The timing of the move by the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) authorities in Assam to delete thousands of names from the list published last year is being viewed with suspicion by many.
They believe this order to delete "ineligible" names from among the ones originally approved in August 2019 is an electoral stunt.
"There is about six months to go for the assembly polls. Now they need to regroup the indigenous people vote in the forthcoming elections, a vote they lost due to CAA. Now this is a token exercise," said Upamanyu Hazarika, a Supreme Court advocate who has been involved in anti-illegal migrant activism in Assam.
In a letter dated October 13, Hitesh Dev Sarma, the state's senior-most NRC official, asked officials across Assam's 33 districts to delete thousands of such "ineligible" names, sources within the NRC said.
"Since the officer at the districts are still busy with COVID-19 duties, we will need to wait more for the process of issuing rejecting orders to commence," Hitesh Dev Sarma told NDTV.
These "ineligible" persons include those declared "foreigner" by Tribunals, those whose cases were still pending, and those marked "Doubtful Voters" - besides their descendants.
There is a provision under NRC that says that before the final publication of the list by the Registrar General of India (RGI) through a notification, NRC authorities can re-verify wrongful inclusions and exclusions.
Mr Sarma's letter has revived the Supreme Court-monitored Assam NRC process, stuck in a limbo for a year with the rejecting orders yet to be issued to the 19 lakh people excluded from the list prepared in August 2019. Those excluded can seek a review at the tribunals only after receiving the formal rejection order.
"It was incumbent upon the government to notify and publish the Assam NRC by the Registrar General of India…It seems it is trying in the grab of technicalities to review the process without taking the Supreme Court's consent," said Syed Burhanur Rehman, a Gauhati High Court lawyer who has been following the process.
The Assam government has, meanwhile, stuck to its demand of re-verification - up to 20% in border districts and 10% elsewhere - of the final list.
In the run up to the 2016 Assam assembly polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party had promised to weed out illegal migrants. Last year, however, when the Assam NRC was published, the party found it to be faulty.
"The people of Assam will never accept this NRC. Names of many illegal foreigners are included in it. NRC should include names of only the genuine Indian citizens," Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said earlier this month.