The task of updating the tiol Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951 has undergone a series of delays. This is rather unfortute, considering that updating the NRC is an important exercise aimed at identifying origil residents of Assam in order to check illegal immigration. It is ironical that the updating of the NRC should be going on even at the time when the Union government is determined to grant citizenships to Hindus migrating from neighbouring countries, particularly from Bangladesh. Be that as it may, the vital task of updating the NRC would have got further delayed had the Supreme Court not intervened and taken a hand in the matter. Since then, the Supreme Court has been supervising the work of updating the NRC. It has even maged to get the additiol funds that have been needed for the work from time to time from the Union government. However, of late there have been clear indications that the Union government is not particularly keen on continuing the task of updating the NRC, 1951. This is not entirely surprising, considering that the present NDA government is far more interested in ensuring a Hindu majority in Assam, rather than evincing any concern for what happens to the future of the origil residents of Assam. There is legitimate concern here about the Assamese people being reduced to a minority in their own State. In fact, had the Supreme Court not decided to monitor the task of updating the NRC, 1951, the work might have got delayed much further or might have even been given up altogether by the State government that has been unwilling to take up the work.
It is the sense of patriotism and urgency evinced by the Supreme Court that has made the updating of the NRC possible in rather adverse conditions. It has so far monitored the work of updating the NRC with greater competence than might have been expected had the task been left to the State government. The Supreme Court has been fairly considerate about the reasons of delay in the completion of the task as well as about the need for additiol funds. Taking into account the additiol time required for the proper revision of the data available with the coorditor of the task, the Supreme Court had even agreed to extend the date of completion of the task to March 2018. It was at this state that Assam Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal announced that he had revised the date for the preparation of the NRC in Assam to 31 December 2017. This is something that seems to have annoyed the Supreme Court. A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Fali riman said recently that the Supreme Court did not appreciate any other authority intervening in the NRC preparation process, when the court itself was monitoring it. “We don’t appreciate any other authority intervening in the matter of preparation and publication of the draft NRC, when this Court has been monitoring the process,” the bench said. “We have a statement of the Assam Chief Minister that he has revised the date (for the preparation of NRC in Assam) to December 31. When the Supreme Court is monitoring how can another agency intervene?” Justice Gogoi asked. Referring to the statement of the Chief Minister that the NRC would be published by December 2017, the bench of the apex court remarked, “Let him supervise then. We will wash off our hands.” In the ultimate alysis, these remarks should be seen more as the Supreme Court’s dissatisfaction at other authorities intervening in the process of the NRC updating. This is a justified expression of resentment, considering that when the State government was left to undertake the task on its own, it wasted many years without doing anything about updating the NRC. That the Supreme Court is genuinely interested in the completion of the work as expeditiously as possible should be evident from the fact that despite its resentment at what it considers exterl intervention in the work of updating the NRC, it said in its latest order, “Be that as it may, we now understand that the draft NRC would be ready by December 31, 2017. Accordingly, all budgetary allocations are approved.” The updating of the NRC is seen as a major threat to all illegal migrants to Assam. Nothing would give them greater happiness than some means of derailing this work. This is something that has to be prevented at all costs. It is also important to ensure that there is no further delay in the publication of the updated NRC beyond December 31, 2017.