GUWAHATI, July 31 - For the first time since Independence, such a massive exercise like preparation of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) with thorough verification of the citizenship of the applicants was carried out in any state of the country and a major step has been reached with the publication of the complete draft yesterday. Though the demand for preparation of an NRC in Assam to protect the interests of the genuine Indian citizens in the face of infiltration of foreign nationals cropped up from time to time, it took nearly 71 years since Independence to come up with such a document with verification of the nationality of the citizens.
Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that the citizenship of the people was not properly verified during the preparation of the NRC of 1951. In that year, the census operations were carried out for the first time in Independent India and the names of the persons enumerated for the census were included in the NRC. That is why, a large number of people gave their addresses in places in erstwhile East Pakistan.
In 1965, the Government of India, because of reports of large scale migration from East Pakistan, mooted a proposal to compile a register of Citizens and to issue identity cards to Indian citizens living in the State. But the proposal remained on paper only and the actual reasons for not implementing it are not very clear even today.
On February 2, 1980, during the Assam agitation, the All Assam Students� Union (AASU), in a memorandum to the Prime Minister, raised the demand for updating the NRC of 1951. But the issue of updating the NRC was not included in the Assam Accord signed in 1985. In 1990, the AASU raised the demand again during a meeting to discuss the progress of implementation of the Assam Accord and during an official level tripartite talk on November 17, 1999, decision was taken to update the NRC. The Government of India also assured to release Rs 20 lakh for starting the initial work and released an amount of Rs five lakh to start the process. But the project was not started due to various reasons.
Again, in a tripartite meeting involving the Central and State Governments and AASU on May 5, 2005, which was chaired by the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, a decision was taken to update the NRC within a couple of years and to issue identity cards to genuine Indian citizens living in the State on the basis of it. The State Government formed a Directorate to update the NRC but it could not formulate the modalities to carry out the job. A group of ministers was also formed to formulate the modalities but the progress remained very slow.
On April 22, 2010, in another official level tripartite meeting, a decision was taken to launch a pilot project in Chaygaon and Barpeta revenue circles, but the process was stalled after a violent protest in Barpeta.
Finally, the present process started in 2013 after Prateek Hajela joined as the State Coordinator for updating the NRC. However, the process gathered momentum after the Supreme Court started monitoring it. The Assam Public Works filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that names of huge numbers of foreign nationals were included in the electoral rolls of the State and the case got converted into the process of updating the NRC. The AASU also became a party to the case by submitting an intervention petition and with the constant monitoring the Supreme Court, the process reached one vital stage yesterday.
Though the present process started in 2013, the actual work on the ground started in February , 2015 with the process of setting up of the NRC Seva Kendras and more than 3.29 crore people applied for inclusion of names in the NRC along with more than 6.6 crore documents. The first draft containing names of 1.90 crore applicants was published on December 31 last year following which the process of verification of family trees and the certificates issued to married women by Panchayat secretaries started. A large number of bogus and forged documents were detected in the process of verification and the family tree verification was considered to be the game-changer as in a large number of cases, mismatches in family trees were detected. Finally, the complete draft was published yesterday and names of more than 40 lakh applicants were not included as they were not found to be eligible. However, those whose names were not included will get an opportunity to file claims and objections before the publication of the final NRC.