‘Citizenship eligibility is not familybased’
Prateek Hajela, State Coordinator of the National Register of Citizens in Assam, has become the focus of attention in connection with the updating of the citizens’ register. Hajela, a B.tech (Electronics Engineering) graduate from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and an officer of the Assam-meghalaya cadre of the Indian Administrative Service, has played a key role in shaping this gigantic technologydriven exercise. Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline:
What are the different categories of people whose names have been excluded from the complete draft?
As you are aware, the eligibility criterion is to be able to establish a linkage of one’s own [self] with that of his or her ancestors up to March 24, 1971, midnight. That is, to prove that the ancestor was residing in any part of India up to March 24, 1971. If people have not been able to establish this so far based on the various verification processes we have undertaken,
and culture of Assamese and other ethnic communities and that the updated NRC will be an important legal document for safeguarding them from illegal migration of Bangladeshis into the State. The 2011 Language Data, which was released in July, has bolstered this discourse with the data revealing a decline in Assamese language speakers from 48.80 per cent of the population in 2001 to 48.38 per cent in 2011. The percentage of Bengali speakers in Assam increased from 27.54 in 2001 to 28.91 in 2011. In 1991, the percentage of Assamese speakers in Assam was 57.81 per cent and that of Bengali speakers was 21.67 per cent.
The other discourse is the Hindu nationalist discourse of the BJP and other constituents of the Sangh their names have not appeared. [Either] a valid pre-1971 document has not been submitted or they have not been able to establish relations with that person, or the person is covered under the Supreme Court judgment of December 6, 2017, for panchayat secretary certificates and exhaustive verification that the court ordered and they have not been able to prove their eligibility in that exhaustive verification.
Parivar which singles out Muslims from erstwhile East Pakistan, that is Bangladesh, as “infiltrators” and pushes for their deportation while treating Hindus coming to Assam and other parts of India as “refugees”. In a bid to push this discourse, the Sangh Parivar has been trying to build the narrative that the Assam Accord is not sacrosanct and that the cut-off year for identification of illegal immigrants should be 1951 instead of 1971. Attempt to dilute the Assam Accord and the NRC updated on the basis of the Accord is seen as the Sangh Parivar’s desperate bid to push the Hindu nationalist discourse among Assamese and other ethnic communities and replace the identity markers of language and culture with religion. Then if the person is a “D” voter or someone whose reference is pending before foreigners tribunals, then the person and his or her descendants cannot be included.
There are apprehensions that errors in updating the NRC may lead to the breakup of families because in several families the names of some members have been excluded in the complete draft. How do you allay such fears?
Citizenship eligibility is individual. Each person must prove his or her own citizenship eligibility. It is not family based. Family is important, but it is not family based. Now, the husband can be a pre-71 person and the wife may not be a pre-71 person. Similarly, the wife can be a pre-71 person and the husband may not be a pre-71 person. So, it is not based on marriage. It is based on descendance. The wife has to prove her descendance with her ancestor separately. The husband has to prove his descendance with
Amit Shah, BJP national president, described the NRC as the “soul of the Assam Accord”. What he did not state is that the Assam Accord made no distinction of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants on the basis of religion and that is why the people of Assam overwhelmingly supported the updation of the NRC on the basis of the Assam Accord while they opposed tooth and nail all moves of the Modi government to make distinctions among illegal Bangladeshi immigrants or to grant and decide citizenship on the basis of religion.
‘D’ VOTERS EXCLUDED
Among those excluded are 2.48 lakh ‘D’ voters (D standing for doubtful or disputed) and their descendants and those whose references are pending
Interview with Prateek Hajela, State Coordinator of the National Register of Citizens in Assam.