The last Assam citizens’ list will be published online at 10 am on Saturday, over a year after the first list that identifies whether a person is an Indian or a foreigner was released. The names of over 41 lakh people don’t seem in the Assam NRC. The announcement of the last NRC list is likely to be the biggest development in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term, after the centre’s move to scrap special status from Jammu and Kashmir and divide it into two union territories. “The list would be available online by 10 am and those who do not have internet connections can go to Seva Kendras set up by the state government to check their status,” a senior officer in the Home Ministry told.
The centre has said people whose names don’t come in the last NRC cannot be declared foreigners till all legal options are exhausted. Every person left out of the NRC can appeal to the Foreigners Tribunal, and the time limit to file the appeal has been extended from 60 to 120 days.
The Home Ministry said at least 1,000 tribunals will be set up in phases to hear disputed cases; 100 tribunals are open presently and 200 more will be opened in the first week of September. If one loses the case in the tribunal, one can approach the high court and then the Supreme Court. No one will be put in detention centres until all legal options are exhausted, the government has said.
Security has been tightened in the north-eastern state bordering Bangladesh, and any gathering of more than four people at several public places are banned, especially at sensitive areas that have seen violence in the past, including main city Guwahati. The centre has sent 20,000 more paramilitary forces to Assam.
The Assam Police tweeted the government has “ensured adequate safeguards for people whose name may not come in the last NRC”. “Don’t believe rumours, as some elements are trying to create confusion in society. Safety of citizens is our top priority,” it said.
“They (whose names don’t appear in NRC) will be allowed to present their case before the Foreigners Tribunal. The state government has said those left out of the NRC will not be detained under any circumstances until the tribunal declares them foreigners,” said the Home Ministry officer, who asked not to be named.
Some BJP leaders have raised concerns over many of Bengali Hindus being left out of the NRC. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, after meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah last week, said the centre may consider bringing in a law to remove foreigners who could have entered the list and add genuine citizens who could have been left out.
Sources said the BJP may be worried over exclusion of many of Hindus. It is estimated that a majority of Assam’s 18 per cent Bengali Hindu vote bank supports the BJP. In the national election this year, the BJP won nine out of 14 seats in Assam – a stellar performance due to consolidation of tribals, Assamese Hindus and Bengali Hindus.