Last week, the Supreme Court refused to be drawn into a debate over the leak of National Register of Citizens (NRC) data in Assam, stressing that it wants the final NRC out on schedule (August 31) “irrespective of who likes it or who doesn’t”. This capped a week of controversy that began with the state government tabling the data in the Assembly, and demanding reverification.
What kind of data were presented in the Assembly?
According to the government, these are from the draft final NRC published in July last year. It showed the number of people included in and excluded from the NRC in each of Assam’s 33 districts. In fact, sections of the Assamese vernacular media had published district-wise data last year itself, but the NRC authorities had never commented on their authenticity. Besides, the numbers of inclusions and exclusions will now have changed, following the processes of claims and objections.
Last year, the NRC authorities did not give a district-wise breakup and only released all-Assam totals — 3,29,91,384 applicants, out of whom 2,89,83,677 were included as citizens and 40,07,707 were left out. In the data tabled in the Assembly, the totals are slightly different — 3,29,91,385 applicants, 2,89,83,668 inclusions and 40,07,717 exclusions.
What is the significance of data broken up district-wise?
The inclusion rate is higher in Bangladesh-border districts, and lower in districts with a predominant indigenous population. The government cited these trends to claim the NRC is flawed. This argument presumes that the number of illegal immigrants will be higher in border districts. Migrants from East Bengal/East Pakistan/Bangladesh have, however, been settling in various parts of Assam for decades.
What do demographic profiles tell us about immigration?
While it is widely accepted that the migrant-origin population is predominantly Muslim, the counter-argument is that Bengali Muslims have been entering Assam since British rule. Migration is considered illegal only when someone has entered Assam after March 24, 1971. As such, the relationship between population profiles and immigration has been a subject of debate among demographers.