Centre’s Draft SOPs Offer Little Solution for Four Million Excluded: NRC, Assam

While Modalities Remain the Same Giving Little Hope to Those Excluded, the Objector currently has power to harass and bully innocent people!


NRC Assam

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

Little hope for any solution is provided by the Draft SOPs submitted by the Modi government to the Centre on August 16. In fact, the cold bureaucratic apathy evident in the exercise gives weight to the scheme that the ruling party is pushing: exclude linguistic minorities in this process, and then sweep in the religious minority through the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Act!

Specifically, the draft SOP submitted shows little shift or change from the process under way that followed the earlier ser Modalities, SOP, SSOP, albeit perverted by two controversial orders of the NRC Coordinator. The new draft SOPs to address the exclusion of 40, 07,707 persons offer no solutions to the unfair and arbitrary exclusions. The SOP was submitted before the Supreme Court of India by Union Home Ministry in Consultation with the RGI, GoI, GoA, and the NRC authority in Assam.

Sabrangindia will be bring its readers detailed analyses on the issue over the coming days.

Most importantly, the SOP submitted to the SC on August 16, in effect, gives its stamp of approval to some hasty and untested decisions rushed through by the NRC Coordinator, barely a few months before the submission of the final draft.

Single Women Vulnerable: For example, in the new SOP, the condition of accepting the Village Panchayat Certificates as supportive documents (along with other subsequent documents issued on or before December 31, 2015)– that the Supreme Court had allowed through a separate legal action – would be allowed or applicable only for married women, making a whole section of single women vulnerable to exclusion. This conditionality generates confusion as the Panchayat Certificate being allowed was a condition created for those residents who have no other documents to establish linkage to their parents.

Minors Vulnerable: With regard to the minor of the family below 14 years, it had been promised earlier that if the family tree is found error free than the linkage certificates for such minors may be acceptable from the oral evidence of the family members. This assurance was not followed during the time of Verification leading to hundreds of thousands of such minors have been dropped from the Final Draft NRC. In the new draft SOP, again the same assurance (that was not adhered to) has been repeated. Can it be assumed, that with the same bureaucracy and institutional callousness at work that this assurance—that failed to guarantee inclusion earlier—will work now?
The Document Imbroglio: Ironically, Birth Certificates as poof of birth, were rejected on the flimsy grounds that that they had not been issued in the mandatory period. This unfair practice will stand legitimised if the SOP submitted by Union Home Ministry is accepted in its present form. The names of those excluded from the final draft of the NRC include the names of persons, who have filed their applications along with all possible documents. Minor discrepancies in the accompanying documents have resulted in large-scale, cruel exclusions. If the government were serious and fair, opportunity needed to be given to them to share, afresh all documents. But no! The Legacy Database –that was public earlier—has been concealed and hidden two years ago. Simultaneously, all Competent Authorities were barred from issuing these documents. The SOP does not address this ground level dys-functionality within the NRC procedure. No wonder then, that the SOP submitted by the union home ministry is being seen as part of wider conspiracy to exclude hundreds of thousands of legitimate citizens from the updated NRC.
Problems with Claims and Objections 
After the NRC Final draft published on July 30, 2018 left out 40,07,707 people, there only remains a last sliver of hope in the form of the Claims and Objections process. However, the draft Modalities and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for conducting the process, that were submitted before the Supreme Court on August 16, this year, can be misused by vested interests if allowed to go through in their present form. 

Two months time has been suggested by the union home ministry for the claims and objections process from December 15, 2018 onwards for 2,500 officers. Over all it seems like the claims and objection process can take up to 1.5 years.
The modalities concerning the Objections process can prove to be problematic for several reasons.
For starters, anyone can raise an objection to the inclusion of anyone else’s name in the NRC. So even if you are among the lucky people to have made it to the NRC, it’s not over yet, because somebody can raise an objection about it. 
The objector also does not need to belong to the same Nagrik Seva Kendra (NSK) as you! As long as the objection is filed at your NSK, it will have to be heard and examined. You will be required to be present for this process whether you like it or not! Imagine a complete stranger having that kind of power over your citizenship, your comfort, your life?

Also, at present there is no limit to the number of objections one can raise or even a fee for raising an objection which could have acted as a minor deterrent to filing unlimited objections. Moreover, there is no penalty for the objector if the objection gets rejected. This means even if the objection against you is proved to be baseless, the objector will not suffer any consequences for harassing an innocent person or wasting the time or resources of the Claims and Objections officials!
All these provisions empower the objector and make it easy for them to harass people and bully people. Needless to say, people from socio-economically weaker backgrounds will suffer yet another form of oppression and will be forced to fight yet another uphill battle where the odds are against them.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has directed that the views of all stakeholders including the All Assam Students Union (AASU), All Assam Muslim Students Union (AAMSU) and others be sought and the case has been adjourned till August 28. The draft SOPs as well as related annexures submitted before the SC on August 16, 2018, may be read here.



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