Despite an eighty-two day window for filing claims and objections to the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, reports state that only around 3.5 lakh applications have been filed. Whereas on July 30, the final draft showed that around 40 lakh people had been left out. This would indicate that around 8.75 percent of the people left out have actually filed their claims till now. What could be the explanation for so few applications?
One possible reason for the low number of applications could be that many of the people who wished to file their claims would have to rely on one of the five documents that the coordinator, Prateek Hajela wanted to exclude. It was only on November 1, that the Supreme Court allowed these documents to be used as a proof of citizenship. Therefore, since the fate of these documents’ status was not known till the Supreme Court’s order, the number of applications may spike just ahead of the last date.
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The objection raised by Hajela against these documents was premised on the fear that there could be many forged documents. The Court dismissed this argument stating that “a possibility of abuse which, however, strong, cannot be an acceptable reason in law to exclude the documents from consideration.”
Another situation may be that many actually do not have any documents. While some may claim that this would indicate evidence of being an undocumented migrant, older tribal people living in remote areas of the state are equally susceptible to not having the required documents.
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The 40 lakh figure has been cited in many different contexts by people with diverse motives. Initially, many assumed that the exercise was entirely biased against Bengali-speaking Muslims in Assam. Amit Shah probably thought this too, when he made his ‘ghuspetiya’ remark, referring to those not on the list. However, the districts with significant Bengali-speaking Muslim populations have had some of the lowest exclusion rates in the state.