Days after the Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma in his affidavit submitted in the Gauhati High Court said the NRC may have included up to 2.77 lakh "undeserving" names due to poor quality check and control, opposition parties in Assam, lawyers and activist dealing with NRC update exercise have alleged that this was an attempt to re-open the Assam NRC exercise.
"I have observed certain worrisome and suspicious aspects of an affidavit filed recently in the Gauhati High Court by the incumbent State Coordinator of NRC (SCNRC), Sarma. Sarma has taken recourse to a technicality and claimed that the NRC which was published on August 31, 2019 was not the final NRC but merely a supplementary list," said leader of the opposition in Assam Debabrata Saikia.
The NRC authorities arrived at this estimate based on the deletion of over a lakh names following the verification of a mere 27 per cent of the draft NRC, according to an affidavit submitted by Assam's NRC co-ordinator, Hitesh Dev Sarma. This leaves grounds to conclude that the rest of the NRC could have many more ineligible names, it said.
In Assam, 19 lakh people who were excluded in the NRC published in August 2019 have been waiting for one-and-a-half-year for the rejection slip to pursue their citizenship claims at the Foreigners Tribunals.
While the Registrar General of India is yet to notify the citizens' list, the Assam NRC authorities in an affidavit at the Gauhati High Court has hinted at the possibility of close to three lakh ineligible people on the NRC list, who might lose their citizenship claims in future. Lawyers and activists claim that this is an attempt to reopen the Assam NRC, something that has been a strong demand of the BJP.
"This is a gross abuse of the process of law because certain exercises are to be done by the Supreme Court, certain applications related the Assam NRC is pending at the Supreme Court, what appears that the NRC coordinator is trying to simultaneously open up the Assam NRC once again using Gauhati High Court as a front, since the high court was never monitoring the NRC process, only Supreme Court has the mandate," said Gauhati High Court lawyer Syed Burhanur Rahman.
Critics have alleged Hitesh Dev Sarma of pushing a political agenda. "Whatever he stated in the affidavit, we have heard the narratives before in public domain from a political group. This suggests that the coordinator is acting as a speaker of a certain political group and this needs to be brought to the notice of the Supreme Court," said Md Imtiaz Hussain, general secretary of the All Assam Minority Students Union.
The BJP sees the NRC affidavit as a validation of their claims. It has promised to bring a "true NRC" with the assembly election in Assam just six months away.
"Until the true NRC comes out, BJP will not accept the NRC. At least for the satisfaction of the people of Assam and the state government, there should be a re-verification of 20 per cent data," Rupam Goswami, chief Spokesperson of BJP in Assam told NDTV.
"Being the main petitioner we are going to the Supreme Court with the affidavit filed in the high court," said Ahbijeet Sarma, the main petitioner of the NRC case in the Supreme Court.