Guwahati: Emphasizing on a correct National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the State, Assam branch of Bharat Raksha Manch (Save India Forum, a non-government organization) demands a complete reverification of the NRC draft and also appropriate actions against all the individuals who were involved in intentional inclusion of illegal migrants’ name in the draft list and also in money laundering to the tune of Rs 260 crores.
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Submitting a memorandum to Assam Governor, Gulab Chand Kataria at Raj Bhawan on 10 July 2023, a delegation comprising BRM officials including Suryakanta Kelkar, Sujit Pathak, Rakesh Gupta, Sunil Singh etc appealed to him for pursuing the issue of NRC reverification with the Union government in New Delhi and also an affidavit to be filed by the State government before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking the reverification as the matter is now under jurisdiction of the apex court.
“If we want to save India, we must save Assam first, especially from the socio-political, cultural, demographic threat of the Bangladeshi Muslims which has been entering Assam continuously. The immigration from East Bengal (Pakistan) to Assam continued after independence where the Hindu migrants came formally as refugees (now eligible for citizenship through CAA), but the Muslim migrants arrived illegally in such a huge number that the people of Assam had to protest against government inaction,” said the memorandum.
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Assam agitation (1979 to 1985) to identify and deport the illegal foreigners culminated in an accord with the Union government where influx up to 24 March 1971 was unfortunately regularized. But the illegal immigration of Muslims from the present-day Bangladesh still continued and nowadays the indigenous people of Assam are on the verge of being minority in their homeland. The situation was very well described by the then Assam Governor Lt Gen (retired) SK Sinha in his detailed report to the President (KR Narayanan) in 1998, stated the delegation.
The situation was further confirmed by a statement submitted in the Parliament on 14 July 2004 indicating therein that the estimated number of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India was 1,20,53,950 (as on 31 December 2001). Out of this, 50 lakhs illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were taking shelter in Assam alone. By now the estimated number of illegal Bangladeshis expected to be around 70 to 80 lakhs with a meager number of them having detected and deported, asserted the memorandum.
The delegation insisted that a real opportunity to detect illegal Bangladeshis in Assam came with the updation of NRC (notified in 2013 as per direction of the SC), where Prateek Hajela, IAS, the then State commissioner of home & political department was appointed as the State NRC coordinator. The updation process of NRC began in 2014 under direct monitoring of the SC engaging 50,000 government employees and around 8,000 contractual workers.
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They also alleged that Hajela failed to perform his duty and allowed inclusion of a large number of ineligible migrants’ name into NRC with ill motives. Hajela’s immediate successor Hitesh Devsarma, IAS, filed an IA before the SC where he categorically established that Hajela was instrumental in allowing the inclusion of illegal migrants’ name in NRC Assam through the software manipulation. So, the NRC draft, which is full of intentional errors, must not be accepted in the interest of Indias national security.
“Moreover, a huge financial anomaly took place during the tenure of Hajela as the State NRC coordinator which was also detected by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) for the year ending on 31 March 2020. The CAG held Hajela personally responsible for financial irregularities to the tune of about Rs 260 crores and recommended penal actions against him,” said Dwijendra N Barthakur, BRM’s Assam unit president.
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He expressed with agony that the State government had not taken any action in this regard. Meanwhile, Hajela has reportedly applied for an early retirement (through VRS) so that he can escape accordingly. The delegation urged the Governor to direct Assam government to initiate departmental proceeding against Hajela as recommended by the CAG and also start criminal proceedings for his alleged corruption during updation of NRC at the earliest.
No less than four first information reports (FIRs) were lodged before the State police against Hajela alleging his corruption during the NRC updation process, where Devsarma lodged two complaints before the Assam CID on 19 May 2022 and State vigilance & anti-corruption on 13 June 22, Aabhijeet Sharma lodged an FIR in Paltan Bazar police station on 14 October 22 and Luit Kumar Barman filed another compliant in the same police station on 19 October last year, but not a single FIR has been registered, lamented Barthakur.
(Nava Thakuria is a senior Indian journalist who contributes to various media outlets including print and digital platforms of India and across the world)