Include the excluded people in the citizens' register (NRC) for Assam, India
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On 30 July 2018 the Government of India published a draft register of citizens residing in the state of Assam. This draft register admittedly excluded more than four million people who submitted applications for inclusion of their names.These four million people are at the risk of being rendered stateless.
The main reasons for exclusion of such a large number of people include:
1. Having no acceptable documents of pre-1971 as is required for inclusion.
2. Having no acceptable documents to establish relationship with an ancestor who has a pre-1971 document.
3. Non-acceptance of otherwise valid documents like school certificates and certificates of birth given by hospitals etc.
4. Failure to verify submitted documents by the authorities.
5. Non-acceptance of oral evidence.
6. Not having an opportunity to establish citizenship by birth under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 by producing birth certificate or other admissible evidence of birth in India within the period specified.
7. Non-application of subsection 7 (a) of section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.
8. Non-application of Proviso to section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950.
9. Little or no application of Sub-paragraph 3 of Paragraph 3 of the Schedule titled Special Provision as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in State of Assam framed under Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 in certain areas including South Assam and West Assam. And so on.
However, there is still a window of Claims, Objections and Corrections which will start and applications from the excluded applicants will be accepted from 30 August 2018 to 28 September 2018. The disposal period and procedure are yet to be notified.
Many of the people who are at risk of being rendered stateless can be saved and included in the register if the procedure of dealing with, and disposing of, the applications are formulated keeping in mind the humanitarian aspect of the process.
In view of this it is suggested that the following points should be considered while framing Modalities in the Form of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP):
(1) At the minimum, six months’ time should be given for submitting applications for claims. Otherwise, a lot of people who have their origin in other states outside Assam or who work as migrant labourers in other states or abroad will be grossly prejudiced.
(2) An opportunity to establish citizenship by birth under section 3 of the Citizenship Act, 1955 by producing birth certificate or other admissible evidence of birth in India within the period specified should be given to the applicants.
(3) An opportunity should also be given to the applicants to establish citizenship before 7 December 1985 being the date on which Act 65 of 1985 that incorporated section 6A in the Citizenship Act, 1955 came into effect since as per subsection 7 of section 6A the provisions of section 6A is not applicable to them.
(4) The persons to whom Proviso to Section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 applies should be included in the NRC on the basis of direct or circumstantial evidence.
(5) While considering Claims applications, Sub-paragraph 3 of Paragraph 3 of the Schedule titled Special Provision as to Manner of Preparation of National Register of Indian Citizens in State of Assam framed under Rule 4A of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 should be applied in appropriate cases. One of the reasons for exclusion of such a large number of people is little or non-application of this provision in districts of Barak valley and West Assam. There were people inhabiting in the area now under the 3 districts of the valley for centuries before it was annexed to the British domain by the East India Company and later joined with Assam.
(6) Those minor children whose parent/s is/are included in the final draft but who themselves are excluded from the list due to defects in link documents should be included on the basis of oral evidence or they should be given an opportunity to obtain other documents including birth certificate without hassles. Otherwise, it would be absurd to think that such children emigrated from Bangladesh leaving their parents behind.
(7) In case of married women certificate issued by Panchayat secretaries should be accepted as a link document. Such certificates have been allowed in case of married women after a lot of consideration by the Hon'ble Supreme Court because there is a possibility that no other documents will be available for them. Supporting oral evidence should also be admitted in such cases.
(8) Where the applicants fail to prove link with accepted legacy person by producing prescribed documents but insist on the relationship, they should be given an opportunity to prove the claimed linkage by DNA test conducted outside Assam at the state expense.
(9) No original application or claims application should be rejected on the ground that the documents submitted could not be verified. Their cases may be kept on hold until verification is done. Verification is the responsibility of the state.
(10) Any valid document establishing relationship with the legacy person of the applicant including PAN and ADHAAR cards should not be rejected on the ground that pan card is issued after 2015 and ADHAAR card is not being issued in the state of Assam officially.
(11) Minor mismatches and discrepancies in names, addresses, ages and other details in the documents relied by the applicants should be ignored and the probative value of the documents should not be considered affected.
(12) Order rejecting original application or claims application should record reasons for such rejection in detail dealing with each ground separately.
(1) No objection application should be accepted unless the person objecting knows the person objected to personally and sets forth reasonable grounds for such objection in the application.
(2) The notice of hearing in case of an objection should clearly state the grounds of objections to enable the concerned person to prepare her rebuttal. Such notice should be served with all seriousness giving at least six months’ time personally by the local NRC Seva Kendra (NSK) officials. Unless there is an endorsement of the notice receiver, the service should not be treated as complete.
(3) Without giving an opportunity of cross-examination of objector no objection should be accepted.
(1) Officials who know the language of the applicant well shall be entrusted with the task of correcting names and other details.
(2) There should be a separate system of transliteration in Bengali and other languages to avoid spelling errors in names and other details published in those languages.
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