MHA’s boiler-plate response to questions about NRC

There are times when in the Parliament, subjective questions are asked, to which one cannot expect the government to give an unreserved response. However, the fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) completely sidestepped the issues raised in questions posed to it about the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and the possibility of a similar exercise being conducted across India, reeks of arrogance.

All india NRC

Jose Mani of Congress Party, a member of the Rajya Sabha had raised concerns about the futility of the entire slapdash manner in which NRC was carried out in Assam and how it is being not only rejected by the Assam Government but is also being negated by a nation-wide NRC announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The questions asked by Jose Mani are worth being quoted here since these are some pertinent questions are being asked by people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Bill:

(a) whether the Supreme Court monitored long drawn exercise of compilation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam has been rendered futile with Government of Assam not accepting it;

(b) whether NRC exercise in Assam was tortuous and long-drawn which was overseen by the Supreme Court and involving the active participation of both the Central and State Government and if so, whether the Centre has proposed to do it all over again; and

(c) whether with the Assam exercise stuck up, the Centre plans to do it all over again with similar plans for all States, if so, the details thereof?

These questions are not at all baseless and the government should gather some courage to answer these questions that affect the lives of millions of people in Assam alone.

But the response from the MHA did not address any of the concerns raised. The boiler plate response reads as follows:

National Register of Citizens is being updated in the State of Assam as per the provisions of the Citizenship Act, 1955 and the Schedule framed under Rule 4A(4) of the Citizenship Rules, 2003.  The implementation of this exercise is done through the designated statutory authorities notified by the State Government of Assam. The exercise of updating NRC in Assam is being monitored by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.  The Complete Draft NRC was published on 30th July, 2018.  As per the direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its   judgement dated 13.08.2019, supplementary list of inclusions was published in hard copies and family-wise list of exclusions was published on-line on 31st August, 2019.  Any person not satisfied with the outcome of the decisions for inclusion of name in final NRC may prefer appeal before the designated Tribunal constituted under the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964.

Quite evidently, the MHA has avoided responding clearly to any of the questions posed by Mani and has given a response that is its typical response to most questions relating to NRC in Assam. Hence, the questions remain completely unanswered. It is, however, important to look at what is the premise of these questions and why has the need arisen to ask such bold questions in the Parliament.

The first question arises from the fact that a day after the Union Home Minster Amit Shah announced in the Rajya Sabha that there will be a nation-wide NRC (National Register of Citizens), the Assam government, the Assam government ‘rejected’ the NRC in Assam.

Assam Finance Minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters that his government was not satisfied with the outcome of the NRC published on August 31, 2019 and wanted it scrapped. Sarma said, “The state government cannot accept this NRC. People who should not have been included in the list have made it, while those who should have in have been excluded.”

He further told NDTV, “We believe that the NRC prepared by former state coordinator Prateek Hajela has failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people of Assam. There are many shortcomings, as we have already pointed out. While various groups in Assam have already filed review petitions before the Supreme Court, we now want this faulty list to be scrapped in favour of a nationwide NRC.”

Naturally, the question arises, with millions of people of Assam already affected by NRC concluded in August this year, is it fair that the people suffer again in this whole political game of political gain? While the Home Minister declared in the parliament that in the nation-wide NRC, Assam will also be included, the MHA has refrained from making any such statement officially, in response to Mani’s question.

The government does not, yet, have answers to what kind of procedure will be followed while conducting NRC in the country, will it be the same as Assam, will the cut-off date for Assam change or will it be made consistent for the rest of the country and on what basis? These are the questions the government is not prepared to answer because probably they have not figured it out themselves yet or maybe it is another one of their ploys of keeping people in the dark.



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