Slamming the commentaries in foreign media about the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as “incorrect”, India on Sunday said that NRC is a “statutory, transparent, legal process” mandated by the Supreme Court and a “non-discriminatory process, which leaves no room for bias and injustice.”
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said the NRC application form does not ask for the religion of the applicant and it is “not an executive-driven process”.
“The process is being monitored by the Supreme Court directly and the government is acting in accordance with the directives issued by the court,” the statement by MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
Giving the background, the statement said that the NRC stems from the Assam Accord of 1985 “with the promise to take care of the interests of the citizens of Assam.”
“NRC aims to give effect to the Assam Accord signed in 1985 between the Government of India, state government of Assam, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) and the All Assam Gan Sangram Parishad (AAGSP),” the statement said,adding: “The apex court mandated the government to deliver on the commitment in 2013, which led to the process of updating the National Register of Citizens in Assam in 2015.”
It said the apex court had itself set the deadlines for all steps that have been taken so far.
“NRC is a fair process based on scientific methods. Inclusion in the NRC is a unique process, as it is based on ‘application’ rather than ‘house to house enumeration.’ It means that any person in Assam could have sought to be included in the list on the basis of having documentation to prove lineage from an entitled person, i.e. a person who was a resident of Assam as on March 24, 1971.”
It described the NRC process as a “non-discriminatory process, which leaves no room for bias and injustice.”
“As can be seen from the application form for data entry in NRC, there was no column in the application asking for the religion of the applicant,” the statement said, dismissing claims by the foreign media, especially Pakistani and western media, trying to drum up a campaign that the NRC process is targeted at Muslims.
It said that “anyone excluded from the list at this stage has a right to file an appeal within 120 days of receiving a notification of exclusion to the designated Tribunal. All appeals and excluded cases will be examined by this Tribunal i.e. a judicial process. This judicial process will commence only after the appellate period is over. Thereafter, anyone still aggrieved by any decision of being excluded will have the right to approach the high court of Assam and then the Supreme Court.”
It clarified that “exclusion from the NRC has no implication on the rights of an individual resident in Assam. Those who are not in the final list will not be detained and will continue to enjoy all the rights as before till they have exhausted all the remedies available under the law.”
“It does not make the excluded person ‘stateless’. It also does not make him or her a ‘foreigner’ within the legal meaning of the term. They will not be deprived of any rights or entitlements which they have enjoyed before,” the statement said.
“The Government of India will even assist in providing directions on how to deal with such appeals. Through the District Legal Service Authorities, the government has provisioned to extend legal aid to the needy. The State of Assam has assured provision of free legal assistance to any person excluded from the list and who is unable to afford such legal assistance. This is to enable people, especially the disadvantaged sections, to have access to the best possible legal assistance.
“To expedite the process of receiving applications for inclusion, the State Government is further adding 200 tribunals to the existing 100 tribunals. A further 200 more tribunals will be set up by the State of Assam by December 2019. These Tribunals will be set up at Block level for the convenience of appellants.
“India, as the world’s largest democracy, has firmly enshrined aequal rights for all’ and arespect for the rule of law’ in its Constitution.A An independent judiciary and fully autonomous state institutions, working for the defence of human rights, are an integral part of our political fabric and traditions.
“Any decision that is taken during the process of implementation of the NRC, will be within the four corners of the Indian law and consistent with India’s democratic traditions,” the statement said.
On Saturday, over 19 lakh people in Assam were left out of the much-awaited final list of the NRC, which named 3,11,21,004 people as Indian citizens.
The Union Home Ministry said the 19,06,657 people who have been left out had not submitted their claims.
The citizens’ registry was released online at around 10 a.m., ending six years of speculation over the mammoth exercise involving 52,000 state government officials working on it for identifying illegal foreigners living in Assam.
The NRC has immense significance for the people of Assam which witnessed a six-year long movement from 1979 to 1985 seeking detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshis.
The movement finally led to the signing of the Assam Accord of 1985 by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the leaders of the agitation belonging to the All Assam Students Union and the All Assam Gana Sangram Parishad.
The NRC updation process, which started in the state on orders of the Supreme Court in 2013, is being carried out by the Registrar General of India and is being monitored by the apex court.
On Saturday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan took to twitter to describe the NRC as part of “ethnic cleansing of Muslims” by India and linked it to the “illegal annexation” of Kashmir.