Authorities at the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam are preparing a status report of the work done so far to be submitted to the Registrar General of India (RGI) even as all eyes are on the Supreme Court hearing on January 6 to decide the future course of action.
Assam’s new NRC coordinator Hitesh Dev Sarma said, “The priority right now is to prepare a status report for the RGI on the work that has been done till now. In less than a week from now, it will be prepared.”
The final NRC published on August 31 excluded 19 lakh people but the rejection order has not been issued for five months now. Those excluded will be able to file appeals against their exclusion at the Foreigners’ Tribunals only with the rejection order specifying the cause of rejection.
Without specifying the date for issuance of rejection orders, Sarma said that work will proceed according to directions of the Supreme Court in the next hearing.
The fate of the Assam NRC has been in limbo after Home Minister Amit Shah told Parliament in November that a fresh NRC for Assam would be conducted along with a nationwide NRC. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi has distanced his government from pan-India NRC following massive protests across India against the new citizenship law and the proposed nationwide NRC.
However, the Assam government has said that if a pan-India NRC does not happen then the state will approach the Supreme Court and the NRC in its present will not be accepted under any circumstance.
On December 23, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the Assam government’s plea for re-verification of the names included in NRC is still with the Supreme Court along with several petitions filed by organisations such as All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and Assam Public Works (APW).
“The next hearing of the case is on January 6. Whatever the SC says on that day, we will work according to that,” NRC coordinator Sarma said.
Sarma’s appointment followed the departure of his predecessor Prateek Hajela, a 1995-batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, who led the NRC preparation exercise as the state coordinator since 2013. On October 18, the Supreme Court ordered an inter-cadre transfer of Hajela to Madhya Pradesh after his relationship with the state government deteriorated.
But Sarma’s appointment led to a political controversy, primarily due to his political views expressed on social media. “That in pursuant to the various controversial posts as shared by Mr Dev Sarma in social media against a particular community, it is not desirable to appoint such a biased person to handle a highly sensitive position,” Congress’s Barpeta MP Abdul Khaleque wrote to the Governor of Assam. “If Dev Sarma is at the helm of affair there is every likelihood that the process of such re-verification and other incidental activities would be done in a biased manner.”