29, Oct 2018 | Zamser Ali
If those among the 40 lakh plus persons whose names have been dropped from the final draft of NRC, are not permitted by an ill-advised and belated order of the Supreme Court, to reject the NRC-1951 and Voters list (up to the midnight March 24, 1971 as sufficient proof of citizenship) the core issue that resulted in the famed Assam Accord will be, in an unfair process, rejected.
We present a series analysing the CR of Prateek hajela submitted before the Supreme Court. This is Part One
Guwahati, 29 October: The confidential report of Prateek Hajela, the State Co-ordinator, NRC that was submitted before the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 followed directives and orders of the court, as laid down on September 19, regarding the process of validating an correcting the finalisation and updating of the NRC final draft. The key issue to be deliberated upon is with regards to the admissibility of five core documents. Hajela’s contentions on the reasons for his sudden (and relatively recent suggestion to reduce the core documents, hitherto 15, to 10, is totally misleading and also a distortion of facts.
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The 175 page long report submitted by Hajela to the SC contains pleadings that run into 50 pages; the rest is made up of annexures. The matter now comes up for hearing on November 1. If accepted, the truncated provisos will not only violate the NRC’s own Rules and SOP, SSOP and the Modalities, which were prepared for the purpose of updating the NRC. They will also be in violation all Constitutional norms and human rights standards. Eighteen paragraphs make up the pleadings. These are full of untruths and half truths.
The affidavit of the NRC Coordinator may be read here.
In para two of the affidavit, the State Co-ordinator, NRC 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 underway presently all over the state of Assam. This suggestion belatedly into the NRC process, being made by Hajela is a 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 descendents whose name is in NRC-1951 and Voters list up to midnight of 24th March, 1971 will be included in the updated NRC.’
The affidavit of Prateek Hajela not only violates the assurance given in the NRC’s own Rules but poses a complete challenge for the entire process of NRC which emerged as a result of a certain process. Apart the NRC Rules, the Modalities, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and the Special Standard Operating Procedure (SSOP) have repeatedly assured the people of Assam that the updating of the NRC will be on the basis of these two basic documents. No person whose name is present in the NRC-1951 and the Voters list up to midnight of March 24, 1971 or their descendants will be dropped from the updated NRC. If Hajela’s affidavit and his suggestions are accepted by the Supreme Court, and if those among the 40 lakh plus persons whose name have been dropped from the final draft of NRC, are not permitted by an ill-advised and belated order of the Supreme Court, to reject the NRC-1951 and Voters list (up to the midnight March 24, 1971 as sufficient proof of citizenship) the core issue that resulted in the famed Assam Accord will be, in an unfair process, rejected. These two documents are in a sense the heartbeat of the Assam Accord of 1985 and the entire process set afoot of updating NRC. Cutting out the heartbeat means nothing short of the deliberate killing of the entire NRC process and a betrayal of the Assam Accord.
It is in the second paragraph of his report, that Prateek Hajela raises his objections on the “permissibility of submission of additional Legacy Data (1951 NRC and Electoral Rolls up to 24th March (midnight),1971) without change of Legacy Person and Family Tree.” In this paragraph and the sub-paragraphs that follow, the State Co-ordinator for NRC has given a set of reasons for which the exclusion of the Legacy Data of NRC, 1951 and Voters list up to 1971 as valid documents to challenge exclusion from the NRC final draft.
In Sub-paragraph 2A: In the sub-paragraph 2A of the affidavit it is said that due multiple legacy data availability the Legacy Data of NRC, 1951 and Voters list up to midnight of 24th March, 1971 is allowed for claim applications, ‘may not be sufficient to prevent misuse as trading of Legacy Code still happen. Further, it will not be possible for the NRC authorities to catch such impostors.’
This notion is both ill motivated and fabricated. Though, the State Co-ordinator, NRC has raised questions on ‘misuse and trading of the Legacy Code’, he has no where mentioned any quantification of such abuse. How many such cases are there? He has not anywhere made any reference to any estimate of such misuse. On the contrary, in his own affidavit, the State Co-ordinator NRC has admitted in subsequent paras that until now, there has been no incident of forgery of the Legacy Code. Some people who had used false Legacy Code have surrendered it during family tree verifications and confessed that they used the Legacy Code due to misunderstanding around the similarities of name, surnames and address. All persons who have alternative Legacy Code have shown up for the verification processes promptly. If the present affidavit of Prateek Hajela is accepted those genuine people will be affected on a large scale.
