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Assam NRC: anger over report that citizenship papers will be trimmed

Suggestions to the Supreme Court by the officer heading the exercise to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam to slash the list of “admissible documents” as citizenship proof from the original 15 to 10 has stirred a hornets' nest before the claims and objections phase.

More than 40 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants had been left out of the complete NRC draft published on July 30. While these people await their turn to prove their citizenship with documents besides those already submitted but rejected, State NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela in his last report to the apex court sought the exclusion of five ‘list A’ documents for re-verification of those excluded.

These documents are the 1951 NRC; voters’ lists and ration cards up to March 24, 1971; citizenship certificates; and refugee registration certificates. March 24, 1971, is the cut-off date for detecting and deporting illegal migrants from Assam as per the Assam Accord of 1985 that ended a six-year agitation against foreigners.

Apart from Opposition parties such as the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the ruling BJP has also found fault with Mr. Hajela’s suggestion. State BJP general secretary Dilip Saikia said Mr. Hajela’s report had complicated the situation, as “lakhs of Indians belonging to the Gorkha, Bengali and Hindi-speaking communities have been left out.”

BJP writes to Hajela

The BJP had a few days ago written to Mr. Hajela, insisting that the migration certificate, the citizenship certificate and all variants of refugee cards should be acceptable in the NRC updating process.

The Congress went to the extent of demanding Mr. Hajela’s removal for “misleading the apex court.” Debabrata Saikia, the party’s leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly said the NRC official had been acting whimsically and playing with the lives of people who did not possess any of the 10 documents now being preferred despite their ancestors being in the 1951 NRC and pre-1971 voters’ lists.

“If the 1951 NRC won’t be accepted, what was the point of carrying out an exercise that cost more than ₹ 1,200 crore of Indian taxpayers’ money?” AIUDF general secretary Aminul Islam said.

“The government should rein Hajela in, or we will protest for the format of the NRC to be changed,” Azizur Rahman, advisor of the All Assam Minority Students’ Union said.

Civil society organisations in the Bengali-dominated Barak Valley have also come down heavily on Mr. Hajela. They include the Citizen’s Rights Protection Committee and Unconditional Citizenship Demand Forum.

But groups representing the indigenous communities have appreciated the proposed trimming of the list of documents. “This should be applied to re-verify the citizenship status of all those who are already in the NRC, not only the 40 lakh excluded. We will also appeal to the Supreme Court for constituting a monitoring committee for the updating process,” Aabhijeet Sarma, president of NGO Assam Public Works and the petitioner in the case related to NRC in the Supreme Court, said.

Mr. Hajela, gagged by the apex court, was incommunicado.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 2:12:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/assam-nrc-anger-over-report-that-citizenship-papers-will-be-trimmed/article24909500.ece

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