At upwards of four million, the number of those excluded from the second draft of the National Register of Citizens published on Monday has sparked great anxiety about the legal status of so many individuals. As with the first list published on December 31, 2017, the publication of the final draft before the Supreme Court-mandated and monitored exercise moves to the next phase of claims and objections wasn’t accompanied by major turbulence. And this despite lingering doubts over whether the process was indeed foolproof, or even warranted. Causes for concern have been aplenty, from the frenetic pace to meet deadlines in the face of an unrelenting apex court to the omission in July of 1,50,000 names from the 19 million that had made it to the first draft.
The state owes it to those now left out, a staggering 40,07,707 persons, to ensure that their claim to citizenship is exhausted in its procedural entirety. But it also has a larger responsibility — to ensure that people who have lived here a long time, or those who know no other home, are not left high and dry in any eventuality. On that front, the Central and State governments must step up their assurances that there is no need for panic. While the modalities of a standard operating procedure for claims and objections are being worked out, to be placed before the Supreme Court by mid-August, the window for contestation could be extended by a month beyond September 28.