Centre cites NGO’s letter for NRC re-verification

Group, which has supported the Citizenship Bill, denies ties to the BJP, demands an ‘error-free’ register

Updated - July 16, 2019 11:04 pm IST

Published - July 16, 2019 10:56 pm IST - New Delhi

Verification process in progress for the National Register of Citizens in Guwahati last month. File

Verification process in progress for the National Register of Citizens in Guwahati last month. File

Seeking “sample re-verification” of Assam’s draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the Supreme Court, the Union Home Ministry, in its affidavit, attached a letter from an Assam-based NGO, Sachetan Nagrik Mancha, Axom (SNM), that had demanded an “error-free NRC”.

The Supreme Court has directed that the final NRC be published by July 31. If the fresh affidavit filed by the Ministry and the Assam government seeking “20% re-verification of names included in the final draft NRC in districts of Assam bordering Bangladesh and 10% verification in other districts” is admitted by the court, it would further push back the date of the final publication of the NRC. If the SC rejects the proposal, the Centre may take the legislative route, a senior government official said.

In an affidavit filed on Tuesday, the Ministry said the SNM has on June 29 forwarded an appeal to the President signed by more than “25 lakh indigenous Indian citizens of Assam” demanding an error-free NRC containing the names of all Indian citizens of Assam with complete exclusion of all “illegal migrants”.

SNM secretary Atul Burman told The Hindu that the NGO was formed in 2013 and it worked for “national integration” and denied it was aligned to the BJP.

“There are 5,800 members in our organisation. When the NRC was being updated, we conducted 442 meetings in Assam. We are not associated with the BJP; people from all communities — Hindu, Muslim, Christian — are part of it [SNM],” Mr. Burman said.

While several groups in Assam have vociferously protested against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 that would benefit Hindus excluded from the NRC, the NGO supported it. The Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha.

Shah’s statement

On July 1, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the Rajya Sabha that the government would bring in a Bill to provide citizenship to “Hindus refugees” left out of the NRC. He was responding to the Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien who raised the issue of the probability of 23 lakh Bengali Hindus losing citizenship when the final NRC is published.

In its affidavit, the Ministry cast aspersions on the officials who initially conducted the verification drive. Out of 3.29 crore applicants, around 40 lakh people were excluded from the final draft NRC that was published on July 30 last year. Another one lakh were excluded in another list published last month. Of these, 36 lakh people filed claims against the exclusion whereas objections were filed against inclusion of 2 lakh persons.

“There have been instances where field officers have been arrested for taking bribes for entering names in the NRC list,” the affidavit said.

The Ministry said apprehensions had been created in the minds of the citizens which could impact the “social harmony and law and order” of the State as the final publication of the NRC would be the culmination of the entire exercise.

“The list prepared after this exercise will be final and will have critical impact on the people whose names may not be included in the same. It is therefore, pertinent that the exercise of sample re-verification must necessarily follow before the publication of the final list,” the affidavit said.

Over 1 lakh foreigners

Over one lakh people have been declared foreigners by tribunals set up in Assam till March, Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. At present, 100 Foreigners' Tribunals (FTs) are functional in Assam, Mr. Reddy said. The FTs, quasi-judicial bodies unique to Assam, have been operational since 1985. “Up to March 31, 2019, a total of 1,17,164 people have been declared foreigners by tribunals,” he said in his reply to a written question of Congress MP Abdul Khaleque.

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