Know all about the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

With the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 turning into an Act, there’s a sense of confusion among many that the CAA and NRC will deny citizenship to certain existing Indian citizens or it is against Indian Muslims. On the contrary, the two – one now an Act, and the other a proposal, are as different as chalk and cheese in National Register of Citizens

What is NRC?

NRC is the National Register of Citizens. The NRC identifies illegal immigrants from Assam on the Supreme Court’s order. This has been a state-specific exercise to keep its ethnic uniqueness unaltered. But ever since its implementation, there has been a growing demand for its nationwide implementation.

In the amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 in 2003, Section 14A had been inserted. Section 14A relates to the issue of national identity cards. According to Section 14A of the Citizenship Act, “the Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue a national identity card to him.” The same Section 14A of the Citizenship Act says, “The Central Government may maintain a National Register of Indian Citizens and for that purpose establish a National Registration Authority.”

What is new about NRC?

Home Minister Amit Shah has proposed that the NRC in Assam be implemented across India. It effectively suggests to bring in legislation that will enable the government to identify infiltrators who have been living in India illegally. To detain them and deport them to where they came from.

While the finalization of the National Register of Citizens (NRCNSE 2.22 %) is at an advanced stage in Assam, the Home Ministry is working on modalities to implement across the country the exercise to identify illegal immigrants for deportation.

Is there a link between the CAA and NRC?

The two have no connection. The NRC is a count of legitimate Indian citizens. Barring the state of Assam, this exercise has never been done anywhere in the country. Union home minister Amit Shah has said he will frame a nationwide NRC by 2024 to detect illegal migrants.

The Home Ministry clarified that the CAA has nothing to do with the NRC. The Ministry stated that the legal provisions of NRC have been a part of the Citizenship Act, 1955 since December 2004. The provisions govern the process of registration of Indian citizens and the issuance of national identity cards to them. The Ministry said that the CAA has not altered the legal provisions in any way.

How to prove to be an Indian under NRC?

The Union home ministry had framed the rules for a nationwide NRC in 2003, following an amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955. These rules categorically state that the central government shall, for the purpose of the NRC, carry out a house-to-house enumeration. For a collection of specified particulars relating to each family and individual residing in a local area, including the citizenship status.

So, unlike what many are claiming, people will not need to submit documents relating to their grandparents. Just like people present their identity cards or any other document for registering their names in the voter list or getting an Aadhaar card, similar documents will need to be provided for the NRC. Any document related to date and place of birth will suffice as proof of citizenship.

If a person is illiterate and does not have the relevant documents, the authorities will allow them to bring a witness. Other evidence and community verification will be in consideration. 

However, the decision on what documents will be acceptable is still pending. They are likely to include voter ID cards, passports, the Aadhaar card, driving licenses, insurance papers, birth certificates, school-leaving certificates, documents relating to land or home or other government-issued documents.

Does NRC exclude Muslims?

No. Even in Assam, of the 1.9 million people excluded from the NRC, 1.3 million are Hindu. And also from indigenous tribes, as unofficial sources confirm. That also explains why the BJP has rejected the NRC in Assam. A scrutiny of the 2003 guidelines for a nationwide NRC reveals that there is no provision that can exclude a legal Muslim citizen from the NRC. But the CAA does exclude Muslims.

The CAA excludes Muslim immigrants who have entered India illegally, not legal Indian Muslim citizens. However, since the CAA will provide citizenship to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three countries. Only Muslim immigrants will be left out when the NRC is rolled out.

What will happen after nationwide NRC?

As proposed, if a nationwide NRC comes in place, the affected will be detained. And taken to large detention centers, as it is happening in Assam. After that, the Ministry of External Affairs will get in touch with the concerned nations. If the details of the detained are matched and accepted by the concerned nations, deportations will follow.

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