There is a clamour in the Barak Valley against an alleged bias in updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. This has arisen due to a Supreme Court Order on September 19, wherein five documents for verification were put on hold till the state coordinator Prateek Hajela presents his views on the same. The hearing has been set for October 23, before which, Hajela has to file his submissions on this matter.
On October 2, a mass of organisations based in the predominantly Bengali Barak Valley took out a torch-lit rally in Silchar protesting against bias in updating the NRC. This is significant as the rally occurred two months after the final draft was published on July 30. At the time of its release, around 40 lakh names were not included. Despite fears on the part of the administration, there was no violence. However, at present the disquiet is evident. According to reports, around 4 lakh names from the Barak Valley were not included in the final draft.
The order, that has provoked this, had allowed a list of ten documents to be filed in support of claims and objections related to the final draft of the NRC. The ten documents are:
i. Land documents like Registered Sale Deed, Records of land rights up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
ii. Permanent Residential Certificate issued from outside the state up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
iii. Passport issued by the Government of India up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
iv. Life Insurance Corporation of India Insurance Policy (LICI) of relevant period up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
v. Any license/certificate issued by any Government authority of relevant period i.e. up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
vi. Document showing service/employment under Government/Public Sector undertaking up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
vii. Bank/Post Office Accounts of relevant period i.e. up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
viii. Birth Certificates issued by the competent authority up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
ix. Educational certificate issued by Board/Universities up to March 24, 1971 (midnight);
x. Records/processes pertaining to court up to March 24, 1971 (midnight), provided they are part of a processing in a Judicial or Revenue Court.
The problem with this list is that there is a presumption that all genuine citizens would have at least one of these documents. For example, someone may not have land documents pertaining to land that their family has lived and cultivated on from a time before independence. This inclusion of land records may be good news for the Gorkha community as well as Santhals and tea garden tribals, as they are a protected class under Chapter X of the Assam Land and Revenue Regulations of 1866. However, some of the documents included in this list are a bit strange. When one applies for renewing one’s passport, the old passport has to be returned to the passport office, hence, it is impossible for one to continue to possess an old passport unless one never renewed it. The other ‘proof documents’ too suffer from similar issues.
Interestingly, the documents that the Supreme Court put on hold are all documents that any person may have at least one of. The documents are:
(i) Names in NRC, 1951;
(ii) Names in Electoral Roll up to March 24, 1971;
(iii) Citizenship Certificate; and Refugee Registration Certificate;
(iv) Certified copies of pre-1971 Electoral Roll, particularly, those issued from the State of Tripura; and
(v) Ration Card
It should be noted that unlike what the organisers of the rally have claimed, these documents have not become ineligible for submitting claims, but instead have been suspended till the Court passes any additional orders. It is likely that on October 23, the Supreme Court will stipulate that some of the five documents will be eligible to be used in NRC claims.