Considering the ture and intensity of demographic changes in Assam, the work of updating the tiol Register of Citizens (NRC), 1951 has been deemed one of the most vital tasks undertaken by the government. One cannot afford to overlook the fact that this demographic change has been brought about mainly by large-scale illegal immigration from neighbouring countries like Bangladesh. In fact, almost the entire bulk of illegal migrants who have radically altered the demographic picture of the State in about 10 districts so far are from Bangladesh. For years together, the Congress government in Assam did everything possible to prevent (or at least delay) the work of updating the NRC, 1951. The earlier target date of 2007 kept getting revised time and again due to the machitions of the Congress. Ultimately the Supreme Court took a hand in the matter to ensure that such a vital task for the State of Assam did not get permanently sabotaged. In 2014, it issued a directive that the task be taken up in a right earnest. The Supreme Court also undertook the task of monitoring the work. As a result, the work of updating the NRC not only got started but made rapid progress thereafter. Even so, there were unforeseen problems relating mainly to the careful revision of the data that took up much more time than was expected. In addition, there was a general impression that neither the NDA government at the Centre nor the newly elected BJP-led State government of Assam were too keen on the updating of the NRC of 1951. The general impression was that the Centre was none too pleased with the people’s rejection of the new Citizenship Act in Assam. However, neither the Centre nor the State government could afford to do anything that could be construed as going counter to be directives of the Supreme Court in respect of the updating of the NRC, 1951. After a few extensions of the deadline for completing the updating work, the Supreme Court had fixed January 2016 at the deadline for completing the work. Later on, even this revised deadline had to be extended once again. However, the Supreme Court did not take kindly to Assam Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal’s statement of last month that the draft NRC would be published by December 31, 2017.
There is no denying that the updating of the NRC 1951 is a stupendous task, and that those closely connected with the work might have underestimated the magnitude of the task when the work of updating was started. About 68 lakh individuals had applied to have their mes included in the updated NRC. This generated about 6.5 crore documents received by the State Coorditor’s office. But the number of documents apart, there is now a source of delay in the completion of the work which might not have been entirely anticipated. This delay has been caused by the Coorditor’s office deciding to accept documents relating to the family trees of individuals. It has been discovered that the documents submitted by about 50 lakh applicants pertaining to their family trees are inconsistent, if not totally erroneous and of a suspicious ture. In fact, the very decision to accept documents relating to family trees might have been an unfortute one for such an exercise. The decision probably stemmed from the standard attitude within the government to the acceptance of data furnished by citizens. Unlike the prevailing attitude in most civilized countries of trusting statements made by citizens, the typical attitude of government officials in India is based on mistrust. Quite turally, therefore, government officials and departments have much more work to do in verifying statements made by citizens. This is what happened to the updating of the NRC of 1951. All that was really needed was the mes of grandparents and great grandparents without the need for elaborate documents relating to family trees. Even now, those working on the updating the NRC 1951 can decide to accept statements made by individuals about their grandparents and great grandparents. There is actually no need to go beyond the great grandparents of any individual in order to arrive at a reliable revised draft NRC. There is still time for incorporating sensible changes that will save everyone a great deal of time and money.