Assam awaits final NRC, but no plan for 'foreigners'

Assam awaits final NRC, but no plan for 'foreigners'

The final NRC list will be published on August 31.

The countdown to the release of the final list of updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) has begun in Assam. But there is no action plan about the future of those who will be excluded and subsequently declared 'foreigners' after the list is published on August 31. 

The final NRC will have the names of nearly 42 lakh applicants, who either did not figure in the draft NRC released on July 31 last year or were later excluded following re-verification of documents.

The final list is also expected to drop a large number of applicants who could not prove with documents during hearings that they or their forefathers lived in Assam on or before March 24, 1971 — the cut-off date fixed in 1985 to segregate citizens from "illegal migrants" from neighbouring Bangladesh. The date was decided on following the six-year (1979-1985) anti-foreigners movement by the state's majority indigenous population. 

Those missing from the final NRC on August 31 will be allowed to move Foreigner Tribunals (quasi-judicial bodies) within 120 days, challenging non-inclusion of their names. Those losing the legal battle will subsequently be declared foreigners for deportation as per the Assam Accord of 1985. 

It's unlikely that Bangladesh will accept the foreigners. The neighbouring country has already denied illegal migration from its soil into Assam and rejected the possibility of accepting them as their citizens. As the situation stands now, many in Assam see the possibility of a large number of people, particularly Bengali-speaking Muslims and Hindus, being declared stateless citizens and their rights curtailed.

"The government should take a final call on the fate of the stateless who will be declared foreigners in the coming days as they have the right to live with dignity as per the Constitution of India," said a group of prominent citizens, following a consultation here on the post-NRC situation organised by Assam Sahiya Sabha, the state's oldest literary body.

The vague situation has a large number of applicants worried as the D-day nears. August 31 was fixed as the date for the publication of the final NRC by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which is monitoring the NRC exercise. 

The confusion deepened after the ruling BJP on Monday raised questions about NRC enumeration and alleged that a section of officials was trying to include foreigners with fake documents. Party's state unit president Rajeet Kumar Dass also doubted that many genuine citizens could be dropped from the list. 

The Opposition Congress said the NRC could be reduced into a "waste paper" if a single foreigner was included and an Indian dropped. Many, including the influential All Assam Students' Union, which signed the Assam Accord in 1985, said the drive against illegal migrants would prove futile if the identified foreigners are not disfranchised and deported. 

Meanwhile, the state government is gearing up to set up another 400 Foreigner Tribunals to dispose of appeals and is constructing a detention camp to lodge 3,000 foreigners. There are 1,145 declared foreigners lodged now in six detention camps inside jails.

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