Assam NRC googly: ‘Foreigners’ accepted, rejected, accepted again
Guwahati: Controversy shrouds the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam as reports of alleged manipulation of data in inclusion and exclusion lists are now coming to the fore.
Just sample this: The NRC status of three already declared “foreigners” has changed thrice in nine days, since the final NRC was published on August 31.
The names of three persons (bearing same Application Receipt Number 101830402030162301199), declared ‘foreigners’ by a Foreigner’s Tribunal (FT), Morigaon, Assam were included in the final list of the NRC published on August 31, 2019. Later, on September 7, when EastMojo checked the status, it was found that the names of the trio were shown in the “rejected” list.
But then again, when the names of these “foreigners” were checked again on Monday (September 9), it was found they have gone “accepted".
Whatever be the reasons behind this ‘peek-a-boo’ -- it’s very easy to point towards technical problem or a server issue as a root cause -- but the fact that the NRC is a sensitive document, even leading to a life-and-death scenario, the authorities concerned should have been extra careful in conducting the whole exercise.
Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO based in the state and one of the main petitioners on NRC at the Supreme Court (SC), alleges that someone is using the NRC server to include the names of a large section of illegal immigrants staying in Assam.
Demanding a CBI or NIA inquiry, APW president Abhijit Sarma stressed on the need of removal of the state NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela with immediate effect. “We think Hajela is trying to manipulate the final NRC data to help the illegal immigrants staying in Assam. He is changing the data,” he alleged.
The story so far
Jubeda Begum, w/o Dil Mohammad, along with her sons Giasuddin Ahmed, Md Jahar Ali and daughter Sahida Begum of village Pub Mikirbheta, under Mikirbheta police station of Morigaon district were declared "foreigners” under Section 2 (a) of the Foreigner’s Act, 1946 by a Foreigner’s Tribunal (FT), Morigaon Assam on June 13, 2016. However, despite being foreigners, three of them — Jubeda Begum, Md Jahar Ali and Sahida Begum — managed to get their names included in the final NRC published on August 31.
Following this, the APW filed a case at Geetanagar police station in Guwahati on September 4 against the three persons. The police have already registered a case (bearing no: 382/2019 u/s 167/34 IPC) in this regard.
Commenting on the alleged anomalies, APW general secretary Dhrubajyoti Talukdar said that they took the screenshot of Application Receipt Number (ARN) of the three persons soon after announcement of the NRC on August 31, 2019.
“Following the inclusion of the names of foreigners in final NRC on August 31, 2019, authorities in NRC faced massive criticism from various corners of the society. Then on September 7, 2019, it was found that names of these foreigners have been excluded from the final NRC. To our utter surprise, it was found that on September 9, 2019, these names were in the accepted list again,” APW’s Sarma alleged, demanding a CBI or NIA investigation into the whole issue.
When contacted, Subhash Chandra Keyal, assistant solicitor general of India, Gauhati High Court, termed it a serious matter. He said that after publication of the supplementary list, nobody can change data. “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 higher authorities concerned,” Keyal added.
The Paragraph 8 of The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003 reads: Any person, not satisfied with the outcome of the decisions of the claims and objections under Paragraph 7, may prefer appeal, before the designated Tribunal constituted under the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, with a period of 60 days from the date of order, and or the disposal of appeal by the Tribunals the names shall be included or deleted, as the case may be, in the National register of Indian Citizens in the State of Assam.
However, the period of 60 days was extended to 120 days recently.
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.
Names of more than 19 lakh people have been excluded from the final list of the NRC published on August 31, 2019.