Citizenship and Related Issues

Explained: Can India really deport illegal immigrants after the final NRC list?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC, Assam Accord

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • Recently Home Minister in Rajya Sabha informed that the government would deport illegal immigrants from “every inch of the country’s soil”.
  • This comes weeks ahead of the scheduled publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

NRC Issue: Quick Recap

  • As per directions of the SC, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year.
  • It aimed to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
  • Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year.
  • The NRC is fallout of the Assam Accord, 1985. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.
  • There are around 4 lakh residents who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from the final draft of the NRC.

How many face deportation?

  • The number of people being left out of the NRC is not yet final, and it is not clear if any of them can be deported at all.
  • The final draft NRC had left out 40 lakh applicants. Another 1 lakh, originally among the 2.89 crore included in that draft, were removed after subsequent verification.
  • There could be more deletions as objections have been filed. There are likely be some additions, too.
  • The final NRC is scheduled on July 31. Those left out will have a series of options for appeal, which is a long haul.
  • Only after that will the question of deportation come up, if at all.

What makes deportation so uncertain?

  • For a country to be able to deport a mass of individuals to another country, the second country has to accept that they were its citizens who entered the first country illegally.
  • According to government data until February 2019, Assam has since 2013 deported 166 persons (162 “convicted” and four “declared”) including 147 to Bangladesh.
  • The NRC context is vastly different: this is not about a few hundred but lakhs of individuals, many of whom have lived in Assam for decades and been identifying themselves as Indian citizens.

Bangladeshi un-acceptance

  • Over the years, Bangladeshi leaders have frequently been quoted in the media as denying the presence of its nationals in India.
  • Besides, there have been no visible recent efforts by India to push the matter with Bangladesh.
  • In fact, India is understood to have conveyed to Bangladesh, just before the final draft NRC was published, that there was no talk of deportation.
  • This was an effort directed at addressing a friendly neighbour’s concerns about the prospect, even if it was a theoretical one, of being flooded with a mass of deportees.

If not deportation, then what?

  • The various points of appeal imply that the process of establishing citizenship or illegal stay in Assam could take years, if not decades.
  • First, there are the quasi-judicial Foreigners Tribunals, which those left out of the final NRC will approach.
  • If their claim is rejected again, they have the option of approaching the High Court and the Supreme Court.
  • In between, there is the prospect of being sent to one of the six existing detention camps, or one of the 10 being planned.
  • These have often come into focus for lack of basic facilities, and the apex Court recently allowed conditional release of those who have completed three years in detention, against a bond.

Way Forward

  • For lakhs of people, what the future holds is uncertain as ever.
  • Only a long court battle is certain, while a stateless identity with curtailed rights is a possibility.
  • Deportation, if it ever happens, appears a long way away.
  • The deportation to detention camps is very inhumane. They should be given basic human rights.
  • Identity of such persons should be digitally recorded and they should not be allowed to claim Indian citizenship in other states.
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