Assam’s National Register of Citizens coordinator Prateek Hajela has claimed that “political posturing” was responsible for the opposition to the exclusion of five of the 15 verification documents. On September 19, the Supreme Court had asked Hajela to file a report on the feasibility of using the five excluded documents as part of the registry’s verification process.
The state coordinator claimed that people were misusing the documents to help “include illegal migrants” that was leading to errors in the list. In his report dated October 4, and made available to stakeholders on Thursday, Hajela said, “For an error-free National Register of Citizens, there should be a paradigm shift from ‘No genuine citizen should be left out’ to ‘no ineligible person should be included’.”
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Pary, Opposition Congress and All India United Democratic Front and several other political parties and groups have pushed for the inclusion of the five documents.
The top court allowed for the five documents to be excluded from the verification process until the next hearing on the matter on November 1.
The state coordinator alleged that those who were opposing the exclusion of the documents were using the claims and objections process as a “last chance” to include illegal migrants into the register. “The number of genuine persons practically getting affected by the trimming down of the documents from 15 to 10 will be very less,” Hajela said. “On the other hand, some lawmakers and political parties have been canvassing very hard for the inclusion of these documents.”
The five documents are the National Register of Citizens of 1951, names in electoral rolls up to March 24, 1971, citizenship certificate and refugee registration certificate, certified copies of pre-1971 electoral rolls and ration cards issued prior to March 24, 1971. The government has set March 24, 1971 as the last acceptable date to avoid deportation.
The stated aim of the counting exercise is to separate genuine Indian citizens from “illegal migrants” who might be living in the state. According to the terms of the exercise, anyone who could not prove that they or their ancestors had entered the state before midnight on March 24, 1971, would be declared a foreigner.
Launched in 2015, it involved processing the applications of 3.29 crore people who hoped to be included in the register. Over the course of three years, the mammoth exercise has been through several controversies, including allegations of bias against certain communities.