The Assam government will on Monday publish the final draft of the National Register of Citizens, being updated for the first time since 1951.
The stated aim of the counting exercise is to separate genuine Indian citizens from so-called illegal migrants. According to the terms of the exercise, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state before midnight on March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner.
Launched in 2015, it involved processing the applications of 3.29 crore people who hoped to be included in the register. Over the course of three years, the exercise has been through several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities and arbitrary rules being introduced last minute.
The first draft was published on January 1, and has verified 1.9 crore people out of the 3.29 crore who applied.
As the publication of the final draft draws near, Assam is on edge. The Centre has deployed nearly 200 companies of central paramilitary forces in the state to maintain law and order, according to The Times of India. The authorities also enforced prohibitory orders in seven districts on Sunday night.
Several neighbouring states have also stepped up security at inter-state borders with Assam, fearing an exodus of people who fail to find their names in the updated list.
Here is a reading list explaining the many twists and turns of the NRC:
- As Assam started counting its citizens, it gave rise to a fraught question: Who is Assamese anyway?
- The fear of illegal migrants, which spurred the anti-foreigners’ agitation of the 1980s, has long been the driving force in Assam’s politics.
- The counting process ran into several controversies. Early in 2017, a Guwahati High court ruling threatened to endanger the applications of more than 50 lakh women.
- A petition in the Supreme Court also sought to change the definition of “Assamese”.
- Then, the sudden appearance of a separate ‘original inhabitants’ category triggered fresh panic among the state’s minorities.
- Four women spoke about their individual travails with proving citizenship.
- What would happen to the thousands declared stateless? A proposal to grant work permits gained currency.
- In an interview, the state coordinator for the citizenry list admitted that most people who had made it to the first draft of the NRC were from Upper Assam or ‘original inhabitants’.
- A new report gave a horrifying picture of what happens to those declared stateless and held in detention camps across the state.
- Assam has received Central sanction to build a new detention camp for those whose citizenship is held in doubt, though the state authorities say it has little to do with the National Register of Citizens and those who do not make it to the final draft will not be interned in such camps.