Is State co-ordinator Prateek Hajela hell-bent on derailing the NRC?

Written by Zamser Ali | Published on: October 30, 2018

His 175-page report comes up for hearing on November 1. If accepted, the truncated provisos will violate the NRC’s own rules, SOP, SSOP and the Modalities, which were prepared for the purpose of updating the NRC.

Guwahati: The exclusion from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam and the subsequent labelling of being a “foreigner, fighting court battles to prove India citizenship and the humiliation faced in detention camps has wreaked havoc in the lives of Assamese people. The rising suicide rates are causing alarm in the state. If this was not enough, a report filed by the State co-ordinator of the NRC in Assam, Prateek Hajela, will make matters worse.
Hajela submitted a bureaucratic and xenophobic report to the Supreme Court on Oct 4. The exclusionary report was regarding the process of validating and correcting documents and details for the final and updated NRC draft. His suggestions to reduce the number of core documents needed for verification from 15 to 10 will cause further anguish to people who are finding it hard to identify themselves using legacy documents that are old, illegible and contain misspellings from the first time such a list was created, in 1951 and 1971.
“The 175-page report by Hajela contains pleadings that run into 50 pages and the rest is made up of annexures. The matter now comes up for hearing on November 1. If accepted, the truncated provisos will violate the NRC’s own rules, SOP, SSOP and the Modalities, which were prepared for the purpose of updating the NRC. They will also be in violation of all Constitutional norms and human rights standards. Eighteen paragraphs make up the pleadings and they are full of untruths and half-truths,” reported Zamser Ali, CJP’s correspondent in Assam.
To update their names in the NRC, people are required to submit two types of documents. List A, or legacy documents, show the identity of a pre-1971 ancestor. This could be his – and it is almost invariably men who are legacy persons – name on the 1951 National Register of Citizens, pre-1971 voter rolls, land documents or refugee registration certificates. List B, or link documents, provide proof of the applicant’s relationship to the legacy person. Those who made it to the final draft of the updated National Register of Citizens could produce any one of 15 documents from List A. Hajela’s demand is to cut that down to 10.
In para two of the affidavit, Hajela has advocated that the Legacy Data of NRC-1951 and Voters list up to midnight 24th March, 1971 should not be admissible in the process outlined to file claim applications. This process is currently being used all over Assam. This belated suggestion after the process has already begun is dangerous and in gross violation of NRC Rule-2003 which states that ‘NRC will be updated on the basis on of NRC-1951 and Voters list up to midnight of 24th March, 1971. All people, including their descendants whose name is in NRC-1951 and Voters list up to midnight of 24th March, 1971 will be included in the updated NRC.’
His report cooks up various ways in which people will try to game the system and suspects every and all document being submitted. The spirit of the report is not inclusive to safeguard every rightful citizen but brazenly exclusive so as to make the process difficult for anyone who cannot prove their legitimacy through the state-mandated process.
Due to faulty legacy data, many genuine citizens were left out of the first draft among the 40 lakh people. Hajela’s own field-level officers said that this was fairly common because two legacy people had the same name and their families ended up tracing their ancestry to the wrong ancestor.
Yet Hajela contradicted these findings by his own peers and wrote that, “Whereas such an explanation of innocent misuse may be true in in [sic] some cases, experience of interacting with all kinds of applicants indicates that most cases are such where impostors tried to fraudulently use LDCs [legacy data code] of some other unrelated person and on getting caught surrendered those LDCs claiming it as an unintended mistake due to same/similar name of legacy person etc.” The report is hell-bent on proving that anyone can bribe a legacy family to be included and reeks of paranoia.
The solution Hajela offers is to scrap pre-1971 voter rolls and the 1951 National Register of Citizens, which disqualifies a large number of Assam’s vulnerable groups who only had these documents to prove their rightful citizenship. These are the original documents being updated in the whole NRC exercise in the first place. Even a minor clerical error could mean a citizen will be labelled foreigner.
Less than 1 % people of Assam had completed Matriculation before 1971. Landless, poor and illiterate people did not have documents to prove their ancestry. LIC policies, bank passbooks and Passports were a rich dream. Disallowing of the Legacy Data of the NRC 1951 or the Voters list up to 1971 is a gross violation of justice for a huge number of Indian Citizens.
The affidavit of the NRC Coordinator may be read here.
The CJP team, drawing from its previous experience in providing legal aid in Gujarat, has stepped in with a multi-faceted team of volunteers to ensure that these people receive a fair chance while filing claims across 18 of the worst affected districts. CJP wants to help people reclaim their rights as citizens. CJP aims to scale up the campaign and for that they need your support. Your contribution can help cover the costs of travel, documentation and technological expenses and eventually legal expenses. Please donate generously here.