Assam recognises 19 million as citizens in first NRC draft, 13.9 million more wait for status

A part of a much-awaited list that aims to separate the genuine residents of border state Assam and illegal Bangladeshi immigrants was released Sunday midnight.

The first part draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam that came out amid watertight security recognises 19 million people out of a total 32.9 million applicants as Indian citizens.

Registrar general of India Shailesh said there was no need to panic as the verification process for the rest of the applicants was underway. “Everybody should be patient to wait for the release of the final draft,” he said.

The NRC is being updated in Assam for the first time after 1951 with the aim of identifying those who may have entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971 — a sensitive issue that led to a movement by the state’s indigenous people in the 1980s. Many fear an unabated influx, which has been going on for close to a century, is a threat to Assam’s identity.

No timeline has been fixed for the release of the complete draft but officials say the process, which is being monitored by the Supreme Court, could take a few more months.

Security has been tightened across the state as there were apprehensions about violence by those whose names are missing. No report of violence was reported till Monday morning.

Muslims in the state are worried about whether their names will be included in the list. But with the first part draft getting published and hopes of inclusion of all names in the final draft, there’s a sense of relief.

“But we will be watchful for few days. Since the draft was released online, it would take some days for people to reach NRC offices and physically verify if their names are in the list,” Assam director general of police Mukesh Sahay told HT.

Individuals, who can prove links with family members whose names appeared in the 1951 NRC or subsequent electoral rolls till March 25, 1971 will be included in the updated NRC.

Physical verification of the updated first draft has begun at over 4,200 NRC centres across Assam. Long queues of people waiting to check their names were seen at several centres since early morning.

“I was relieved to see names of all my seven family members in the first list. We have full faith in the system and are sure that names of those missing will get included in the next draft,” said Nurul Ali, a farmer from Kaki in Nagaon district of central Assam.

Besides the online and physical verification process till January 31, applicants can send text messages or call a 24/7 toll-free helpline to check if they figure in the list.

The All Assam Students Union (AASU) led a mass agitation for six years against illegal immigrants, and the stir led to the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985.

In 2005, as part of an agreement among central and state governments with the AASU, it was decided to update the 1951 NRC to prepare a comprehensive list of bona fide Indian citizens in the state.

The process started in 2015. It got a big push after the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which made the issue of illegal immigrants a key poll plank, came to power in Assam for the first time in 2016.

“We are happy that the first draft of NRC has been released. It was a much-anticipated dream of all indigenous Assamese. We hope the complete draft, which doesn’t include names of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, would be released soon,” AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya said.