Authorities of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam have ordered the deletion of “ineligible” names from the prepared register. The State Coordinator of the NRC of Assam, Hitesh Dev Sarma has issued orders to purge the final NRC of the names of at least 10,000 people.
The NRC, published in August last year- criticised for being “anti-poor” and subsequently “anti-muslim” due to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that aimed to further filter-out citizens and “foreigners” on the basis of religion, excluded 19 lakh applicants out of around 3.3 crore applicants.
In a letter dated October 13 to all DCs, Hitesh Dev Sarma, the state coordinator of the NRC, explained that “some names of ineligible persons” — persons declared as a foreigner by Foreigners Tribunals (DF), persons marked as Doubtful Voters (DV) by the election officials or persons whose cases are pending at Foreigners Tribunals (PFTs) and their descendants — “found entry to the NRC”.
As per the laws governing the preparation of the NRC, persons falling in the above categories need to be kept out of the NRC.
Sarma instructed the district in charges of the NRC to “write speaking orders for deletion of such names…after specifically ascertaining the identity of the person”. “The verification would mandatorily require the correct identity of the person so that no ambiguity arises in future so far as the identification of the person is concerned,” Sarma wrote.
The Assam government had expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the NRC soon after it was published in August. At that time Himanta Biswa Sarma had alleged that names of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants had been included in the NRC. He had demanded that a re-verification of 20 per cent of the names be carried out in border districts, and 10 per cent names be verified in other districts.
The displeasure with the NRC had led to a lot of drama at the time, including levelling of a series of allegations of fraud, misappropriation of funds and data manipulation against the former NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela, who had to be shunted out of the state due to security concerns.
Assam Public Works, the NGO that was spearheading the campaign, moved Supreme Court demanding re-verification, but the court summarily dismissed the request. A key reason for rejection was a submission by then NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela that 27 per cent re-verification had already been done! This rendered the need for a 10-20 per cent re-verification unnecessary.
The demand for re-verification was raised again exactly a year after the publication of the NRC when Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary told the Assam state assembly that the state government was planning to move SC again with a re-verification request. The matter was reportedly discussed at a meeting held on September 20 at the residence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi. The meeting was attended by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, State minister and North Eastern Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, Joint Secretary (North-east) Satyendra Garg, and Assam Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna, among others.
Speaking to media persons after the meeting, Himanta Biswa Sarma had said that it was decided that the Central government will support the state government’s affidavit that proposed a re-verification of up to 20 per cent in border areas and 10 per cent in other districts. Sarma said, “When the matter comes up for hearing, the two governments will jointly take up the issue.”