The Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO whose petition in the Supreme Court led to updation of the National Register of Citizens, has filed a complaint with the CID against former NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela and others, accusing them of manipulating the exercise to include names of illegal migrants in the document. The NRC, an official record of bonafide Indian citizens living in Assam, was updated under the supervision of the Supreme Court and released on August 31, 2019, leaving out more than 19 lakh applicants. However, it has not been notified by the Registrar General of India.
Hajela, a 1995 batch IAS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, had been appointed by the apex court as the NRC state coordinator in 2013. Hajela and his close associates manipulated the Family Tree Verification process “in collaboration with some officers of migrant background, data entry operators, some minority leaders and also with some anti-national elements… to insert the names of the illegal migrants in the updated NRC”, according to the complaint.
APW President Aabhijeet Sarma lodged the complaint with the CID Additional Director General of the state bordering Bangladesh. The Supreme Court ordered Hajela’s transfer from Assam to his home state Madhya Pradesh and he was released from the charge of NRC State Coordinator on November 12, 2019.
Sarma on Wednesday said that the present NRC Coordinator had filed an affidavit both in the apex court and the Gauhati High Court highlighting “anomalies” in the NRC as names of about 40 per cent illegal and doubtful persons were inserted in the list. “The inclusion of a very high percentage of illegal and doubtful persons’ names in the NRC, leads to the suspicion that there have been manipulations in the family tree verification,” he said.
Proper verification of the family tree would have been a foolproof method to establish the legacy data and the citizenship of the applicants, the APW president said. However, it did not work as data entry operators and other officers working in the immigrant dominated areas were from the migrant community whose citizenships were not verified though there was some police verification regarding criminal activities, Sarma alleged.
“The software for ‘Family Tree Matching’ was prepared by the then NRC State Coordinator in such a way that no superior officers could make any quality check,” he said. He also claimed that 40 per cent wrong uploading of results of family tree matching cannot be treated as a normal human error but it was a well-planned, well-coordinated effort to include the names of undeserving persons in the NRC.
“If the call records of the Officers and Data Entry Operators working in the immigrant dominated areas are analyzed, the nexus between Hajela, some officers with immigrant background, DEOs and some minority leaders will come into light enabling the law enforcing agencies to take action against such anti national activities,” said Sarma who lodged the complaint with the CID on Monday. The APW president urged Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who also holds the home portfolio, to “keep an eye” on those officials in the home department who have protected Hajela in the past and ensure that the guilty persons are brought to book or “else a correct updated NRC will remain a dream for the people of Assam”.
The CM after assuming office on May 10 had said that his government wants reverification of 20 per cent names in the NRC for the border districts of Assam, while it should be done for 10 per cent names in the rest. The APW had earlier filed a complaint with the CBI’s Anti-Corruption branch in the state alleging huge misappropriation of government funds in updating the NRC.
The first NRC was compiled in Assam in 1951 based on the Census report but it was not updated for a long time. The APW in 2009 filed a case in the Supreme Court praying for deletion of foreigners’ name in electoral rolls and updation of the NRC. A pilot project for the process started in two places the next year but it was shelved after four persons were killed in violence in one area.
In 2013, the Supreme Court took up the APW petition, directed the Centre and the state to begin the process for updating the NRC. The State Coordinator’s office was also set up. The updation process of the NRC finally began in 2015.