Friday, 14 February 2020

What is NRC

he passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act has set off protests across the country, with many fearing that the controversial legislation which grants to select minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh Indian citizenship will be used in conjunction with the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to deem minorities as "illegal immigrants".
The NRC first gained national prominence with its implementation in the northeastern state of Assam, but the citizens' registry is fuelling fear and panic in the nation.
But what exactly is the NRC?
At its core, the NRC is an official record of those who are legal Indian citizens. It includes demographic information about all those individuals who qualify as citizens of India as per the Citizenship Act, 1955. The register was first prepared after the 1951 Census of India and since then it has not been updated until recently.
So far, such a database has only been maintained for the state of Assam. However, on November 20, Home Minister Amit Shah declared during a parliamentary session that the register would be extended to the entire country.
Who is a citizen of India?
As per the Citizenship Act, 1955, every person born in India:
(a) on or after the 26th day of January 1950, but before the 1st day of July 1987;
(b) on or after the 1st day of July 1987, but before the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003 and either of whose parents is a citizen of India at the time of his birth;
(c) on or after the commencement of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2003, where-
(i) both of his parents are citizens of India; or
(ii) one of whose parents is a citizen of India and the other is not an illegal migrant at the time of his birth, shall be a citizen of India by birth.
Why was NRC updated for Assam?
This has been a state-specific exercise to keep its ethnic uniqueness unaltered. In 2013, Assam Public Works and Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha & Ors filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court demanding the deletion of illegal migrants' names from voter lists in Assam.
In 2014, the SC ordered the updation of the of NRC, in accordance with Citizenship Act, 1955 and Citizenship Rules, 2003 in all parts of Assam. The process officially started in 2015 and the updated final NRC was released on August 31, with over 1.9 million applicants failing to make it to the NRC list.
After protests of the exclusion of many Hindus from the list, the home ministry declared that the NRC will be carried out again in Assam.
Will there be a nationwide NRC?
Ever since the implementation of the NRC in Assam, there has been a growing demand for its nationwide implementation. Now, many top BJP leaders including Home Minister Amit Shah have proposed that the NRC in Assam be implemented across India.
It effectively suggests to bring in a legislation that will enable the government to identify infiltrators who have been living in India illegally, detain them and deport them to where they came from.
Is a nationwide NRC different from the Assam one?
So far, the government has not officially called for the updation of the NRC for all of India, hence how this process will be carried is not clear.
While in Assam, citizens were asked to submit the proof of citizenship themselves to NRC Seva Kendras set across the state, it is not sure how the same model will be implemented across the entire country.
Also, the Assam NRC was mandated through a special exception for the state in the Citizenship Act, 2003 and the process was overseen by the Supreme Court. At present, no such guidelines exist for a countrywide updation of the list. If a nationwide NRC is carried out, it will be under the direction of the Union government.
However, the processes similar to the NRC have begun in many states such as the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants in Nagaland as well as the Centre announced National Population Register (NPR) which will contain demographic as well biometric information of citizens.
How is NRC related to CAA?
The proposed nationwide NRC, which till now remains just a proposal, if implemented will target illegal immigrants in India.
But Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhist, Jains and Parsis coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh won't be affected, if they claim they have arrived in India after fleeing religious persecution.
This essentially means if a nationwide NRC comes in as proposed, any illegal immigrant from nations other than Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, will be affected.
Moreover, many also fear that Indian Muslims may be deemed illegal immigrants if they are unable to furnish adequate proof of citizenship as they are not included in the Citizenship Amendment Act.
What has the government said about linking CAA to NRC?
"Whoever is not eligible to be included in the NRC will be sent out of the country," he said in response to a question at the 'Agenda Aaj Tak' programme.
Asked about his declaration that the government was going to implement the NRC across the country, the home minister said that "bonafide Indian citizens" should have no fear.
No Indian will be sent out of the country. I want to tell the minorities that special facility will be made for them and also other people (for the NRC). But I also want to ask should we keep our borders open for illegal immigrants?" he said.
"Whenever the NRC will come, no person of the minority community will face injustice but no infiltrator will be spared," Shah said.
Even Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "NRC hasn't been finalised yet. There is no question of joining CAA with NRC as the draft is yet to be completed."
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