When EastMojo checked on 3 of a family from Morigaon, who had figured in list on Aug 31 despite being declared ‘non-citizens’ in 2016, it left everyone baffled. Here’s why
Guwahati/Morigaon: In what has been alleged as a “gross manipulation” of data pertaining to the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, three persons of a family from Morigaon district -- whose names were found to be “accepted” in the final list published on August 31 despite being declared as “non-citizens” by a Foreigners’ Tribunal in 2016 -- suddenly figured on the list as “rejected” during a random check undertaken by EastMojo on the NRC website on Saturday.
The story dates back to June 13, 2016, when Jubeda Begum, wife of Dil Mohammad, along with her sons Giasuddin Ahmed and Md Jahar Ali and daughter Sahida Begum of Pub Mikirbheta village under Mikirbheta police station of Morigaon district were declared as “foreigners” under Section 2 (a) of the Foreigner’s Act, 1946 by a Foreigner’s Tribunal (FT) in Morigaon. However, despite that, Jubeda Begum, Md Jahar Ali and Sahida Begum managed to get their names included in the final NRC that was published in Assam on August 31.
Following this, the Assam Public Works (APW), one of the main petitioners on NRC at the Supreme Court (SC), filed a case at Geetanagar police station in Guwahati on September 4 against the three persons. The police then registered a case (bearing no: 382/2019 u/s 167/34 IPC) in this regard.
When contacted, Dhrubajyoti Talukdar, general secretary of APW, confirmed that they had indeed filed a case. Apart from other documents, the APW also enclosed the copy of the NRC screenshot as proof of inclusion of the three persons’ names in the final NRC.
“We took screenshot, which has already been enclosed in the FIR, soon after the release of the final NRC on August 31, 2019,” Talukdar told EastMojo.
However, when EastMojo checked the Application Receipt Number (ARN) of the three people after completing an investigation at Niz-Mikirbheta village of Morigaon district, it was found that on Saturday, the names of those people were mysteriously shown as “excluded” from the final NRC.
Clueless about what was happening, EastMojo then contacted Talukdar again. “We took the printout of the ARN of these people soon after the release of the final NRC. On August 31, against ARN 101830402030162301199, status was shown as Jubeda Begum (accept), Md Jahar Ali (accept) and Sahida Begum (accept). This means that their names were indeed included in the final NRC,” he explained.
If Talukdar is to be believed, then how did the scene change dramatically in less than a week?
Expressing serious concern over the issue, the APW leader then explained further that the organisation had filed the case on September 4. Accordingly, it was widely published in the media the next moment. “Now, after a gap of two days, on September 7, we find that the 'accept' status has been converted as 'reject'. We will definitely approach the court in this regard," Talukdar alleged.
Terming it a serious matter, Subhash Chandra Keyal, assistant solicitor general of India, Gauhati High Court, said that after publication of the supplementary list, nobody can change it. “If any complaint is filed or anomalies are detected, it can only be rectified by filing an appeal. I think it’s a serious matter, it should be investigated by the authorities concerned,” Keyal added.
Giving reference of another person, Miraj Ali, who was arrested on September 5 for allegedly submitting forged documents for inclusion in the final list of NRC, APW's Talukdar further alleged that Ali was in the 'accepted' list till September 6. But the next day, his name was shown as 'rejected', he alleged.
Meanwhile, desperate attempts to talk with senior officers responsible for preparation of NRC at Mikirbheta village under Morigaon district turned futile as no one was ready to talk with the media.
The story so far
A Foreigner’s Tribunal (FT) in Morigaon on June 13, 2016 declared Jubeda Begum, Md Jahar Ali, Sahida Begum and Giasuddin Ahmed as foreigners under Section 2 (a) of the Foreigner’s Act, 1946. They had illegally entered into India (Assam) from Bangladesh after the cut-off date i.e., March 25, 1971 and accordingly declared as foreigners, the tribunal in its judgment observed.
All of them have the common Application Receipt Number (ARN) -- 101830402030162301199 -- with address that reads as ‘Mikirbheta 3 NRC Seva Kendras (NSK), Niz Mikirbheta village (022), circle Mikirbheta in Morigaon district’.
When the EastMojo team visited their village at Niz Mikirbheta, no one was there at their residence. However, locals informed EastMojo that Jubeda Begum, Md Jahar Ali, Sahida Begum and Giasuddin Ahmed were casting votes till the last Parliamentary elections.
Ibrahim Ali, a village elder, said that they are not aware of passing of any order by the FT against them. “They were casting their votes till the last election. It’s really unfortunate that they are facing such an inhuman condition. We feel really sorry for the entire family. They are staying here in the village for a long time. They are genuine Indian citizens. Someone is conspiring against the entire family. They are fighting the case in court. So, how can they be declared as foreigners,” Ali regretted.
Sahara Begum, a local at Niz Mikirbheta village, said that Giasuddin Ahmed, who is in detention centre, also exercised his franchise in the last panchayat election. They have never been declared as D (Doubtful) voters. She, however, expressed her ignorance about the FT verdict in 2016.
Meanwhile, sources in Morigaon police and its border branch informed EastMojo that massive search operation is on to nab all the three members of the family. “Till the last couple of days, the entire family was at their home. But despite our repeated attempts, we have not been able to find them as they have already left the house, probably fearing arrest,” sources said. However, the sources are hopeful that the declared foreigners will be arrested soon.
Meanwhile, repeated attempts to get a reaction over the issue from Morigaon Superintendent of Police (SP) turned futile as the SP refused to speak on the issue.
“We have already expressed our dissatisfaction over the entire NRC process and the final NRC. This incident once again proved that our opposition towards the NRC is based on facts and our demands are genuine,” Talukdar of APW said.
Talukdar also informed that NRC state coordinator Prateek Hazela submitted in the Supreme Court that 46% of sample verification were conducted in Morigaon district alone. “If that was true, how did this family manage to get their names included in the final NRC? There must be a nexus between these people and the officials in the NRC. Otherwise, such kind of things won’t have occurred. There might be massive loopholes in the process of preparing the final NRC. How many of such cases are still there in the final list of the NRC, which are yet to be identified?” the APW leader questioned.
Names of more than 19 lakh people have been excluded from the final list of the NRC, which was released on August 31, 2019.