The first draft published in December had disqualified around one crore names, but the numbers have been reduced on reconsideration.
With Monday’s publication of the draft National Register of Citizens in Assam, the state is said to be “very tense”. Uncertainties have arisen as around 40 lakh people out of the total 3.29 crore who had submitted documents for verification to be listed as Indian citizens have not made the cut. The first draft published in December had disqualified around one crore names, but the numbers have been reduced on reconsideration. But 40 lakhs is still a very large figure.
These people fear they will be thrown into detention camps and then deported. Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal and the Union home ministry have been reassuring, saying this is just a draft and there will be time between August 30 and September 28 to file claims.
In a practical sense, this is too short a time. The problem is convoluted. As the first draft showed in January, within the same family some made the cut while some haven’t. Some MPs, MLAs and retired security personnel haven’t qualified. Theoretically, those who can show papers that they were residents before March 24, 1971 will be deemed to be Indian citizens.
The issue mainly concerns Bengali-speaking Muslims, who may have come from Bangladesh or the erstwhile East Pakistan, continuing an economic migratory pattern from decades before Independence when Muslim farm workers from East Bengal were invited to find work in Assam. For the BJP, Muslim migrants have been an eyesore, but not Hindu migrants from former East Bengal. No matter when they entered Assam, they will be deemed as refugees under the revised Citizenship Act. This self-inflicted wound is now causing a huge backlash in Assam.