What is National Register for Citizens?
- The register is meant to be a list of Indian citizens living in Assam. For decades, the presence of migrants, often called “bahiragat” or outsiders, has been a loaded issue there.
- Assam saw waves of migration, first as a colonial province and then as a border state in independent India.
- The first National Register of Citizens was compiled in 1951, after the Census was completed that year. The Partition of the subcontinent and communal riots had just triggered vast population exchanges at the border.
- Since 2015, the state has been in the process of updating the 1951 register. One of the stated aims of the exercise is to identify so-called “illegal immigrants” in the state, many of whom are believed to have poured into Assam after the Bangladesh War of 1971.
- In 1979, about eight years after the war, the state saw an anti-foreigners’ agitation. Assamese ethnic nationalists claimed illegal immigrants had entered electoral rolls and were taking away the right of communities defined as indigenous to determine their political future.
- That same year, the decision to start updating the National Register of Citizens was taken at a tripartite meeting attended by the Centre, the Assam government as well as the All Assam Students’ Union and chaired by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Judicial intervention –
- The court came into the picture after a non-governmental organisation called Assam Public Works filed a petition asking that so-called illegal migrants be struck off the electoral rolls.
- In 2013, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to finalise the modalities to update the new National Register of Citizens. The project was launched in earnest from 2015, monitored directly by the Supreme Court.
How does the authorities establish citizenship?
The process went through several phases –
- First, there was data collection. Most individuals applying for inclusion into the NRC had to prove not only that their ancestors had lived in Assam pre-1971 but also their relationship with the ancestor.
- Then came the verification process. Documents were sent to the original issuing authorities while NRC officials conducted field verification. Once the data was submitted, the applicant’s blood relations were plotted on a family tree.
What happens to all those who could not make it to the NRC?
Those who do not make it to the final list will have to appear before the Foreigners’ Tribunals of Assam. These quasi-judicial bodies were originally set up under the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act of 1983. The law has since been struck down by the court but the tribunals persist, tasked with determining whether individuals being tried are foreigners and should be deported.
Note – Last year, Assam also got sanction from the Centre to build the first standalone detention camp in the state, capable of housing 3,000 inmates.
What is National Population Register?
- The NPR is a register of usual residents of the country.
- It is mandatory for every usual resident of India to register in the NPR.
- It includes both Indian citizens as well as a foreign citizen.
- The objective of the NPR is to create a comprehensive identity database of every usual resident in the country.
- The first National Population Register was prepared in 2010 and updating this data was done during 2015 by conducting door to door survey.
- The next update of the NPR will take place next year from April to September with the Houselisting phase of the Census 2021.
- It is being prepared at the local (Village/sub-Town), sub-District, District, State and National level under provisions of the Citizenship Act 1955 and the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003.
How is it different from National Register for Citizens?
- According to the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, notified on December 10, 2003, a Population Register is ‘the register containing details of persons usually residing in a village or rural area or town or ward or demarcated area (demarcated by the Registrar General of Citizen Registration) within a ward in a town or urban area’.
- Whereas, the ‘National Register of Indian Citizens’ is a register containing details of Indian Citizens living in India and outside India.
- The rules further say that ‘National Register of Indian Citizens’ shall contain the particulars of every citizen i.e. Name; Father’s name; Mother’s name; Sex; Date of birth; Place of birth; Residential address (present and permanent); Marital status ñ if ever married, name of the spouse; Visible identification mark; Date of registration of Citizen; Serial number of registration; and National Identity Number.