The proposed NRC modalities: Passport to another violence in Assam

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On 12 July’ 2013, Jaydeep Shukla, Extra Assistant Commissioner to Government of Assam submitted the additional affidavit in Supreme Court of India on Writ Petition (Civil) No. 274/2009 filed by Assam Public Works, regarding updation of National Register of Citizen (NRC). The additional affidavit is more of dictation by AASU (All Assam Students Union) then any submission of a democratic government of an Indian state. AASU submitted their suggestions on May 21, 2013 opposing the earlier affidavit given by government of Assam and held a meeting with the group of Ministers to discuss the modalities and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) on July 4, 2013. The government accepted the recommendations made by AASU. The modified modalities and SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) have incorporated some perilous clauses and deleted some basic ethics and democratic values.

Surprisingly, no other organizations were invited to the meeting, not even the representatives of AAMSU (All Assam Minority Students Union), whereas they were present in such meeting before preparing the earlier affidavit.

What are in this additional affidavit?

Clause 4(b) of the additional affidavit outlines that there would be no house to house enumeration, only application forms will be distributed house to house though government machinery. This affidavit also deleted the last two lines of introductory para of earlier affidavit “the Citizenship (Registration of Citizen and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rule, 2003 prescribed for house to house enumeration of all the households as done in case of population census or in the intensive revision electoral rule” vide clause 5 (i). The point 7 of SOP submitted earlier “Distribution of forms and house to house enumeration” also deleted by clause 5 (ii) and inserted “Inviting application from the head of the family”. The new modalities outlined that the forms will be available at circle office too.

Question arises, why AASU is interested to delete the clause ‘house to house enumeration’? Is updation of NRC is not an intensive work? Does not it seem to be seriously important? The affidavit says that forms will be distributed through government machinery. If government machinery can distribute the forms house to house, why can’t enumerate house to house?

Or the house to house distribution will remain in black and white and in practical the citizen will have to collect it from circle office? Imagine, what hurdles will have to face by the people of the char areas, where there are no roads, boot is the only means of communication, where one week’s travelling will be required to collect the form from circle office! Whereas, in case of any other states such updation always done through house to house enumeration.

The expertise of AASU does not end here. The affidavit also clearly mentions that there will be no provision of any facilitator! Where more than half of the population is illiterate and they are being asked to fill up their application forms from their own? Doesn’t it put a serious question mark on AASU’s inner intention?

Clause 4(c) of the additional affidavit says that the ‘D’ voters can apply for inclusion of their name in the updated NRC. But they would be finally included in the NRC, only when they are declared as non foreigner by Foreigners Tribunal. Even though they have sufficient documents to get registered their names in updated NRC. Doesn’t this provision violet the basic tenet of Indian judiciary? They will be treated as guilty until they are proven innocent (not innocent until proven guilty!). If we look at the conviction rate of ‘D’ voters, it is found that the conviction rate is very low. Total 55184 ‘D’ voter cases were registered between 1985 to 2012 (July), out of 55184 only 6590 were declared as foreigners. The conviction rate is 8.37%. That means more than 91% of those ‘D’ voters were genuine Indian citizen and were illegally harassed. And if we link it up to the proposed modalities that more than 91% of ‘D’ voter’s name will not be included in the updated NRC with out their fault! The additional affidavit also clarifies that the pending cases at Foreigners Tribunal will not affect the implementation of NRC updation. Doesn’t it alternatively say that we are not bothered about your sufferings?

Another crucial clause is incorporated in the affidavit, which indicates that if somebody’s name is not included (not satisfied with the outcome), will have to appeal through Foreigners Tribunal only and that also within 60days of such rejection. The option of tagging competent civil court might be there, which by virtue of its competency could direct the government to pay compensation to victim if rejected illegally. But in case of only Foreigners Tribunal, the judge will not hold such power to direct the authority to pay compensation. Interestingly, this appeal process will also not link up to the NRC updation process.

Point (g) of the annexed modalities along with the additional affidavit says, “…However, persons who are originally inhabitants of Assam and their children and descendants, who are citizens of India ab initio, shall be included in the consolidated list if the citizenship of such persons is beyond reasonable doubt and to the full satisfaction of the registering authority.” Doesn’t it summarily mean that the registering authority can add any name if they wish to do so? What is the reason behind this absolute power to authority? Is this represents any of our democratic values?
A legitimate doubt comes to mind, whether AASU really wants to update the NRC or trying to keep the issue alive to keep themselves in the limelight; otherwise why they are providing such dangerous, non viable and peculiar suggestions?

Why Congress government is playing with NRC?

If we closely observe the recent political developments in Assam, it becomes very clear that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is taking some non conventional decision to be in power in the next term also. After the violence in BTAD and RHAC, the result of the panchayat poll has shown that Congress has lost ground in the minority belt. At the same time AIUDF has been becoming invincible in that belt. On the other hand BJP’s rise in the municipal election has actually threatened Congress. Gogoi is ready to change the role of the game. It seems that his nod to ULFA’s demand to declare Assam as a tribal state or accepting the suggestion of AASU on NRC updation blindly are the part of his greater political plan. He has to prove that he is more pro-nationalist than declining AGP or Sarbananda Sonowal. No doubt his power thrust may bring another bloodshed in Assam.

Why AIUDF is silent spectator?

In recent times, AIUDF is getting a boost politically after every clash or violence with minorities of the state. Be it 2010’s police firing at Barpeta or BTAD violence in 2012. If the NRC updation is preceded with the current modalities another violence can’t be avoided by any means. For a political gain AIUDF’s silence may be quite natural. Otherwise do you see any reason behind this epic silence?

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