Assam's National Register of Citizens (NRC): What Happened, and What Now
On 31 August, India released the final iteration of the
National Register of Citizens (NRC), a list of “genuine Indian citizens”, the
updation of which was sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 2014 for the state of
Assam. Close to 1.9 million (19 lakh) people were excluded from the final list,
which came after two preliminary drafts. The headcount exercise is part of Assam’s
four-pronged citizenship determination process, the Foreigner Tribunals (FT),
Election Commission’s Doubtful-Voter (D-Voter) tag, and Border Police being the
Despite the judicial sanction that the NRC received, it has been received criticism in various quarters for its bureaucratic and procedural complexities, which have reportedly led to the exclusion of “genuine Indian citizens.” Assamese-speaking groups, however, have mostly come out in support of the exercise, arguing that this can put an end to the issue of illegal immigration into Assam. Yet others, including the BJP-led Assam government, are unhappy with the final exclusion figure, which is less than earlier estimates of illegal immigrants. Moreover, there is no clarity on what is to happen in the follow-up stages, and the future of the excluded individuals.
This discussion explored the various components of the NRC process as it unfolded and the potential trajectories it could take in the future. It also engaged with the political, legal, and social aspects of the NRC exercise and the broader discourses around it.
Dr Nandita Saikia is Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). She was previously an Assistant Professor at the Population Research Centre, Institute of Economic Growth. Dr Saikia got her PhD from the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, following which, she went to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Austria, as a post-doctoral research fellow. She was also a visiting scholar to the Visiting Scholar to the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany, and was later awarded the Max Planck-India fellowship for collaborative demographic research. Dr Saikia’s primary research interest is formal demography, or mathematical and statistical relations between demographic measures.
Anas Tanwir is an advocate at the Supreme Court (SC) of India, and founder of Indian Civil Liberties Union (ICLU). He has appeared as a counsel in the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) case. Tanwir began practicing at the SC in 2012, and has handled more than fifty cases related to illegal immigrants since then. These include cases related to appeals against Foreigner Tribunals verdicts during which, he has successfully secured the release of several detainees. Tanwir has also handled several mob lynching-related cases at the SC, and was a key member of the team that drafted a template for anti-mob lynching legislation, which was later used by the governments of Rajasthan and Manipur to draft their own anti-lynching laws. Tanwir got his BA LLB degree from Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University (RMLNLU), Lucknow.
Angshuman Choudhury is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) and coordinates its South East Asia Research Programme (SEARP). His research focuses on the ethnic armed conflict and peace process in Myanmar, geopolitics of the ASEAN region, citizenship and ethnic politics in India’s Northeast, and refugee policies. He has written for various national and international publications, including Asia Times, The Diplomat, Channel News Asia, Tea Circle Oxford, South Asia Journal, Economic & Political Weekly, The Hindu, Outlook India, Firstpost, Scroll, and The Wire, and has been invited to present at conferences and briefings in India and abroad. Angshuman is an alumnus of the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, UK.