The National Register of Citizens (NRC), the final updated version of citizenship records in Assam, will be published on August 31 “irrespective of who likes it or who doesn’t”, as the Supreme Court put it last week. But for a large number of people—out of a rough estimate of around four million expected to be stripped of their Indian citizenship—it will only reboot a long-drawn-out process that has haunted them for years. For those who call themselves khilonjiya or native Assamese, the final NRC should have meant a closure to the single-most important issue for the state—illegal immigration. For the so-called neutral observers in this great game, it’s a humanitarian crisis of immense magnitude, an alleged witch-hunt by a right-leaning government against the Muslim community.
The biggest question, perhaps, lies in what has not been said yet: what will happen to the people who lose the battle? The government has not spelt it out so far. Bangladesh—the country from where the illegal settlers are said to have travelled—has consistently denied illegal entry of its citizens into India. Nor can the government keep so many people in detention centres or jails. So the question remains, where will the people go? Solicitor general Tushar Mehta refused to answer the question as the “matter is sub judice”; the Supreme Court is monitoring the NRC update process. “It is not appropriate to pre-empt or comment on the final outcome. I am sure the government will deal with the matter with sensitivity and in keeping with conventions,” he tells Outlook.