In certain cases it is observed that a person has submitted the genuine Legacy Code but in the NRC application form, the Legacy Data Code number was spelt wrongly. During the time of receiving applications and verifications (within the NRC) in such cases, affected people were not given the opportunity to rectify the minor clerical mistakes. They were informed that during the claim applications these anomalies (and ‘minor’) mistakes will be corrected. The present affidavit is a cruel denial of any such rectification.
In his affidavit Prateek Hajela has said that if the Legacy Data is opened for claim applications, ‘person will have a different Legacy Data Code. It may be argued that one way of handling this would be by calling again all the descendents of that Legacy Person who were called earlier during the Family Tree hearings held.’
So what does one say to Prateek Hajela? The people of Assam specially belonging to various minority groups and several organisations have been saying that they stand for an error-free NRC. They are ready to pay a supreme sacrifice for a fair NRC, to ensure that not a single foreigner is included. But the process will not and must not discriminate against a single Indian Citizen. So far, the governments of Assam and India have also been repeatedly given the same assurances. If any person of the same Family Tree has been dropped from the Final Draft NRC, those parts/persons who have been included will need to interact repeatedly with the NRC for its ‘fair completion.’ If the authority has any doubts that there may be piracy of documents, they should be asked why the Family Tree which was submitted earlier could not be changed.
Therefore, in this context, if any person changes their Legacy Data Code due to certain errors that appeared earlier that must be easily allowed to make this rectification.
Para 2A(a), (b), (c) of the Affidavit
In his affidavit, Prateek Hajela has raised some issues and complications which may arise if the Legacy Data is allowed in the process to file claim applications. To substantiate this, in the paragraph 2A(a), (b) and (c) of the affidavit Prateek Hajela gives three examples: that of the cases of Barman, Ramesh Talukder and Dilip Bora. Giving these examples he tries to argue that if, in such cases a fresh Legacy Code is allowed in the claim applications, it may allow for the misuse of that Legacy Data by any foreigner whose Legacy Person has a similar name. The misuse is possible he argues if two or three Legacy Data(s) of persons who have used only one for their own verification, are ‘misused.’
To check for a few such imaginary imposters, will it be proper and judicious to deny the use of the 1951 NRC or the Voters list up to 1971 as valid authenticating documents?
During the various stages of verification, each person was compelled to declare their or their forefathers area of residence, decade by decade. Therefore it would not be proper to say, about any person, that, due to a change of their place of habitation, it is tough or difficult to trace out the uniqueness of each and every Legacy Data holder. Moreover, each and every Legacy Data holder, is not identified on the basis of only his/her name but also from his/her father’s name too. The unique software system which is available (and being used) by the NRC authority at present, has systematically identified all names of ‘D Voters’ and ‘declared foreigners’ which are having similarities with the name of the father. Why will the same software system not work to identify such names of those who’s Legacy Data has been used already so far?
If any person is denied use his/her Legacy Data citing these sorts of imaginary obstacles, this will amount to a denial of natural justice and due procedure to tens and thousands of genuine Indian citizens. This will make the poorest of the poor most vulnerable. A vast majority of those needing to approach the NRC for ‘Claims and Objections’ are from among the most marginalised sections of society: they rarely and hardly have access to the 10 documents which are now applicable ‘for proof’, before 1971.
There were less than one percent of the people of Assam had passed the matriculation exam before 1971. Land holdings were hardly available for the poor people. LICI policy, Bank Pass books, Passport were matter of a far-off dream for these sections. Disallowing of the Legacy Data of the NRC 1951 or the Voters list up to 1971 is, put simply, a gross violation of justice for a huge number of Indian Citizens.
There is further evidence of how the State Co-ordinator, has misused his power and position while preparing this confidential report. The entire process is guided and monitored by the Supreme Court of India. A close perusal of the affidavit makes it sound as if the Coordinator is responding to the Home Department of Assam (which he presently heads as Principal Secretary) and the central government. In the first paragraph of this confidential report, as a deponent of in case Writ Petition (Civil) No. 274/2009 under Supreme Court of India, Prateek Hajela made it clear that he has submitted the report in response to the “affidavit of the Union of India dated 17th September, 2018 as contained in paragraph 7 and paragraph 11(Para 4(ii).”