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‘Children of Indian citizens not to go to detention centres’

New Delhi, Jan 6:  The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that children, whose parents have been given citizenship through NRC, will not be separated from their families and sent to the detention centres in Assam.

Advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for Citizens of Justice & Peace – a public trust, filed an application, citing how the final list NRC in Assam published on August 31, 2019, has unreasonably and unfairly excluded the names of certain sections of persons, which essentially results in violation of the basic principle of family unification by excluding members of a family.

“The present application concerns cases of children even when their parents and, in some instances, the relatives/guardians of the children are part of the NRC,” said the application.

Bhat contended before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant that nearly 60 children have been excluded from Assam NRC, despite having in possession of the requisite documentation connected with the NRC process, while, on the contrary, their parents were included.

“Almost three months after the publication of the NRC Final List, the state of Assam is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis as a direct result of these mass exclusions,” said the application, citing three instances where families have been divided as a result of the children being excluded to illustrate the arbitrary manner in which the NRC process has been undertaken.

At this, the apex court recorded Attorney General K.K. Venugopal’s undertaking stating that children excluded from the NRC but whose parents have been given citizenship will not be sent to detention centres in Assam.

Venugopal also informed the court that 19 lakh have been excluded from final NRC.

The apex court issued notice to the Centre and Assam on a plea alleging children being sent to detention centres after the NRC.

The application highlighted gamut of issues pertaining to publication of final list of NRC specifically for children from marginalised families — Parents excluded from the NRC Final List when children are included; Children excluded from the NRC Final List even as their parents and relatives are included; Children excluded from the NRC Final List who are from disconnected families and stay with close or distant relatives; and Orphaned children excluded from the NRC Final List who do not reside in state orphanages or homes.

“Allow the present Application and direct the office of the Coordinator to immediately take steps to ensure that no child is left out of the NRC especially in cases where the parents/guardians/caregivers are in the list”, said the application.

The application said the data suggests that almost 100 people have lost their lives as a direct result of the citizenship issues involved in the publication of the NRC which include 27 recorded deaths in Assam’s detention camps. It also claimed that there are already around 1,100 detainees in the state’s six detention centres located in Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Silchar, Jorhat, Tezpur and Dibrugarh.