Politics of National Register of Citizens in India: Why such a document is necessary and what are its consequences for the country

There are widespread protests and misinformation around the National Register of Citizens (NRC) across India. Protesters are frightened that their citizenship will be terminated if the NRC is implemented throughout India. Critics say this law discriminates against Muslims. This disinformation around NRC is spread by political parties and shrewd politicians. However, the government has clarified that no citizen of India will be targeted. It was during a parliamentary session on 20 November 2019 when Home Minister Amit Shah said that NRC would be prepared for the entire country. The question is not whether to implement NRC throughout India or not, but an important question is why NRC is necessary for any country and what are possible consequences?

The NRC is the list of Indian citizens prepared after the conduct of census 1951. NRC aimed to record citizens, their houses, and holding. It's simply meant to identify all bona fide citizens. The NRC is updated based on the Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The Supreme Court of India directs the state and central governments to update the list for the Assam and used its special power under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution. Registrar General and Census Commissioner India is the nodal authority of NRC.

 Politics of National Register of Citizens in India: Why such a document is necessary and what are its consequences for the countryThe task of NRC started in Assam under the supervision of the Supreme Court. Before this, Assam Accord was signed between the All Assam Students Union (AASU), the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad, and the then central government in 1985 to bring stability in the state and to identify illegal migrants in Assam. The six-year-long anti-foreigner movement from (1979 to 1986) pressured the government and it was decided that 24 March, 1971 as the cut-off date for citizenship, according to the Assam Accord.

NRC was first prepared in 1951 to check on the illegal inflow of people from neighbor countries but no government tried to implement the NRC until the Supreme Court ordered the implementation and updatation of NRC in 2013. And the process to update NRC began in 2015. The reason was simple — not to upset the large section of society because they were the vote bank of government. After coming in power, the Narendra Modi government decided to implement the NRC under the direction of the Supreme Court. The final draft was released on 30 July, 2018 and the final list was released on 31 August, 2019.

First, the crisis of identity: The influx of large immigrants has created a crisis of identity among the indigenous population. Locals fear that their cultural survival will be affected; the local population also was fearful of political appeasement policies, especially in the Northeast. Also, employment opportunities were undermined because of immigrants. Mass infiltrations from Bangladesh has eroded the Assamese culture and also changing the demographics of the region. So India needs to identify the illegal migrants.

Secondly, an increased financial burden on both state and Centre. Immigration has increased pressure on state government, as they had to increase the expenditure on education and health facilities for the immigrants. Thirdly, large areas of forest land were encroached upon by the immigrants for settlement and cultivation. This led to massive environmental degradation of the region.

Fourth, most of the immigrants have their names enrolled in the democratic rundown illicitly, in this way guaranteeing themselves as residents of the state. Some parties consider it as their vote bank in Assam.

Assam agitation in 1980 was the result of this mass illegal immigrants. The failure of the government to respond to the issue of illegal migration led to the agitation by many organisations, some led by All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad (AAGSP) and All Assam Student's Union (AASU) among others.

A petition was filed for the first time in the Supreme Court in 2009 by an NGO called Assam Public Works demanding the identification and deportation of illegal immigrants in Assam. They also demanded that their voting cards should be ceased. Later In 2013, an order was passed by the Supreme Court for completion of the NRC by 31 December, 2017. Currently, the Supreme Court is responsible for monitoring the entire process of NRC updation.

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Updated Date: Jan 03, 2020 12:31:17 IST