Assam Public Works (APW), the NGO that filed the very petition in the Supreme Court based on which the National Register of Citizens (NRC) was conducted in Assam, has now filed a complaint with the Assam Police alleging that former NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela and his associates had manipulated data at stages as early as while conducting Family Tree Verification. But what does this mean for the entire process?
Was this just a colossal waste of public money or was this complaint filed because APW was not happy with the inclusion of certain people in the NRC? Also, given how NRC was a Supreme Court-monitored process and still allegedly ended up with flaws, what does this mean for plans to conduct a nationwide NRC? Let us take a closer look at the complaint.
APW in its complaint addressed to Additional Director General of Police (CID) asks for an FIR to be filed against Prateek Hajela for “manipulations in the Family Tree Verification during NRC updation in collaboration with some officers with migrant background, Data Entry Operators, some Minority Leaders and also some Anti-National elements.”
It is noteworthy that APW has clubbed minority leaders with anti-national elements, suggesting a possible communal agenda behind the complaint. Also pointing to officers “with migrant background” as colluders appears to suggest that they want to show how only non-migrants are reliable professionals and incorruptible. Thus, it is a clear attempt to vilify minorities and those who are seen as “outsiders”.
The complaint alleges that as a result of this manipulation “many illegal and doubtful persons were able to insert their names in the NRC.” The complaint then goes on to allege that despite complaints by citizens Verifying Officers unfairly supported members of their own community and helped them beat the system. It also alleges that data from immigrant dominated areas was manipulated with the help of Verification Officers and Data Entry Operators (DEO) who themselves hailed from immigrant families. This is once again, an attempt to vilify alleged immigrants. It says, had this process been verified by non-immigrant background officers, the manipulation could have been caught.
The complaint then squarely blames Hajela by making the bizarre claim that the software for Family Tree Matching was made by Hajela “in such a way that no superior officers could make any quality check.” APW however does not offer any specifics of how Hajela’s software prevented quality checks, but goes on to allege that this enabled officers with migrant backgrounds to enter names of suspected foreigners. APW calls this a “well-planned and well-coordinated” operation basing their observation on the current NRC Coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma’s submission before the SC via Intervention Application that 40 per cent of the results of Family Tree Matching were wrongly uploaded.
Here, it is important to remember that this narrative weaves in with the renewed demand for reverification of the NRC, a demand that had previously been shot down by the SC itself. APW’s complaint not only questions the professionalism, credibility, patriotism and nationality of officers allegedly hailing from immigrant backgrounds, it also asks for their call records to be checked. One cannot also ignore how Prateek Hajela had to be shunted out of the state after the NRC due to an alleged threat to his life.
It is clear that APW is frustrated with the NRC, and much like the Assam government, finds it unacceptable in its present form. But using a police complaint to vilify minorities and alleged immigrants, is a low blow.
The complaint letter maybe read here:
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