Note: The PUCL National Executive Committee during their meeting on 30th June and 1st July, 2018 had also discussed the serious situation existing in Assam pursuant to the exercise of the Government of Assam to create the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and heightened insecurity amongst members belonging to the minority community that this was an attempt to delegitimize them and to declare them ot be aliens and pushed out of the country, where they have been residing, in many instances for the last 40 to 50 years, if not more. We share the text of the Resolution that was prepared.
The PUCL is extremely anxious and concerned by the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which is the register containing the names of Indian citizens in the State of Assam. We fear large scale manipulation in the verification system which may exclude genuine Indian citizens, separate families, from the updated NRC, particularly, Muslims and people of Bengali descent, who also include a large number of Dalits who maybe declared non-citizens and non- Indian Nationals.
The PUCL is extremely worried at the consequence of this exercise of establishing legacy data which is happening in the most arbitrary manner with the sufferers being women and children in large numbers. Our fear is that such people will be excluded as they have been disproportionately targeted and affected by the Tribunals wherein the onus and burden of proof is placed on the accused to establish their citizenship status through documentation, consequently reducing them to foreigner and stateless people. Their status will be recorded as “pending” until their citizenship has been determined by a Foreigners’ Tribunal. It is therefore alleged that these orders may lead to the wrongful exclusion of close to several lakh people, from the NRC, without a prior investigation and trial.
The PUCL is concerned that even in the past when almost two thousand people were declared as foreigners or Stateless, they were put in detention centres, which was a part of the existing jail. Apart from there being no clear legal regime governing the rights and entitlements of detainees, they are living in the most dehumanized living conditions, apart from the separation of families, there are no facilities of recreation, no waged work only indefinite incarceration. For many of them its more than 9 years since they have even been denied the basic rights of meeting their kin, as these detention centres are outside the purview of the jail manual.
And now the country’s largest detention centre is being created to house the first 1.5 lakh people whose names may not included in the first list which is to be submitted in the Supreme Court. As stated by the special monitor of the NHRC on minorities, the “Indian state must therefore Establish a long term policy and clear Legal Regime in Conformity with Article 21 and International Law in particular the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Guidelines on the Applicable Criteria and Standards relating to the Detention of Asylum-Seekers and Alternatives to Detention, 2012”.
“Immigrants are not criminals” is an understanding of international law. The PUCL urges the Supreme Court which is monitoring this updation and the Government of India and Assam to prevent large scale human rights violations of the people of Bengali descent and minorities and take a humanitarian point of view to the situation and let the people live a life of dignity.