Modi’s manifesto promise: Assam National Register of Citizens has implications for all of India

Citizenship Public administration India

Any understanding of the act of extending and strengthening Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2019 Election Manifesto, coupled with its description as the ‘resumption’ of a journey, must include a “One India” policy direction, which has already been seen in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill that awaits passage in the Rajya Sabha. The Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been completed, although appeals continue to be heard. This paper examines the operation of the Assam NRC and draws attention to the diversity of illegal migrants who were not awarded citizenship. Amendments to the Citizenship Bill, allowing citizenship to applicants from minority backgrounds other than Muslim, are a possible means to alter the outcome of NRCs. The Citizenship Bill itself, however, may arguably be deemed unconstitutional in the light of the clear values set out in the Preamble to the Constitution, and the fundamental rights that it enshrines.

Key points:

  • Action is in progress on the “One India” policies set out in Prime Minister Modi’s 2019 Election Manifesto.
  • Included in the Manifesto was a pledge to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the objective of which is to record and list Indian citizens while identifying illegal migrants and residents who cannot substantiate citizenship claims.
  • The completion of the Assam NRC has revealed the diversity of “illegal migrants” denied citizenship and who may face detention or deportation.
  • Changes broadening access to Indian citizenship contained in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2019 have not yet achieved passage through the Rajya Sabha. Enacting the Bill may have an effect on promised NRCs, resulting in fewer denials of citizenship.
  • The values expressed in the Indian Constitution may raise questions about some of the provisions in the current Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
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