GUWAHATI: 2017 is ending with a note of hope for Bengali speaking Muslims in Assam who are optimistic that the first draft of the National Register of Citizens will once and for all remove the Bangladeshi tag. The draft is to be published on the midnight of December 31, as the result of an exercise to compile in the names of Indian citizens.

Assam has been the centre of bloody agitations on the illegal migrants issue. This is at the crux of politics and polarisation in the state.

“We are just waiting for an error-free NRC. I hope the humiliation we have been facing so far will come to end,” Shahjahan Ali Ahmed, 52, a villager in a remote area on the bank of river Brahmaputra told The Citizen.

The last NRC dates back to 1951 following the census of that year. It was prepared then by recording the particulars of all the persons enumerated during that census. Unique to the state of Assam, this document was prepared to distinguish Indian citizens from illegal migrants from then East Pakistan.

Now, the updated NRC is expected to include the names of those persons or their descendants whose names appeared in the NRC, 1951 or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to March 25 of 1971 or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to midnight of the same period, which would prove their presence in Assam.

Ahmed said that they have often been attacked as Bangladeshi because of their religion.

“This has been a long phenomenon. Every now and then whenever we go out seeking our livelihood, we Muslims have been tagged as Bangladeshi. But once the NRC is completed, we hope that no one will ever call us Bangladeshi again,”Ahmed said.

Kazi Neel, a community worker in Barpeta said that the NRC could provide a huge relief and free the community from the tag that has been used to harass them for decades since.

“Now, at least the term Bangladeshi, will not be used to address the poor Muslims. The poor Muslims living in the char (riverside) areas often go out of their villages in search of jobs but they are targeted as Bangladeshi migrants. Unfortunately, several such incidents have taken place across the state,”Neel said.

The process is being done under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court which has set December 31 midnight as the deadline, after a series of bipartite and tripartite meetings with the central government, state government and All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) besides other organizations.

The first part of the draft containing the names of Indian citizens from among 2.38 crore of the state's 3.14-crore population, whose citizenship claims has been verified so far.

The state coordinator of the NRC update Prateek Hajela said that the second draft will be prepared after further verification of the remaining 47 lakh persons, whose parental linkage is doubtful. Apart from that the 29 lakh married women whose panchayat certificates have been declared valid recently by the Supreme Court, will also be verified in the second draft.

Earlier, though the Gauhati High Court had invalidated the panchayat certificate to prove the family linkage, the apex court’s verdict legalised it.

AASU had initiated six-year long anti-foreigners in 1979 before signing the Assam Accord with the Centre. According to the Assam Accord, anybody who has entered the country after March 25 of 1971, irrespective of their religion, caste and creed are illegal citizens.