Prateek Hajela shunted out of Assam, what happens next on the NRC front?

On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered that Assam NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela be transferred to Madhya Pradesh within a week. But what will the impact of this on the pending work in the final leg of the process after publication of the National Register of Citizens (NRC)?

The proceedings in the apex court were over in record time. Though no official reason was given, despite Attorney General KK Venugopal raising a question about it, sources say it was due to an imminent threat to Hajela’s life.

The SC order transferring Hajela may be read here:

Sources in the Home and Political Department, speaking on condition of anonymity, told SabrangIndia that a few days after the publication of the NRC, Hajela received a call from an unknown number. The caller allegedly threatened his life. Following this Hajela allegedly wrote to the SC to relieve him of his duties in connection with the NRC.

Speaking to SabrangIndia, sources within the police also said that a few days after the NRC was published, Hajela’s security was beefed up substantially. Our source told us that his security was tighter than that of an average minister.

Hajela had received a lot of flak from communal and chauvinist forces when it turned out that a large chunk of those excluded were not from communities these forces wanted to evict from Assam, but instead belonged to vote banks they had hoped to nurture!

What happens next?
One might think that now that the NRC process is over, Hajela’s exit will have no impact. But the truth is that rejection letters and speaking orders that give reason for exclusion from the NRC have not been scanned yet. To serve the speaking orders, the authorities need to scan all documents and disposing official’s note.

Hajela had first undertaken to complete the scanning by Spetember 17, 2019. He then asked for a deadline extension. That deadline ends on October 31. But the process is far from complete.

Two circle officers, speaking on condition of anonymity told SabrangIndia on October 16 that, of the 13,000 speaking orders that need to be scanned in one revenue circle, only 300 had been done so far.  They said that though the NRC authority had asked them to get cracking on the process, they were being pressurised by other forces within the state government to go slow! If this is true, then the government itself appears to be interested in derailing the NRC that was published after undertaking such a mammoth, tedious and expensive exercise.

What is a greater concern, is that all the data compiled as to who is in and who is out, is also allegedly yet to be scanned and saved. This data is therefore vulnerable to tampering and manipulation. Sources say that there is a fear that some of those who have made it into the list can be excluded subsequently through data tampering prior to scanning.

The next hearing is scheduled for November 26, 2019, and it appears until then, everything will remain in a very vulnerable limbo.   




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