Quick Take: Why Manipur's Meiteis Want NRC (Citizens' Register) Pill, Side Effects Included

The Meitei community in Manipur is asking the government to carry out the National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise to catch illegal immigrants and deport them.

The demand comes amid the ethnic violence between the Meiteis, who are the majority in the valley in and around state capital Imphal, and the Kuki tribe, who are settled in the hills. Over 90 people have died in the violence that started on May 3.

The Meiteis' demand for inclusion under the Scheduled Tribes (ST) category lit the fuse. The Kukis say the Meiteis will come like a swarm to take a big slice of the affirmative action policy.

Then the Kukis brought up their decades-old demand for a so-called "Kuki Land", now repackaged as "separate administration".

The Meiteis' campaign to be added under the ST category has gone into the background as the court case is likely to run for a long time.

Instead, the valley residents have started asking for the NRC in Manipur - this demand is in a way a counterattack to the Kukis' chatter for a separate administration.

The Meiteis have alleged a significant number of Kuki-Chin people from Myanmar have been entering Manipur illegally and making themselves comfortable in new settlements. They support this claim with population data that shows a massive rise in Kuki-Chin people population, compared to other communities. The NRC is the only way to filter out the aliens and send them back, the Meiteis have concluded.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise was first carried out in Assam in 1951. Manipur also wants the NRC to be conducted in the state to catch illegal immigrants and deport them.

The only problem is the NRC is not a magic balm that you apply and the pain vanishes. There is no proof that it will not hurt you more instead.

Assam is the only state where the NRC exercise was first carried out in 1951 based on data from independent India's first census. The NRC was also first updated between 2015 and 2019. The wreck of that process is out there for everyone to see, from media reports to the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) findings on financial and software anomalies.

"Lakhs of foreigners were included (in the NRC), while thousands of those excluded were actually Indian citizens," former NRC coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma told NDTV in December 2022. The revised Assam NRC is yet to be notified.

Thousands of people in Assam - including Hindus - who claim to be Indians and whose names did not figure in the revised NRC list are fighting their case in the foreigners' tribunals and courts.

The Meiteis' demand for the NRC exercise may be a well-meaning one, considering their worries about illegal immigrants overrunning them. But they would do well to pursue other options too, just in case the NRC kick goes sideways as it did in Assam.

Follow Rush on Twitter and Instagram