National Register of Citizens (NRC) data leaked in Assam Assembly

What is the issue?

  • The Assam government tabled the National Register of Citizens (NRC) data in the Assembly, and demanded its re-verification.
  • This controversy was capped when Supreme Court (SC) made a clear stance about the issue.

What is SC’s stance?

  • Last week, the SC refused to be drawn into a debate over the NRC data leakage.
  • It stressed that it wants the final NRC out on schedule (August 31) irrespective of who likes it or who doesn’t.

What kind of data was presented in the Assembly?

  • According to the state government, these data are from the draft final NRC published in July, 2018.
  • It showed the number of people included in and excluded from the NRC in each district of Assam.
  • Last year, the NRC authorities didn’t give a district-wise breakup and only released all-Assam totals.
  • But, in the data tabled in the Assembly, the totals are slightly different.

What is the significance of data broken up district-wise?

  • It is about demographic profiles and geographic locations.
  • Observed trend – The inclusion rate is higher in Bangladesh-border districts, and lower in districts with a predominant indigenous population.
  • The government cited these trends to claim the NRC is flawed. This presumes that the number of illegal immigrants will be higher in border districts.
  • However, the migrants from East Bengal/East Pakistan/Bangladesh have been settling in various parts of Assam for decades.

What do demographic profiles tell us about immigration?

  • It is widely accepted that the migrant-origin population is predominantly Muslim.
  • The counter-argument is that Bengali Muslims have been entering Assam since British rule.
  • Migration is considered illegal only when someone has entered Assam after March 24, 1971.
  • JNU Analysis of Census figures since 1891 – Muslims comprised 85% of migrants from East Bengal during 1891-1951, and about 2/3rd of migrants from East Pakistan during 1951-71.
  • For the period of 1971-2011, the Muslim population growth in Assam (from about 25% to 34%) cannot be explained as a natural increase.
  • The issues are far more complex than a simple sum game, much more than the demographics of religion.

Won’t the NRC clear the uncertainty?

  • NRC is caught up in so many controversies over data. The most vulnerable and the poorest are bound to suffer the most.
  • NRC was not scientific as it was done without a pilot project.
  • There are fundamental flaws in the field verification process.
  • The total exclusion was lower than figures declared by the Centre from time to time.
  • Whatever exclusion is happening, they too will be included in the final list as excluded people’s close relatives are included.
  • If the government cannot bring the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) before the NRC, majority of the people will not find their names in NRC.

Why should exclusion cause the government anxiety?

  • Higher Muslim inclusion will also imply that there is higher Bengali Hindu exclusion.
  • One of the Assam leaders has appealed to the central committee that unless a Foreigners Tribunal or a higher court declares a person a foreigner, one should not be declared as such only based on the NRC.
  • People who are eligible under CAB will be included as citizens once it’s passed.

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