The updated final NRC, which validates bonafide Indian citizens of Assam, was released on Saturday, with the authority conducting the exercise shutting out the citizenship claims of over 19 lakh applicants who now face an uncertain future. A total of 3,30,27,661 people had applied to be included in the NRC. Of them, 3,11,21,004 have been included in the document and 19,06,657 excluded, a statement from the NRC State Coordinator's office said.
Those who have been excluded from the National Register of Citizens have 120 days to appeal against it at Foreigners Tribunals. If not satisfied with the verdict of the tribunals, they will have the option to move the High Court and the Supreme Court for redress.
The opposition expressed concern over the exclusion of over 19 lakh people from the final list and said steps should be taken to ensure that no Indian citizen is left out, while the state BJP said it does not trust the updated list and a legislation will be brought to safeguard the interest of genuine applicants.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi held discussions with top functionaries on issues related to the National Register of Citizens (NRC), after the updated final list of the register was released on Saturday, and leaders said the party stands by those excluded and will provide them legal aid.
While AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi attacked the Centre saying the 'myth' of 40 lakh illegal migrants in the state has been busted with the updated list excluding 19 lakh people, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee alleged that "it is a plot to drive out Bengalis from Assam".
Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said his party will stand by all those genuine citizens who have been left out of the NRC and will continue to fight for them and provide legal aid,
He was speaking after Gandhi held discussions with senior Congress leaders, including former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mukul Sangma and Gaurav Gogoi.
"The NRC has come out after an extensive exercise monitored by the Supreme Court. We are demanding that genuine citizens should not be left out. We are putting pressure for including them in the NRC," Chowdhury told news agency PTI.
The CPI(M) said the exclusion of over 19 lakh people from the NRC in Assam has raised fears of legitimate citizens being left out of the document.
In a statement, its politburo said it was important now to ensure that all genuine citizens of the country, who had failed to make it to the list, were included. The government should spell out what would be the status and rights of those who were excluded, the CPI(M) said.
"Till their appeals are heard and the process is completed, the status quo should be maintained with regard to their existing rights and facilities. In Assam, an all-party meeting must be convened to discuss the matter," it added.
CPI general secretary D Raja said the BJP is trying to polarize the issue. "The tribunals which has been set up (to hear cases of those excluded) should have judicial powers otherwise it is of no use. The government should consult all political parties before taking a final decision," he said.
Former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi accused the ruling BJP of failing to ensure a free and fair NRC even with the entire administrative machinery at its disposal.
"I am not happy with the way the NRC has been published with names of genuine Indian citizens left out and foreigners included", he said.
Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said district-wise details of people have been sought from party leaders in Assam. "Every section of Assam is unhappy with the status of the NRC. Even BJP ministers are complaining," he said.
His party colleague Mukul Sangma said the NRC is an exercise under the Assam Accord and " the stand of the Congress is very clear that the rights of real citizen should be safeguarded".
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose TMC has been one of the most voracious critics of the citizens' register, said "It is a plot to drive out Bengalis from Assam. How can the government be so insensitive that on one fine morning it is declaring citizens, who have been living in Assam for last several decades, as foreigners."
Targeting the Centre, AIMIM leader Owaisi said, "First of all, it is for the Home Minister to clarify. Because Mr Amit Shah had made a speech in which he said there are 40 lakh 'ghuspeti' (intruder, infiltrator) in Assam.
"I want to know from him...does he still stand by his comment that there are 40 lakh ghuspeti?" he said.
The ruling BJP in Assam said they do not trust the updated NRC, specifically prepared for Assam, and appealed the party governments, both at the centre and the state, to go for a nationwide NRC.
"We do not trust this NRC. We are very unhappy. We appeal the central and state governments to prepare a national level NRC," BJP Assam president Ranjeet Kumar Dass sa
"If we see that Foreigners Tribunals are delivering adverse judgments on the appeals by genuine Indian citizens, we will not wait for the entire 19 lakh cases to be disposed of. We will bring in a legislation and make an act to protect them," he asserted.
Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a member of the ruling alliance in Assam, expressed dissatisfaction over the final NRC and said there is scope for its review in the Supreme Court, which supervised the updation process.
The number of exclusions appear to be "ridiculously small", AGP president and state Agriculture Minister Atul Bora said.
In a shift of stand over the NRC update in Assam, the AIUDF thanked Supreme Court for taking the initiative to ascertain genuine citizens.
The influential students' body AASU said it will move the Supreme Court for remedial measures to remove faults and discrepancies in this NRC.
The updated final NRC, which validates bonafide Indian citizens of Assam, was released on Saturday, with the authority conducting the exercise shutting out the citizenship claims of over 19 lakh applicants who now face an uncertain future.
(With PTI inputs)