The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register of Indian citizens. First prepared after the 1951 Census of India, this is regularly seen in the news. The topic is important for the IAS exam, being a part of polity and governance segments of the UPSC syllabus. The register is updated to include the names of those persons and their descendants who appear in the NRC 1951, or in any of the electoral rolls (or any other admissible document) up to the midnight of 24th March 1971.
The purpose of the NRC update (happening only for Assam) is to identify illegal immigrants in Assam, many of whom migrated to Assam from Bangladesh during the 1971 war with Pakistan. There were migrations even before from 1947 onwards. This is a sensitive issue and many in Assam complain of mass infiltrations from the eastern border eroding Assamese culture, eating up lands, and changing the demographics of the region. Many also, however, complain that genuine citizens of India are being harassed of being illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, this has also become an issue of vote-bank politics in the country.
The objective behind the NRC update is to identify illegal migrants who entered Assam from Bangladesh after 24th March 1971 and to determine whether the citizenship of the people who have applied for their names to be included in the NRC is genuine or not.
- Since the fifties, there have been migrations into Assam. The original inhabitants fear that illegal migrants steal their jobs, land and change the cultural identity of the region.
- In the late seventies, there was a movement started by university students in Assam, led by the All Assam Students’ Union. This was popularly called the Assam Agitation, wherein there was a demand for the detection and deportation of illegal migrants in Assam. The agitation was aggressive and brought the whole state to a standstill.
- In 1985, the Assam Accord was signed between the All Assam Students Union (AASU), the ‘All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad’, and the then central government led by Rajiv Gandhi.
- This brought about stability there. The provisions of the accord were:
- All foreigners who had come into Assam between 1951 and 1961 were to be given full citizenship including the right to vote.
- The foreigners who had entered Assam between 1961 and 1971 were to be given all rights of citizenship except the right to vote, which would be denied for a period of ten years.
- All those who entered Assam after 1971 would be deported.
- However, there were many difficulties in implementing the provisions of the Accord. There were massive law and order problems involved. People were killed when a mob attacked the office of the Deputy Commissioner in Barpeta.
- In 2009, an NGO called Assam Public Works filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding the identification and deportation of illegal Bangladeshis in Assam. It also demanded the deletion of their names from the voter’s list.
- In 2013, the SC ordered to complete the list updation by December 31st, 2017. Currently, the SC monitors the entire process of NRC updation.
There are about 40 lakh applicants who are left out of the final draft of the NRC. The final NRC draft was published on July 30th, 2018.
The NRC is updated on the basis of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.