What is NRC?

NRC stands for the National Register of Citizens that contains the names of Indian citizens. The set up of NRC got mandate after the 2003 Amendment of The Citizenship Act 1955. The 2003 amendment commands the central government to constitute a national register to keep record about the citizens of India. The same amendment also consists of a clause that prescribes the process to compose NRC and establish the NRA. The NRC was first devised for the whole country in 1951 to identify the illegal immigrants residing in the newly independent India. Since then, the first NRC has not been updated, until recently. NRC has come to light lately after the Supreme Court of India passed a decree in 2013 to begin the updating process in the North-Indian state of Assam. In December 2019, the Home Minister of India expressed his wish to implement the updation of NRC nation-wide by 2021. However, the central government is yet to take any step in that direction.

NRC in Assam

Assam became the first state of India where the updation of the National Register of Citizens 1951 began right after the 2013 order of the Supreme Court of India. The entire process was meant to list the names of people or their descendants appearing in 1951 NRC or any electoral rolls up to 24th March 1971. The prime motive to begin the process in Assam was to identify foreign nationals residing in India unlawfully.

The 1951 NRC contains the names of every person enumerated in the 1951 Census. The recent procedure conducted in Assam was entirely application-based. Over 33 million people had to prove their legacy by quoting names of oneself/parents/ancestors in any admissible documents specified by the government to support claims of Indian citizenship. This factor became the sole basis to include one’s name in the updated NRC. The entire procedure lasted for more than 5 years and the final NRC of Assam was published on 31st August 2019. Nearly 2 million applicants were excluded from the final list.

NRC Updating Process in Assam

  1. Publication of Legacy Data- Copies of 1951 NRC along with the copies of available Electoral Rolls up to 1971 were mentioned as the Legacy Data.
  2. Distribution of Application Form- The form was distributed house to house by government officials.
  3. Receipt of Application Form
  4. Verification
  5. Release of Draft NRC
  6. Receipt and Redressal of Claims and Objections
  7. Publication of final NRC on 31st August 2019

What is Nation-Wide NRC?

The Minister of Home Affairs of India has expressed the desire to implement the updating of NRC on a pan-Indian level. No steps have been taken so far to put this into effect.

What is CAA?

The Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), 2019 became The Citizenship (Amendment) Act on 12th December 2019 after receiving the assent of the President of India. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was introduced in the lower house of Indian Parliament on 9th December 2019 as CAB to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955. The CAB was first introduced in Lok Sabha in 2016 but was stalled by the Rajya Sabha. The CAB was reintroduced in 2019 with some new provisions and was cleared for voting in the 17th Lok Sabha. The 2019 Bill was passed by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on 10th and 11th December 2019 respectively. Thereafter, the bill was sent to the office of Indian President for receiving the assent.

A new clause is now inserted in the 1955 Citizenship Act that grants Indian citizenship to refugees of five persecuted religions from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. As per this clause, any individual belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community, who entered into India on or before the 31st December 2014 will not be treated as an illegal migrant. The amendment does not include Muslim refugees.

The 2019 Bill also introduced changes in provisions related to Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cardholders. The OCI registration of any person can be cancelled if he/she is found violating provisions of the CAA 2019 or any other law.

Who will be affected?

NRC- Any foreigner living in India illegally will be deported or detained in detention centres.

CAA- Any refugee, belonging to either of the five listed religious communities, who fled to India on or before 31st December 2014 from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Is NRC connected to CAA?

The widespread rumours of the CAA being connected with NRC caused the Central Government to issue a list of FAQs. As per the FAQ document, there is no connection between CAA and NRC. While the CAA is a separate law, the NRC is a separate process. The CAA 2019 has already come into force whereas the pan-India NRC is yet to become a reality.

Timeline of NRC

1951– Publication of First NRC after Census

1980– All Assam Students Union (AASU) submitted the memorandum demanding to update NRC

1985– Assam Accord signed between the Government of India and Government of Assam

2003Citizenship Amendment Act of 1955 amended; paved way for NRC

2013– Supreme Court of India ordered to start the NRC updation process in Assam

2015– Process began in February

2017– Publication of First NRC Draft on 31st December

2018– Publication of Final NRC Draft on 31st July

2019– Publication of Final NRC on 31st August

Timeline of CAA

July 2016– CAB introduced in Lok Sabha for the first time

Jan 2019– Bill lapsed with the dissolution of 16th Lok Sabha

Dec 2019

4th–  CAB cleared for voting in 17th Lok Sabha

9th– CAB 2019 Introduced with new provisions by the Home Minister in Lok Sabha

10th– Passed by Lok Sabha

11th– Passed by Rajya Sabha

12th– Received assent of President of India


Some of the important questions from the government FAQs on NRC are as follows:

Question: Should Indian Muslims worry about NRC and CAA?

Ans. No Indian citizens of any religious community should be anxious about either NRC or CAA.

Question: Will the government decide the citizenship of every individual?

Ans. The decision of an individual’s citizenship will rely on the Citizenship Rules 2009, whose foundation and structure lies on The Citizenship Act 1955. The central government lists 5 ways by which a person can identify oneself as an Indian citizen:

  1. Citizenship by Birth
  2. Citizenship by Descent
  3. Citizenship by Registration
  4. Citizenship by Naturalization
  5. Citizenship by incorporation

Question: Does the Indian government require you to furnish details related to your parents’ birth to prove Indian citizenship?

Ans. It is sufficient for an individual if he/she can provide the details related to his/Her birthplace, birth date, month and year. The government is yet to decide on the list of admissible documents. Some of the documents that can prove one’s citizenship are:

Birth Certificates, Passports, Aadhaar Card, voter cards, Licenses, Documents related to land or any other similar documents issued by government officials. The list will most probably include more documents to ensure fairness in the process.

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