New Delhi: The final Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) list is out and more than 19 lakh people have been left out of it- so what does this mean?

First of all, no person who has been left out will be sent to a detention centre, labelled a ‘foreigner’ or deported till he/she has exhausted all legal options made available to them by the government.

The Centre has set up more than 1,000 Foreigner Tribunals where people can file claims to prove their Indian citizenship. Every person left out of the NRC is eligible to apply in the Foreigners Tribunal and the time limit to file an appeal is 120 days.

However, all those whose names did not appear in the list today are staring at a long legal battle.

According to the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a non-governmental organisation, which has in the past helped people left out of the NRC draft file claims of citizenship- the legal route to prove one’s nationality could be costly with bills running up to lakhs.

A News18 report quoted an Assam State Coordinator of CJP Zamser Ali, “It may cost each claimant from minimum Rs 40,000 to several lakhs if he or she needs to take the battle to the Supreme Court. The applicant would have to bear the cost of both legal and administrative proceedings normally. While the legal expenses include the lawyer’s fees, the administrative expense would cover other paperwork and collection of relevant documents.”

He added, “Our legal team and volunteers will assist all those genuine citizens, based on the cutoff date of March 24, 1971, who might be left out of the NRC final list. The CJP has around 500 members, including lawyers, working to help the ‘genuine’ Indian citizens who might become victims due to some technical errors.”

However, many organisations have come forward offering help free of cost or on a minimal fee.

In addition, the state government too has announced free legal services to those whose name did not appear in the final Assam NRC.

The News18 report also quoted an anonymous source, “A provision has to be made by the state government by notification to include this category of people (NRC dropouts) as eligible to avail of the free legal service.”

Earlier a person declared a foreigner was immediately arrested and sent into custody to one of the six detention centres set up inside district and central jails- but now as per the Supreme Court order, those who have been in detention for three years or more can be released on bail, signed by two Indian citizens.

The citizens’ registry was released online around 10 am, ending six years of speculation over the exercise that identifies illegal foreigners living in the Assam.

The NRC has immense significance for the people of Assam as the state witnessed a six-year-long movement between 1979 to 1985 seeking detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshis.