Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi from Assam, asked the Minister of Home Affairs whether the Government is aware that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam excluded over one lakh Gorkhas, and that they are being marked as D-voters arbitrarily? The Government was also asked if it has taken any steps for relief of the community and measures to expedite the grievance redressal mechanism of members excluded from the NRC.
In a written response, Nityanand Rai, MoS for Home Affairs, stated that on the direction of the Supreme Court, the hard copies of the supplementary list of inclusions and online family-wise list of exclusions in NRC Assam have been published on August 31, 2019 with a total of 3,11,21,004 persons eligible for inclusion, leaving out 19,06,657 persons.
On the issue of Gorkha’s being marked as dubious/doubtful voters and their exclusion, the answer read: “The decision of eligibility of ‘D’ Voters and their descendants has been kept on hold on the direction of Hon’ble Supreme Court. Separate list of exclusion of Gorkhas has not been published.”
As part of relief measures to be provided to the community, the Centre said that the aggrieved people are free to appeal against the final list. The answer read: “Any person not satisfied with the outcome of the decisions of claims and objections leading to publication of final NRC may prefer an appeal before the Foreigners Tribunal constituted under the Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964 within a period of one hundred and twenty days from the date of such order. On the disposal of appeal by the tribunals the names shall be included or deleted, as the case may be, in the NRC.”
The Home Affairs Ministry also provided that around two hundred appellate Foreigners Tribunals have been established in 2019, in addition to the already existing 100 tribunals. It also stated, “State Government of Assam has made necessary arrangements to provide legal aid to the needy people amongst those excluded from final NRC by providing all assistance through the District Legal Services Authorities.”
Interestingly, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has filed a petition before Guwahati High Court seeking directions to the state to formulate effective and robust modalities for legal aid in terms of having trained panels of lawyers and adequate front offices in light of the impending appeals to be filed before Foreigners Tribunals by people from marginalised sections to prove their citizenship. The court has issued notice on the plea and the matter is slated to be heard on April 5, 2021.
CJP had also conducted an independent survey in 10 districts of Assam to assess the preparedness of District Legal Services Authorities (DSLA) which revealed that the front offices were either not present or the ones that had front offices were inadequate in terms of space and staff.
In September last year, the Bharatiya Gorkha Parisangha (BGP) that claims to represent over 10.5 million members of the Gorkha community across 22 Indian states, had announced that they will boycott the process laid down for people left out of the final NRC. They had planned to not defend their citizenship before foreigners’ tribunals, calling the process an insult to their identity as Indians.
The answer may be read here: