NATIONAL REGISTER OF CITIZENS AND ARTICLE 35-A: An Introduction
Assam is the sole state in India having a National Register of Citizens (NRC). Prepared in 191, it is a list which identifies and considers who is a citizen of Assam. The NRC process has been incorporated to identify and describe illegal migrants in the Assam. On the other hand, Article 35-A of Indian Constitution empowers and endows the Jammu and Kashmir legislative body to define permanent residents of the state. It was inserted and introduced in the constitution of India through the presidential order of 1954. Both NRC and Article 35- A, therefore, provide and furnish the citizenry test in states of Assam and Jammu & Kashmir respectively.
WHO ARE PERMENANT CITIZENS IN THE TWO STATES?
The Citizenship Act of 1955 was amended after the Assam Accord for all Indian-origin people who came from Bangladesh before January 1, 1966 to be deemed as citizens. Those who came between January 1, 1966 and March 25, 1971 were eligible for citizenship after registering and living in the State for 10 years while those entering after March 25, 1971, were to be deported. On a different footing, Jammu and Kashmir Assembly defined the ‘Permanent Resident’ as a person who was a state subject on May 14, 1954 or who had been a resident of the state for 10 years and has “lawfully acquired immovable property in the state.”
ILLEGAL MIGRANTS IN STATE OF ASSAM
Most of the illegal migrants in Assam came after 1971 war between Bangladesh and Pakistan, and most of them happen to be from Bangladesh. First draft NRC, a list of state’s citizens for Assam was published in December, last year. The second and final draft published on Monday morning left around four million people from the citizenry list.
ILLEGAL MIGRANTS IN STATE OF JAMMU AND KASHMIR
On the other hand, unspecified number of refugees came from West Pakistan during partition to Jammu & Kashmir and living here, since then. The Home Ministry had, in May 2015, told Parliament that 5754 WPR families had registered in Jammu region on their arrival in 1947. However, organizations representing WPRs say the refugee population has risen to 300,000. Moreover, more than 10,000 Rohingya Muslims belonging to Myanmar are currently living in Jammu and Kashmir.
JK: Refugee v Refugee
The government of India welcomes, West Pakistan refugees, almost all Hindus, who came to Jammu & Kashmir at the time of Partition while on the other hand, raises alarm bells on “increasing number” of Rohingya Muslim refugees in the state. Muslim refugees from Myanmar have been coming to Jammu for the past several years. On March 23, 2018, Revenue officials detected many West Pakistan Refugees enjoying state subject privileges.
CITIZENLY TRIAL AND DOUBLE STANDARDS
On one hand, New Delhi welcomed the NRC move. Rajnath Singh said the NRC was being demanded in Assam for a long time and the previous state government had set up foreign tribunals following the Supreme Court order. And on the other hand, it is adamant upon removing Article 35-A. Centre earlier decided not to file counter-affidavit on Article 35-A. Of the four petitioners challenging the Article 35A is an RSS-linked NGO, We the Citizen. Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal has called for a debate in the Supreme Court on the sensitive subject. The Supreme Court of India has asked parties to complete pleadings in the case on August 6.
BOTTOMLINE: New Delhi is favouring ‘Hindu-Bengalis’ and sidelining ‘Muslim-Bengalis’ who are ‘foreigners’. Similarly, Article 35-A is being tinkered with , apparently because Jammu & Kashmir is a Muslim majority state. All eyes on 2019 Lok Sabha elections the centre is finding a right place and smells opportunity. The distinction between Assam and Jammu & Kashmir, ruling party is making is not on any merits but on communal grounds.
– The author is a student of Law at the Department of Legal Studies, Centre University of Kashmir. He blogs at: http://AbrarReyaz.wordpress.com and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org