All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), the leading student organisation of the state, has welcomed the Supreme Court order to transfer NRC state coordinator Prateek Hajela.
The All Assam Minorities Students’ Union (AAMSU), which had been critical of Hajela, respected the court’s decision but wondered why he had been transferred before the process was completed while Assam Public Works, (APW), the NGO whose petition in the Supreme Court led to NRC update six years ago, said “the transfer order was a certificate to protect Hajela from his crimes”.
Like the APW, the AASU and the AAMSU are stakeholders in the NRC case.
The apex court on Friday ordered the Centre and the state government to transfer Hajela, who has overseen the NRC update since 2013, to Madhya Pradesh for the “maximum period”.
AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya, who is in Delhi, welcomed the order. He said they had written to the top court, pointing out that its orders were not properly implemented by Hajela. He urged the government to appoint an able officer in place of Hajela.
AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said, “We had said earlier that there is some error in the list, that it is not complete, and had moved the Supreme Court for remedial measures.” He said the court had made the decision based on ground conditions and it must be accepted.
At the same time, he said Hajela’s transfer could, directly or indirectly, hamper the remaining NRC process.
He held the Centre and the state government equally responsible for the “erroneous” NRC. He said the governments had ample opportunity to prepare an error-free NRC under the supervision of the apex court but they failed miserably. “The government did not file any objection to the alleged presence of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, among others, or send names of foreigners to tribunals. So, it is not only Hajela who is responsible for the NRC, the Union and state governments are equally responsible,” Lurinjyoti said.
On reports that Hajela had sought transfer out of Assam in view of threats to his life following the NRC exercise which has left lakhs of people disillusioned, he said, “If Hajela was transferred on the ground of security, then the government is responsible for this order.”
AAMSU adviser Azizur Rahman said, “It is a court judgment and we should respect the transfer order. However, it is strange why Hajela has to be transferred in the middle of the NRC process, which is incomplete. Hajela is the key person in the NRC update process and we assume that his transfer will further delay the whole process.”
Rahman said AAMSU wants a fair and correct NRC and has full faith in the judiciary and the Constitution.
AAMSU president Rejaul Karim Sarkar said, “We have accepted the court’s order. But when over 19 lakh have been left out of the final NRC and work is only half done, Hajela’s transfer order will certainly lead to chaos.”
Noting that Hajela was leading a 55,000 workforce engaged in NRC work, he questioned whether a new coordinator would be able to carry out the massive work properly. “Hajela was working hard. Why was he transferred remains a question. It will be clear in the next hearing.”
APW president Aabhijeet Sharma said, “At a time when many indigenous Assamese have been deprived of their citizenship rights and foreigners staying illegally in Assam have been allegedly included in the NRC, the decision to transfer Hajela, who turned the NRC into a drama, is highly deplorable.
“The order transfer is a certificate to protect Hajela from his crimes. Although we want him to leave the NRC, we want him to answer for his corrupt practices first. He has to give the details of financial expenses before leaving.
“The final NRC has made it obvious that the problem of illegal immigration will never be resolved in Assam. Had it been completed flawlessly, it would have been a golden chapter in Assam’s history.”
The APW submitted five memoranda in court, requesting re-verification of the draft NRC, but they were rejected.