusion/exclusion, even if it errs on the side of illegals, is not as bad as declaring your own illegal".

The first list of Assam citizens list was first published in Assam in 1951. When the draft NRC was published on July 30 last year, there was a huge controversy over the exclusion of 40.7 lakh people from it.

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