Muslim bodies question procedural anomalies in citizens’ list in Assam; NRC secretariat rubbishes allegations

Muslim organisations in Assam have opposed the procedure followed in the update of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), terming it as a process that lacks consistency and transparency.

A press release issued by the Coordination Committee of Minority Organisations, Assam, representing 23 groups, has listed twelve questions which they believe have revealed the 'anomalies' in the exercise undertaken by the NRC Secretariat. Functionaries of these organisations alleged that the frequent changing of rules after every month have only thwarted the goal of an error-free register of citizens.

"We are cooperating with the updates of the NRC. But the NRC authority is acting arbitrarily, with new rules and regulations every month. There is a gap between what is on paper and what is being done by officials," claimed Azizur Rahman, convener of the coordination committee.

 Muslim bodies question procedural anomalies in citizens’ list in Assam; NRC secretariat rubbishes allegations

People queue outside NRC Seva Kendra to check names of themselves and family members in a draft for National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Guwahati. PTI

He added that a petition has already been prepared for submission to the Supreme Court next month. "If the petition is not accepted, then we will have to prepare the next course of action after consultation with our activists and intellectuals. Everything depends upon what the majority would prefer but we don’t want any bloodshed," Rahman explained.

The exercise, which began three years ago, will be completed on 30 June. The first draft covering 1.9 crore citizens was published on 31 December last year out of a total of 3.29 crore applicants. Documents were received from 68.27 lakh families across the state.

The opposition by the Muslim groups on the procedure followed in the NRC also comes in the midst of sweeping protests in Assam against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, which seeks to give citizenship to some sections of non-Muslims from neighbouring countries. Local groups are apprehensive that the amendment would not only nullify the Assam Accord but the entire process of detecting illegal migrants in the state. Some prominent Muslim leaders in Assam including chief of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) Badruddin Ajmal have also opposed the Bill.

Memoranda detailing the objections against the process followed in the NRC update have also been submitted by the Muslim groups to the Registrar General of India, home ministry and the home department of the Assam government. The groups are yet to receive a response from these departments.

Some Objections Raised by Muslim Groups

- Why hasn’t the NRC Secretariat made the voters' lists published till 1971 public?

- NRC Secretariat had said that those who do not have legacy data can give certified copies of their names in voters’ lists as proof of citizenship. But why are these copies not being accepted now?

- What is the reason that the NRC Secretariat has issued some directives to its district officials on 1 and 2 May 2018 on the rules and procedures of the update when they are supposed to be the same as earlier?

- Why are the district cells of NRC Secretariat assuming the role of the border police in detecting illegal migrants?

- Why hasn’t the NRC Secretariat issued advertisements informing the people that anybody born in India as per the provisions in the Citizenship Act 1955, Section 3, are liable to be included in the register?

- Why has the NRC Secretariat not accepted the certificates issued by gaon buras (village chiefs) if these documents can be used for registration of land and other work?

-What is the reason that the NRC Secretariat has issued new directions after the first draft of the register was published on 31 December last year?

- Why haven’t DNA tests been carried out on persons with doubtful citizenship claims?

- On 2 May last year, the Gauhati High Court had ordered that the border police must investigate cases of illegal migrants and their relatives detected by the NRC and forward them to the Foreigners' Tribunal. Why hasn't the NRC Secretariat made this order public before the draft was published on 31 December 2017?

- Why hasn’t the NRC Secretariat declared that another list of citizens whose names do not find mention in the final list would be subsequently published?

NRC Secretariat’s Response

Speaking to Firstpost, NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela clarified that the exercise has been conducted in accordance with law and stipulations laid down by the Supreme Court in a transparent process. He dismissed several allegations leveled by the groups as baseless that were being focused upon when the entire exercise is drawing to a close.

"Why have issues like DNA test and publication of the voters' lists surfaced now when the exercise was initiated in 2015? What were these groups doing all this while? There is no change in the rules. We have clear instructions that all documents have to be matched and this applies to legacy data and electoral rolls," said Hajela.

The coordinator explained that an order of Gauhati High Court on the transfer of cases to the border police was known only after the first draft was published on 31 December last year. He explained that the matter was sub-judice since a writ petition had been filed by some groups on the court's judgment.

Hajela agreed that certificates issued by village chiefs were not being accepted as proof of citizenship since they lacked credibility. He referred to an order of Supreme Court last year which said that certificates issued by the gaon village panchayat secretary could be a proof of citizenship if they are supported by evidence of family linkages. Around 48 lakh claims were made using such certificates.

On the inclusion of names that do not find mention in the final list, he underscored the legal process that would be applicable in all the cases and the policy of entertaining objections after the process has been completed.

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2018 20:27:12 IST