Stop ‘detection of foreigners’ till NRC is over, Assam government tells cops after confusion

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Guwahati, August 1: With several people claiming that their names were not included in National Register of Citizens (NRC) despite being declared citizens by foreigners’ tribunals, the Assam government has directed the state police to stop the process of detection of foreigners to avoid confusion while the register is being updated.
An NRC draft, which is being updated to detect foreigners also, came out on Monday. As many as 40,07,707 people were not part of it. These people will now have to approach NRC officials again during the claims-and-objections exercise, which is scheduled to start from August 7.
In the meantime, the border branch of Assam police has been identifying suspected foreigners and sending them to the 100 foreigners’ tribunals, which decided their citizenship.
“There was a lot of confusion. To avoid that, we have directed all deputy commissioners to ensure that no new cases are referred to the foreigners tribunals till the complete NRC comes out,” L S Changsan, principal secretary, home and political department, Assam, said.
“No fresh cases are being referred,” confirmed Manvendra Pratap Singh, deputy commissioner of Hojai district.
“Since NRC is doing the same job, if this concurrent exercise (referring of names to tribunals) is put on hold, people can freely participate in the claims-and-objections exercise,” said Prateek Hajela, state coordinator of the NRC.
The suspected foreigners are marked as Doubtful Voters in electoral rolls. A similar process was undertaken by the election commission in 1997.
Meanwhile, apart from the routine detection — which included cases like that of Azmal Hoque and Mahiruddin Ahmed, two ex-army men, who were later declared Indian citizens, and put the credibility of the whole exercise under a cloud — the border police was also referring cases of siblings and other family members of declared foreigners after a high court order.
As many as 91,206 persons have been declared as foreigners up to February 2018, official data says.
Meanwhile, all of this had caused tremendous confusion in the preparation of NRC. For example names of both Azmal Hoque and Mahiruddin Ahmed are missing from the draft although the tribunal declared them Indian citizens, because the state government does not have a centralised database where the status of the cases could be updated on real time.
And the lists provided to the NRC by the border police and the chief electoral officers are not updated. On Monday, Hajela said 2.48 lakh people are on hold from inclusion in NRC because they come in the category of either D voters and their descendants or those whose cases are pending in the foreigners’ tribunals and their descendants.
Supreme Court had said that these categories be included only after a clean chit by the tribunals, something which has already happened in cases of Hoque, Ahmed and several others. After realising the anomalies, a database is being prepared by the NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela, on request from the state government. (Courtesy: HT)