United Naga Council seeks NRC in Manipur

The United Naga Council, an apex body of Nagas in Manipur, has asked the State government to immediately start the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the State. About the Naga council’s ask:
  • According to the council, in the wake of the increasing influx of illegal immigrants, the NRC is the only feasible mechanism to curb the unwarranted population invasion in Manipur.
  • Manipur is inhabited by three major communities — the Meiteis, the Nagas and the Kuki-Zomis.
The Meitei and Naga communities are considered indigenous, while most of the Kuki-Zomi people are said to have settled from Myanmar.
  • The State is affected from Narco-terrorism which can be addressed by stopping illegal migration.
The National Register of Citizens (NRC):
  • National Register of Citizens, 1951 is a register prepared after the conduct of the Census of 1951 in respect of each village, showing the houses or holdings in a serial order and indicating against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein.
  • The NRC was published only once in 1951 and since then, it has not been updated until recently.
NRC and updating exercises in India:
  • Nagaland attempted a similar exercise called RIIN (Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland) in June 2019 to primarily sift the indigenous Nagas from the non-indigenous Nagas.
  • More recently, the Manipur Assembly has resolved to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and establish a State Population Commission (SPC).
It has been updated in Assam only for now and the government plans to update it nationally as well.
What an updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) will do?
  • An updated NRC is likely to put an end to speculations about the actual number of illegal migrants in Assam in particular and the country in general.
  • It will provide a verified dataset to carry out meaningful debates and implement calibrated policy measures.
  • Publication of an updated NRC is expected to deter future migrants from Bangladesh from entering Assam illegally.
  • More importantly, illegal migrants may find it even more difficult to procure Indian identity documents and avail all the rights and benefits due to all Indian citizens.
  • Inclusion of their names in the NRC will provide respite to all those Bengali speaking people in Assam who have been, hitherto, suspected as being Bangladeshis.
Challenges associated:
  • Flawed Process – People who found themselves on the first list that was released on January 1, 2018, didn’t find their names in the second. Even the family of a former President of India did not find mention on the list.
  • The parallel processes of NRC, the voters list of the Election Commission, and the Foreigners’ Tribunals with the help of the Assam Border Police, have led to utter chaos, as none of these agencies are sharing information with each other.
  • Since such ‘non citizens’ can resort to judicial relief to substantiate their citizenship claim, it can lead to overburdening of judiciary which already reels under large number of pending cases.
    • There is uncertainty about the future of those left out from the list.
  • Another option is instituting work permits, which would give them limited legal rights to work but ensure they have no political voice. However, it is not clear what will be the fate of children of such individuals.
  • With no end to uncertainty, NRC seems to be a process without an end.

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