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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

NRC coordinator files complaint: Hajela put national security at risk

HD Sarma alleged that the former Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) coordinator Prateek Hajela “facilitated entry of names of ineligible persons into the NRC” by intentionally avoiding “mandatory quality checks”.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: May 21, 2022 8:26:15 am
Former Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) coordinator Prateek Hajela. (File)

The Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) coordinator HD Sarma Thursday filed a police complaint against his predecessor Prateek Hajela for allegedly endangering “national security” while heading the NRC updation process in the state.

Sarma, who took over as state coordinator after Hajela was transferred to Madhya Pradesh following an order of the Supreme Court in October 2019, alleged that the latter “facilitated entry of names of ineligible persons into the NRC” by intentionally avoiding “mandatory quality checks”.

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In his complaint addressed to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Assam Police and copied to Home and Political Department, Sarma said that Hajela’s actions can be “treated as not only a dereliction of duty but an act of treason for doing such an activity which is likely to threaten the national security.”

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The Indian Express could not confirm if the complaint was registered by the police. Calls to A Y V Krishna, ADGP, CID, Assam went unanswered. Senior Home and Political Department officials said that they were not aware of Sarma’s complaint letter.

In his complaint, Sarma alleged that Hajela had ordered use of a software during the ‘family tree’ verification process of the exercise “which prevented quality check and facilitated entry of names of ineligible persons into the NRC”.

To be included in the NRC — which left out 19 lakh people — a person had to trace their ancestry to someone who lived in Assam before 1971. The ‘family tree’ verification process ensured that those tracing their ancestry to one particular person were related to each other.

Sarma has alleged that the process was flawed and there were loopholes in the software that could be manipulated. The complaint also appended a list of data entry operators who Sarma said had been involved in “fraudulent activities” during the updation process.

Another allegation in the letter said that Hajela included a number of people in the ‘Original Inhabitant’ (OI) category, and thus protected them from a second round of verification during the exercise. Being categorised OI was a fast-track route to be included in NRC, and was essentially accorded to people who had surnames which were ‘indigenous’ to be Assam. Sarma alleged that Hajela “wilfully avoided the reverification” of many names who were not actually ‘OI’, thereby facilitating their entry into the list.

Since its publication on August 31, 2019, the NRC has been in a limbo, with several groups, as well as the Assam government, not accepting it as final, and pushing for a “corrected” NRC. In 2021,  Sarma submitted an affidavit to the Gauhati High Court, referring to the August 31 list as a ‘supplementary’ list and not the ‘final NRC’ and sought a re-verification.

Hajela, a 1995-batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, was appointed the coordinator of the exercise in 2013.

Since the publication of the list, he has remained the target of those unhappy with the NRC, including the Assam government. The Assam Public Works (APW), the main petitioner of the NRC updation process, has filed multiple police complaints against the bureaucrat, accusing him of allegedly tampering with NRC data. Sarma, who is set to retire soon, has frequently hit out at Hajela.

While Hajela, who is currently Principal Secretary of the Social Justice and Disabled Welfare Department, Madhya Pradesh, was not available for comment, sources close to him said such accusations held little water legally. “The NRC comes under the Registrar General of India (RGI), not the state government. These cannot be followed up without the approval of the RGI,” the source said.

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